Why Atheists sometimes lose effectiveness in Theistic discussions


Observed truth or truth we discover, is ultimately inadequate to affect absolute certainty within man. Having no deeper foundation other than our own fallible faculties, our beliefs must deliver a standing invitation to all competing ideas until all possibilities are exhausted. If, then, our beliefs stand, they can only hold certainty in the sense of having withstood all other ideas our current day and age can muster and for which we are able to understand. Thus, our beliefs can only hold a current temporary certainty while holding a respect for such a time in the future that mankind is able to obtain a greater understanding of those beliefs. Thus, absolute certainty can never be reached by mankind. It has the effect of silencing the free exchange of ideas and creating a tyranny upon other men who hold differing beliefs.

Truth, as a Being with person-hood, is entirely in the position to produce a greater degree of certainty within man than he could reach alone. For Truth, having personality, could relate with man, instruct, and cleanse man of error he could not have eliminated on his own. That is not to say that man would then have an infallible understanding of the truth. The best he could do is present to others a representation of this Truth-Being or a representation of some external truth the Being has communicated. The representation would still be subject to the fallible faculties of man and therefore must deliver the same standing invitation to other representations. Otherwise, tyranny will result. Furthermore, whatever refined beliefs man contains inside himself must be held in a progressive truth-seeking manner with a respect for some newer revelation communicated by this Truth-Being in the future. For it is absurd to believe that man has perfect understanding of truth the first time it is communicated to him.

Therefore, the only difference realized by man, either in truth discovered solely by man or truth received from this Truth-Being, is the deeper ground on which he stands when receiving communication from this Being. Those who criticize representations of this Being without standing in deeper ground themselves will compete with any self-authenticating witness this Being has produced inside the man standing on the deeper ground and will, thus, be only marginally effectual in an argument. Effectiveness can be obtained either by developing a greater understanding of the representations or moving onto deeper ground.

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12 thoughts on “Why Atheists sometimes lose effectiveness in Theistic discussions

  1. “Thus, absolute certainty can never be reached by mankind. It has the effect of silencing the free exchange of ideas and creating a tyranny upon other men who hold differing beliefs.”

    Absolute certainty. There is a certain arrogance in that and yet an appeal that draws us all. O to be absolutely sure of something!

    How absolutely sure Jesus was when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” ! There is no way one can just dismiss this. Either He was insanely delusional, or He was who He said He was..is.

    In a life filled with people whose individual realities depend on their personal perceptions instead of the true unprejudiced reality, our belief systems…our truths, if you will, are definitely biased. Everyone’s reference points are based on their perceptions of their experiences. For instance,
    my sister claims she wasn’t loved as much as her other siblings. But if you ask the siblings, they
    would say she was the favorite. The reality? Who knows? Who can remember without prejudice?
    These unstable perceptions make for an unstable society and unstable belief systems that are not based on truth, only perceptions. For we create our gods to be someone like us or who we want them to be. We reject the God who confronts our wrong perceptions with the truth. To borrow from a quote, we like our hell because we are familiar with all the rooms.

    “Truth, as a Being with person-hood, is entirely in the position to produce a greater degree of certainty within man than he could reach alone. For Truth, having personality, could relate with man, instruct, and cleanse man of error he could not have eliminated on his own.”

    Anything within the realm of man then, cannot be relied upon as truth. Only someone outside of that realm can define truth or reality…Someone who can see things as they really are.

    Even our perceptions of the truths we receive from that Someone are subject to unreliability because we are who we are and our eschewed views. Only one who has the life of God in him can hope to taste of truth and only as we constantly examine ourselves and stay in fellowship with Him can we hope to interpret that truth correctly.

  2. I think Feynman’s quote here is apt when it comes to trusting beliefs and perspectives:

    The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.

    How do we not fool ourselves? Respecting the method of science – by using what is known as methodological naturalism – is an excellent starting point. The products of this method speak for themselves: so far, they work for everyone everywhere all the time. How is that ‘relative’ just because it always maintains room for doubt?

    This notion – that what is true is somehow relative to one’s subjective experience and beliefs – is probably one of the most common yet odious opinions bandied about as if it were widely accepted as correct. It’s not. It’s an epistemological placebo for the intellectually lazy.

    Yes, Virginia, there is a reality, and we can actually know something about it if we choose to make the honest effort. Pretending that our subjective faculties prohibits this discovering of reality is the worst kind of apologetics because it assumes we cannot know without certainty… and confuses anything less than certain with something less than what’s true in reality. This little shell game of substituted word meanings tries to make anything less-than-certain equivalent – and that’s where it veers off the twin paths of reason and reality and inserts the term ‘relative’ as if that were appropriate answer to this warped thinking. It’s not. It’s dishonest.

