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Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...

Posted by tuk22 
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
May 01, 2014 09:59PM
eye popping smiley You just said that I misunderstood something rather than that I lied about it or deliberately twisted its words to mean something other than what was intended.

Are you feeling OK?
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
May 02, 2014 07:22AM
If I was wrong in that I welcome your correction.

.
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
May 03, 2014 03:35AM
. . . unless it goes against your gut feelings, right?
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
January 20, 2015 06:19PM
That was a very interesting interview except; thanks for posting.

For what it’s worth, assuming I read him correctly, I largely agree with Plantinga’s position on this and found it quite refreshing to read.

Of course for it to read properly we need to have a broad interpretation of the word ‘God’ to encompass any detailed or undetailed belief that the universe has some purpose to its existence. Then his assertion of belief in God being a basic belief that can be held without arguments makes a lot of sense.

It goes back to fundamental knowledge we all hold of our own existence – cogito ergo sum. We can believe and form arguments around any number of things, but we only truly know that we exist, and that we are a complex and meaningful creature. Hence with that knowledge we can move to the basic belief that if we exist as complex and meaningful creatures, we came from something complex and meaningful.

It cannot be said to be a basic belief that something complex and meaningful as we know ourselves to be came from meaninglessness. That is an unintuitive leap and this is demonstrated by the fact that it is an uncommon world view throughout the history of humankind, and most societies and cultures have naturally drifted from this basic belief towards embellishing this basic belief with creative detailed beliefs.

When I say “creative” I basically mean “made up” – this not simply a case of “I think therefore I am, therefore there is meaning” – this is a kind of story telling that fills in unknown blanks such as ‘God personalities’, ‘creation stories’, and other philosophies, moral codes and the like. From there we arrive at the various world religions, ad hoc spiritual philosophies and other theistic conceptual structures.

Atheism, which we can take to mean strong atheism since he makes the distinction between atheism and agnosticism*, is another creative detailed belief.

Exactly like theistic conceptual structures, atheistic conceptual structures assume knowledge that we do not have, but rather than assuming a complex meaningful creature came from something complex and meaningful, it posits that this came about from a confluence of meaningless process – essentially by happenstance. It’s a story, just like religions are.

Atheism, therefore, is an equal in terms of its rational foundations to religion and other theistic conceptual structures. Both are detailed conceptual structures which describe things that we do not actually hold any confirmed knowledge about.

This is why Plantinga says that a transition from theism to agnosticism makes a sort of sense, but a transition from theism to atheism does not.

Agnosticism is not a belief at all, but a philosophical approach that sways away from storytelling and focuses instead entirely on knowledge. At its foundation is an acceptance that we are without knowledge beyond the essential knowledge of our own existence.

So to recognise that religions are telling us made up stories, it is logical to transition to a philosophy where we accept that these are stories and to cease taking them as facts. It is not logical to transition from one story to another, which is what the transition from theism to atheism in fact is.

* From here atheism refers to strong atheism
Re: Is Atheism Irrational? Plantinga thinks so...
March 06, 2015 12:00AM
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TheThorn
Of course for it to read properly we need to have a broad interpretation of the word ‘God’ to encompass any detailed or undetailed belief that the universe has some purpose to its existence. Then his assertion of belief in God being a basic belief that can be held without arguments makes a lot of sense.

I think Plantinga himself would disagree with your theory here in a most vigorous way.

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TheThorn
Hence with that knowledge we can move to the basic belief that if we exist as complex and meaningful creatures, we came from something complex and meaningful.

. . . and, I assume, then, that you infer that THAT complex and meaningful thing came from something else equally or more complex and meaningful, and that THAT complex and meaningful thing came from something else equally or more complex and meaningful and on and on without end. So do you think infinite regresses actually exist in reality or do you think something else might account for our beginnings?

Something such as evolution. That perhaps instead of our coming from something complex and meaningful, we came from something less complex than ourselves and that that something came from something less complex that itself and that that something came from something less complex than itself and so forth until we get to just about the simplest form of life that can exist?

If you put a gun to my head, I'll cast my vote for this latter theory and not your "The complex can only come from the equally or more complex."

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It goes back to fundamental knowledge we all hold of our own existence – cogito ergo sum.

There's a nice body of argument out there now that says we don't know that we exist, at least not in the way that we think we do.

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We can believe and form arguments around any number of things, but we only truly know that we exist, and that we are a complex and meaningful creature.

No, I'm afraid we can't know that in an absolute sense at all. What we can know are tautologies, logical truths, those sort of things. It's entirely possible that you are nothing more than an automaton in a simulated world that has been programmed to hold every belief that you now hold, including the belief that you are an independently functioning human being with free will.

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Atheism, which we can take to mean strong atheism since he makes the distinction between atheism and agnosticism*, is another creative detailed belief.

Interesting. Let's take a self-proclaimed atheist such as Thomas Nagel who believes the universe has a purpose, for instance. What would you say are the creative details about his atheism?

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Exactly like theistic conceptual structures, atheistic conceptual structures assume knowledge that we do not have . . .

So in your view, atheism, which is only a denial of the truth of theism, has conceptual structures exactly like those of theism? How so? Theism posits the existence of various gods with various attributes that act in various ways. Atheism only denies that these Gods exist. Atheism does not posit any conceptual structures of its own.

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. . . rather than assuming a complex meaningful creature came from something complex and meaningful, it posits that this came about from a confluence of meaningless process – essentially by happenstance. It’s a story, just like religions are.

Evolution is the process that suggests complex creatures like us evolved from less complex creatures. Evolution and atheism are not the same thing. Although virtually all atheists do accept evolution as true, so do many, many theists.

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Atheism, therefore, is an equal in terms of its rational foundations to religion and other theistic conceptual structures. Both are detailed conceptual structures which describe things that we do not actually hold any confirmed knowledge about.

The one claim atheism makes about the world is that the world appears to lack gods in the same way that it appears to lack fairies and dragons, ghosts and witches. It's possible, of course, that all these things exist but -- and here's the point -- they don't seem to exist.

Anything else you attribute to atheism is better attributed to some other source.

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This is why Plantinga says that a transition from theism to agnosticism makes a sort of sense, but a transition from theism to atheism does not.

I don't follow. If one believes that one's own religion's God exists but that none others do, then through study and discussion comes to believe that that God doesn't exist, why wouldn't a transition to atheism make sense?

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Agnosticism is not a belief at all, but a philosophical approach that sways away from storytelling and focuses instead entirely on knowledge.

Agree. Although many folks today use agnosticism to argue for a third position of belief between theism and atheism, classically agnosticism is not a belief or even about beliefl. It is about a lack of knowledge, just as you say.

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At its foundation is an acceptance that we are without knowledge beyond the essential knowledge of our own existence.

That's mistaken. Agnosticism is not a denial of all knowledge except the knowledge of our own existence. That would be universal skepticism (or maybe even solipsism depending on how far you go with it).

Agnosticism says only that some propositions are probably unknowable, like the proposition "God exists." But it certainly doesn't argue against knowledge in general in the broad way that you suggest here.
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