I thought that for my first series of articles on this blog I would go straight to the source of ideas with which I strongly disagree. In fairness, I will not present some sort of cartoon version of atheism, or attack individual atheists. The ideas are absurd enough to fall on their own merit, and no side show is needed to prove my point.
I do not expect this series of articles to change anyone’s mind. People don’t really change their mind unless they want to. I once overheard a conversation between one person and someone else who is otherwise very intelligent. One party in the conversation had an argument that was based on a non-existent set of facts pertaining to demographics. The other party in the conversation pulled up some very reliable information to very quickly discredit the ideas, and, without missing a beat the person who had presented the fallacious notions said “I choose not to believe those facts.” Now, of course there is merit in being skeptical about information, especially in the age of “fake-news”, but it is another thing to disregard facts that don’t fit a narrative.
I recently heard on a podcast an analogy about the difficulty of people changing their beliefs. If I am not mistaken it was called the “Red Vaccuum Allegory”, or something like that. I can’t be sure if it was an original idea or one of the classic philosophical teaching tools used to explain various ideas. But, it went something like this:
Imagine your wife asks you to go get the red vacuum from the storage locker. It is never a pleasant thing to wade through storage lockers to find things. Therefore, if the vacuum is neatly placed near the front, and you know this, you will easily go and get it and bring it to your wife. Now, if you know that the vacuum is at the back of the storage locker, with a bunch of other things in the way, you will be much less likely to go and retrieve the vacuum. You may make excuses as to why you could use something besides the vacuum. You may even suggest something like the vacuum having been on the fritz when you put it there, so perhaps you should borrow one from a neighbour or buy a new one. You may just do a number of things to protest retrieving the vacuum as it would be too much work. Not only is it work to do the actual vacuuming, but the thought of doing a bunch of clean up before you can even get to the job you need to do is a daunting and unattractive proposition. If you do decide to get the vacuum, there is also a very good chance that you will resent the process, muttering unpleasantries about how stupid this type of vacuum is. Even if you complete the job, you may be so annoyed that the whole experience simply leaves a bad taste in your mouth, and the simple thought of a red vacuum will annoy you for years to come.
Our deeply held beliefs are like this. Most of the time, our resistance to changing our minds or entertaining other ideas in a real way is like the allegory of the red vacuum. There are simply too many things in the way, and we don’t want to put in the work to move them. We know that we need to clean things up (or maybe we have convinced ourselves that the mess is the norm), and that the vacuum is the best tool for the job, but we would rather not spend some time rearrange what is in storage just to do so. We see this especially in the realm of politics and religion. Otherwise reasonable people become uncharacteristically resentful or resistant to ideas that don’t fit their storage locker. They aren’t prepared to do the work needed to clear the path. So, they make a million and one excuses as to why they don’t need the vacuum to begin with.
Speaking to pro-abortion people is like this. They tend to avoid the actual notion that what is in the womb is a person, and they rarely if ever defend the notion that it is not a person, which is an impossible task as it would be denial of common sense and scientific truth. Instead, it becomes about “choice” (except the choice of the child), or it is about “rights” (not the rights of the child), and maybe it is about “healthcare” (just not the healthcare of the child). At the back of the storage locker in this situation is the fact that it is a person in the womb just like anyone else, and the thought of moving all of the junk out of the way is not something people are prepared to do.
Side note, there is no such thing as “pro-choice” as a “pro-life” person is also “pro-choice” as they extend choices even to the unborn. “Pro-choice” is not about choices, it is about one choice, the choice to abort. It is not about choice in restaurants or who to marry, it is about who to terminate. “Pro-choice” is pro-abortion.
Conversely, we see this with atheism, which is more often than not “anti-theism”, which we will discuss in a later post. There is a simple fact about theism and atheism, that fact is God. At the back of the storage locker there is either the Creator, or not. An atheist has everything to lose by discovering this reality, and everything to gain by making excuses as to why they should even look for it. Think for a moment, if you are a believer and have ever witnessed or had a conversation with a committed atheist. Did they spend any actual time trying to logically reason to the inexistence of God? I doubt they did. I have yet to find a committed atheist with any notoriety that has actually tried to explain away the existence of God using a concise philosophical formula. Daniel Dennett or Sam Harris may be the best contemporary examples, but their work has more to do with free-will, rather than God Himself. The late Antony Flew was the best reasoned atheist for a time, but because he was committed to the facts and the truth, in the end, he came to Believe.
If we are to think about the great atheists of our time, those who write books or give lectures, their arguments are most often not actually arguments, but attacks. They attack the “outdated” morality of religions, or seemingly unanswered prayers. They label the Church as being full of sex offenders. They chastise the dietary restrictions or sexual mores. And while these are points of contention for another day, they are not actually arguments against God, but instead reasons why they prefer not to be religious. A distain for violence in the name of God (we will touch upon that in a later article), is not an argument against God. In my opinion it is actually an argument for God. Disdain for violence suggests that violence is wrong and that peace is right. There is no argument for this sort of moral standard without a metaphysical and lasting foundation. Furthermore, of course there is religious violence, people fight over what is most important to them. Whether they make mistakes in their actions is not an argument against that which they hold dear.
In the end, arguments against the existence of God are not philosophical or theological, but psychological. They are arguments based on subjective preference for one way of life over another. They are based on anecdotal experience with an abusive clergyman, or the words of some celebrity who has declared that “Love is Love”.
Arguments against the existence of God are not actually arguments against the existence of God. For in the end, an argument against the existence of God is actually an argument for the existence of God. You see, if there was no God, there could be no atheist. Without God, the atheist has nothing to not believe in.