    The physical laws of nature are not relative just because someone is so intellectually impoverished that they can only appreciate probabilities of P=1 to equate with what’s true and knowably so. It does not bolster this misunderstanding to pretend that all other and lesser probabilities are equivalently ‘relatively true’. That’s absurd and demonstrably so. To assume that anything less than certain means it is equivalent to something unknown is ridiculous by all practical measurements unless someone is honestly and equally surprised each and every morning that the sun rises. Such a person isn’t intellectually lazy but brain-damaged. Even so, few people are actually so dull and unimaginative that patterns in nature are either unrecognizable or equally untrustworthy.

    To call anything less than certain ‘relative’ is a gross distortion of how much we can know and trust about that knowledge of reality we have gained. Relativism is an intentional and misleading excuse to try to make equivalent faith and fact, as if Ergo Jesus is a legitimate answer in place of I don’t know because I have some element of uncertainty. Relativism argued on the basis of this subjectivity is just broken thinking petrified into ignorance by a lack of intellectual honesty.

    1. “How do we not fool ourselves? Respecting the method of science – by using what is known as methodological naturalism – is an excellent starting point.”

      This starting point undercuts trust in your reason. Evolution is not concerned with correct beliefs. All that matters is adaptation, survival.

      1. But my reason is not equivalent with what is true, merely an avenue on which to try to find its address. Evolution is a mindless, unguided physical process; of course it is not concerned with ‘correct beliefs’ (which, I must point out would no longer be a belief). Neither is gravity nor erosion concerned with correct beliefs, neither of which undermines reason.

      2. That is just to admit that you have a defeater for the near absolute trust you put in your reason. Even other epistemological systems already admit there is no such thing as 100% certainty. In light of naturalism and evolution, that percentage is even lower given that survival is the goal and not beliefs. As long as you produce the correct behavior you can believe whatever you want about the reason why you do that behavior.

      3. I’m having difficulty following your thoughts here. I respect thinking that respects what’s true and don’t respect thinking that doesn’t. One the central problems contained within the epistemology used in faith-based beliefs is to assume the conclusion, namely, that something is believed to be true first. Many religious believers think this kind of certainty in their faith-based beliefs offers something beneficial that is unavailable in another epistemology. There is no evidence to back this up and much evidence to show why this acceptance is a hindrance to finding out what is true in reality.

        Evolution is demonstrably true in reality from every avenue of honest inquiry. It has no goal. It has no agency. It has no intentions. It is a physical process and we can understand how it works as demonstrated by making successful predictions. We use this reality-based knowledge in a variety of ways, not least of which is in medicine with practical and tangible benefits. Why you alter this understanding to suit your religious beliefs is hardly a mystery to me because it directly undermines some faith-based beliefs you have assumed to be true in reality when they clearly are not. The problem does not lie with those who respect evolution as true, nor with evolution itself, but with you.

      4. First, my belief does not constitute truth. Ontologically, objective truths exists. Epistemologically, we apprehend these truths as best we can. Attributing a degree of certainty to your understanding of a particular truth you apprehend is what makes a belief. Beliefs can be true or less than true depending on our degree of apprehension. But, before we even begin to apprehend truth, we must have a good foundation for our own ability to “find the address” of truth. Naturalism coupled with evolution gives us reason to doubt our ability to “find the address” of truth because our abilities were not developed to find truth. They were developed to adapt, survive. As long as you attain behavior beneficial to your survival, it does not matter what you believe.

        If the presence of a lion in your living room leads you to believe it’s time to run a marathon, it does not matter whether your belief that you must run a marathon is correct…as long as your running helps you survive.

  3. And by the way, Daniel, capital T ‘Truth’ is not a being with personhood but a word used to describe the opposite of capital F ‘Falsity’. To have a relationship with ‘Truth’ is to have a relationship with a concept, a notion, a meme, a descriptive word. It’s like having a relationship with the word ‘Theory’; it may make sense in your mind but only there. To me, it’s nonsensical because it’s a word that implies something about something else.

    1. Read you wrong there at first. I had a reply but erased it when I realized what you were saying.

      Either way, if God exists truth could be a person. I think I could demonstrate that logically but I’m not that interested in having a debate. I’d rather just sojourn along discovery.

      1. Yeah, I tried to respond to your comment but it wasn’t available. Yes, if god exists truth could be a person. Or a walnut. Or the number 42. How might we know? How might we verify/falsify that?

        I can have a relationship with a person but walnuts and I don’t agree. And if you don’t believe me, check in with the number 42 and see what it/s/he says!

  4. The only person whom I know of who can “put the fear of God” into an atheist is Dr. William Lane Craig. I wonder why? James

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