GUEST POST: Old Time Atheism

by Justin Robbins 

Robbins is a frequent contributor to the Cowgirl Blog. You can follow him on Twitter at @JustinRobbins15 

On Saturday, The Independent Record published an opinion piece by Carroll College Associate Professor of Philosophy and Theology Eric Hall. In it, he essentially implied he was also versed in the philosophy of “contemporary atheists”, which he then attacked as pseudo-intellectual pseudo-science; preferring instead the atheism of yore when, apparently, they really knew how to disbelieve.
The problems with his position are many and varied. His fallacious argument begins with a reluctance to identify the “contemporary atheists” of whom he speaks, continues through the un-atheistic ideas he attributes to them, and concludes with a flourishing death blow; dispatching the enemy he, himself, imagined into being. To use an actual philosophical term, Prof. Hall builds a “strawman” (a fabricated opponent) which he then tears down, using tired apologetics to vanquish ill-defined non-arguments as he goes.
Learning from the professor’s error of generalization and stereotyping, I will speak only for myself. As a forty-something, caucasian, American male who does not subscribe to the supernatural, I am likely what the good professor imagines as a contemporary atheist. I will at least, for the purpose of answering him, assume that mantle.
I will begin by clarifying for him that the terms “empirically verified” and “falsified” belong more appropriately to the realm of scientific, rather than philosophical discourse. Empirical verification literally meaning replication by experimentation, and falsification being the hammer with which all scientific theories are regularly, necessarily and relentlessly pounded.
You see, a theory’s potential to be proven false (falsifiability) yet to withstand uncountable, incessant attempts to discredit it, is actually evidence of the theory’s strength.  This is why evolution theory remains perpetually linked to the person and work of Charles Darwin. Regardless of the insatiable, omnidirectional assaults from every conceivable religious entity and crackpot Montana creationist politician, it has remained reliably, fundamentally unscathed since originally published in 1859.
Therefore, Prof. Hall, if you are truly seeking intellectually rigorous, empirically reliable and well-reasoned, defensible answers to life’s questions, you would be better served to look in the Origin of Species before hitting the local creationist museum, let alone the bible. If you still seek the interaction of an actual, contemporary atheist, I’m your huckleberry.

17 Comments on "GUEST POST: Old Time Atheism"

  1. Well said, I was very offended at being lumped in to his straw man argument. Not very christian-like either, if you believe in that stuff.

    I suggest the good perfessor start his next guest column from another part of Wikipedia, which was probably where he got his original inspiration.

    • I can’t speak for Justin either, nor will I ever write as eloquently as Rob. I’ll simply say this: I find Pascal’s Wager utterly tiresome.

  2. Are you prepared for the consequences of being actively wrong, Justin, rather than honestly mistaken?

    • I certainly can’t speak for Justin, but to answer your question, Dave, I am.

      Are you familiar with the ‘Lab Rat’ argument? It goes like this. An omniscient and omnipotent being creates the entire impressively vast universe, countless galaxies and billions of stars. He creates all the species therein, and grants one, only one, with free will. He does so for no gain to himself (he’s all powerful, remember?) and no benefit to his creation other than to see what happens. He instructs that species not to use that free will, and gets all pissed when they do. (I will continue with the male pronoun, “he”, but I should be using “It”).

      Through the centuries, this all-powerful being that knows all that can be known continues to make deals with his creation so that they will stop doing exactly what he created them to do. They all fail, until he actually has himself/son murdered to ‘save’ his creation from itself. And then after we die he judges us on how well we run the maze he constructed to a conclusion in which he pointed to the exit, inciting others to violence in this life against those who don’t turn correctly at the appropriate intersection. He did this, in theory, only to see how we would perform given the obstacles he himself created. The Gentiles were apparently the control group, as his ‘chosen people’ had the compact with Abraham, the Egyptian slavery, the 10 commandments, the rule of weak kings and the prophets. Sucks to be Hebrew I guess. But here’s the point.

      Why do all this and judge us if he knew the outcomes? Perhaps he didn’t, and he’s learning. Why create everything and build a maze, allowing us injustice, if he could build everything he wanted to begin with? That is the epistemological argument of the conundrum of the existence of evil. However, the moral argument is the lab rat one. As a lab rat, kneeling before the feet of a judgmental god, am I not more morally sound and sincerely honest by telling such a creature that I am not his toy? Or am I more morally sound by turning at the right spots and running the maze as already dictated, a slave to an experiment?

      Everybody dies, Dave. Life is a sexually transmitted terminal disease. Am I prepared to tell a slaver exactly what I think of him after shuffling off this mortal coil? Yes I certainly am, even if that petulant and unworthy asshole casts me into a lake of fire for all eternity. That is just as ready as you are to say ‘yes massa, let me lick your streets of gold for you!’.

