Is Atheism True Debate - Jones v. Maundy

Is Atheism True?

Mike Jones, Atheist

Opening Statement

Jones' First Defense of Positive Atheism -
Resolved: Atheism is true with respect to the god of unmodified classical theism

One cannot expect a person to defend the non-existence of 'god', unless that god is sufficiently defined, as working definitions of key terms are mandatory for all meaningful dialogue. Unfortunately, what attributes god possesses is a subject of intense disagreement among not only theists and Christians in general, but specific sub-sets of Christians (i.e., classical theists [god is omniscient], and open-theists [god is not omniscient].

Assuming that the members of this forum were counting on the atheist's opening post being something less than the 950,000 words it would take to defend the non-existence of all known gods of traditional religious conception, it makes sense for the atheist who denies a specific god, as I do, to provide reasons why "atheism is true" with respect to that particular god. Narrowing these debates to focusing on one god at a time clearly helps the participants to focus on areas of the most substantial disagreement.

The proposition I agreed to defend is "atheism is true". But there are many different gods offered by theism, and the weaknesses of one god's attributes that allow me to argue for its non-existence, are not necessarily found in other gods. For example, the god of unmodified classical theism has foreknowledge that is both exhaustive and infallible. The god of open-theism does not have these qualities. So it is no injury to the atheist position to note that arguments in favor of the non-existence of the god of classical theism, wouldn't necessarily show the non-existence of the god of open-theism. This post is limited to showing "atheism is true" with respect to the god of unmodified classical theism. If you worship a different god than this, wait your turn. I'll likely be defending "atheism is true" with respect to your particular god, in a future post.

I start with rebuttal to the classical theist god since this is the god most likely worshiped by Catholics. See

Can you be sure that married bachelors do not exist in the Andromeda galaxy? Yes. How could that be, given that you have never been there to check? Easy, because the concept of 'married bachelor' is self-refuting (i.e., the problems with its existence are intrinsic and do not arise from considerations outside the entity itself). "Married" means at least "not single" among other things, and "bachelor" means at least "single" among other things. The law of non-contradiction (i.e., a cannot be both a and non-a at the same time in the same way) thus prevents the existence of such a person. So if the god of classical theism possesses the kind of attributes that are just as contradictory to each other as the attributes of a married bachelor are, we will be justified to advocate positive dogmatic atheism toward this particular god.

Does unmodified classical theism advocate the existence of a god who possesses mutually contradictory properties? Yes. First, as with pretty much anything in religion or the bible, there are capable theologians who defend everything from the most extreme form of a doctrine, to the most liberal form, and modified forms in between. For purposes of this post, I will argue that atheism is true with respect to the god of unmodified classical theism (i.e., god is both omniscient and omnipotent). Unmodified classical theism says god's omniscience requires that his foreknowledge is both exhaustive and infallible. Unmodified classical theism says god's omnipotence means god is capable of doing anything that is logically possible.
Suppose God infallibly foreknew from all eternity that in A.U.C. 747, God would cause Mary to become pregnant with Jesus.Does God have the power to actually delay said impregnating of said Mary until A.U.C. 748, given that there is nothing illogical about God choosing to cause a pregnancy in A.U.C. 748?

Given the qualifying word "infallibly", the answer is 'no', which means this god cannot exist as described, anymore than a married man described as "bachelor" can exist. Here is the argument stated in syllogism:
Major premise: Whatever is infallibly foreknown, is 'incapable of failing'.
Minor premise: God infallibly foreknew he would cause Mary in A.U.C. 747 to become pregnant with Jesus.
Conclusion: Therefore, God's causing Mary to become pregnant with Jesus in A.U.C. 747, is 'incapable of failing'.

The conclusion prevents God delaying the pregnancy of Mary with Jesus until A.U.C. 748, since the pregnancy beginning in A.U.C. 747 is "incapable of failing". In other words, although God getting Mary pregnant in A.U.C. 748 is within the realm of logical possibility, it is something that God cannot do. In other words, if God's foreknowledge is exhaustive and infallible, he cannot actually do something that is logically possible, delay said pregnancy until A.U.C. 748, and this inability shoves his "omnipotence" off the table of possibly true descriptions of god. As long as the theist insists that god has exhaustive infallible foreknowledge and also retains real ability to do anything logically possible, the theist is advocating a god that qualifies as self-contradictory, and thus cannot logically exist.

The only ways to attack a deductive logical argument are 1) show that the major premise is false, 2) show that the minor premise is false, or 3) show that, even if both premises are true, the conclusion derived from them does not logically follow (i.e., show that the conclusion is missing information found in one of the premises, or the conclusion includes information missing from either premises, or the conclusion uses a term from one of the premises in a way different than as used in the premises [i.e, equivocation]).

I cannot see how Dr. Maundy will achieve any of these 3 goals.

Premise 1 states the dictionary definition of 'infallible' which also happens to be the definition accorded to it by unmodified classical theism. It is safe to assume therefore that theists who espouse unmodified classical theism will not have problems with a premise that correctly states what they believe. And I explained earlier why theists cannot get out of this by saying "well maybe god's foreknowlege is infallible but not exhaustive". I qualified that this argument would be set forth to refute no other god except the one of unmodified classical theism, i.e., divine foreknowledge that IS exhaustive. Lots of different gods require lots of different atheist arguments. One argument at a time, one god at a time. If you believe god's foreknowledge or power is limited, wait your turn, I'll get to your particular god in a future post, not this one.

Premise 2 cannot be attacked as false since Dr. Maundy, a Christian (and as Catholic, likely espousing unmodified classical theism) would not disagree with the premise that God had infallible foreknowledge that God would make Mary pregnant with Jesus.

Given the beliefs of unmodified classical theists, they have no rational reason to disagree with either premise, hence, they must agree with me that said premises are sound.

The conclusion combines the premises without adding or substracting information, and without requiring a different understanding of a word used in either premises, hence, the conclusion is deductively valid.

For all these reasons, we can be sure that, among all gods that various theists allege to exist, the god of unmodified classical theism is plagued with the same fatal self-refuting consequences that "married bachelor" is plagued with, and as such, not only "doesn't" exist (rational justification to deny his existence), but "cannot" exist (positive certitude in denying his existence). Therefore, positive atheism is true with respect to the god of unmodified classical theism.

Copyright 2014, American Catholic Truth Society, Scott Windsor
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