      That is contemporary atheism.

  3. oooooooo….Dave thinks you got some serious “splaining” to do, Justin! The Saturday religion page has got to be one of the worst pages in the paper. I can’t believe we have this and no state political reporters.

  4. If that is the characterization that Eric Hall thinks most appropriate to ‘contemporary atheists’ then I suggest he’s been having too many deep and rigorous theological discussions on Twitter. Kudos to him for using such potent grist to make a powerful defense for the Christian view of slavery through release from suffering. (/sarcasm)

    Through history, moral appeal (ethics) has been used to confuse arguments of epistemology. Relief from suffering is perhaps the least rigorous and most odious of all such emotional appeals. If Hall really wants to characterize atheists in a more accurate light involving suffering, he should point out the empirically obvious: We see and know that life is violent. For those of who have a modicum of self-awareness, that violence is painful and often meaningless, and no that is not limited to the human animal. So, the next time that good professor Hall pens a letter, perhaps he should start with this rigorously researched belief of contemporary atheism, that suffering exists needlessly not as a proof of God but as ample evidence that the world is full of assholes.

  5. Just in case anyone has forgotten:


  6. Thanks Rob for saying what I felt but was unable to express. Or maybe I can. I start every day wishing God’s fan club really would go to Heaven and leave the rest of us alone! Hypocrisy should be the greatest Mortal Sin. Sad to say the “conservative” movement has turned it into art form.

  7. I was wondering why most of the participants here seem to lack a certain amount of happiness and well being.

    A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology by researchers at the London School of Economics and Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that the secret to sustained happiness lies in participation in religion.

    “The church appears to play a very important social role in keeping depression at bay and also as a coping mechanism during periods of illness in later life,” Mauricio Avendano, an epidemiologist at LSE and an author of the study, said in a statement. “It is not clear to us how much this is about religion per se, or whether it may be about the sense of belonging and not being socially isolated.”

    Researchers looked at four areas: 1) volunteering or working with a charity; 2) taking educational courses; 3) participating in religious organizations; 4) participating in a political or community organization. Of the four, participating in a religious organization was the only social activity associated with sustained happiness, researchers found.

    • It’s true Swede, I do get sad when I see a happy band of Muslims burning heretics, or Westboros gleefully picketing soldier’s funerals with God Hates Fags banners. I guess that’s my cross to bear.

    • Try the Unitarians. The good parts of church without all the crap.

    • Flawed thinking, Swede. Just because religion makes people happy doesn’t mean that the lack of religion makes them unhappy. Professor Hall should be questioning your lack of ‘intellectual rigor’.

      • Swede doesn’t want to admit that it wasn’t persay God but the social aspects of church friendships that made people happier.

        “But the satisfaction couldn’t be attributed to factors like individual prayer, strength of belief, or subjective feelings of God’s love or presence. Instead, satisfaction was tied to the number of close friends people said they had in their religious congregation. People with more than 10 friends in their congregation were almost twice as satisfied with life as people with no friends in their congregation.”

        Swede had to go outside the US to find a study of Europes folk. not the US. the US studys like the one before prove something completely different.

        • I Think the Conservative version of Religion today, has more to do with getting together, and seeing how many buddies you can have, instead of a personal relationship with God. Thats exactly how Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Payne saw it as it is again today:

          That God cannot lie, is no advantage to your argument, because it is no proof that priests can not, or that the Bible does not.
          ~Thomas Paine~

          Monticello Aug. 14. 1800.
          the clergy, by getting themselves established by law, & ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil & religious rights of man.
          ~Thomas Jefferson~

  8. Eric Hall article is kinda humorous,
    when read as if it was some kind of satire.
    maybe parody.

    Otherwise, still looks to be
    ultra-conservative Atheism,
    as viewed through perfect vision optics,
    of just possibly, ultra-conservative Roman Catholics.

    And just look at who all is behind
    the huge campaign
    to get a lot of Press,
    seemingly slamming, dicing/dising, diminishing
    the First Encyclical on moral response
    to climate changes.
    Then moral Catholic understanding.

    For example. Greedy destruction of environs like
    AIR. WATER. involves two major sins.
    2. sin against “neighbors” on this “earthly home.”

    and for those who profess a belief that
    they are made in the image of God, they do
    3. sin also against the image of God.

    1.2.3. Does not get much simpler than that!

    No damn wonder came the campaign to gag those words!

    BUT, those just opinions of old person
    who is not a Roman Catholic.
    WHAT i’m hoping for are Comments
    from more knowledgeable younger people.

  9. The happy versus the unhappy.

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