Today I wanted to take a look at a very heated debate about atheism, namely that whether anything can be extrapolated from Atheism, and if so, what logically follows from it.
The answer, that I find, varies.
The theist is right, in one sense, that the atheist necessarily falls into nihilism and absurdity; the theist is also wrong, in another sense, in that the atheist does not necessarily fall into them.
Now before I make the argumentation, I’d like to discuss logical contraries. If I say the statement “I am sitting” is true, then by the law of non-contradiction, the statement “I am standing” must be false. Likewise, if I say the statement “I am sitting” is false, then that “I am not sitting” must be true.
If X is true, then ~X is false.
If X is false, then ~X is true.
Now if X is true, then everything that is ~X must be false.
If X is false, then something that is ~X is true.
Let us put this second example into perspective.
If ‘I am sitting’ is false, then any activity that is ‘not sitting’ could be true. I could be cooking. I could be reading. I could be walking. The antecedent does not necessarily imply any one of these things, but since these things can fit into the term of the consequent (~X), then at least one of them is real and true.
This is in contrast to the first example, wherein if ‘I am sitting’ is true, then ‘not sitting’ is false. Herein we have a necessary implication that I am only sitting, and anything that is ‘not sitting’ is false, thus ‘I am cooking’ or ‘I am walking’ are eo ipso false.
Now before I continue further, I want to point out that when you read these logical statements, you know what the terms mean. That is, you know what “I” and “sitting” and “not-sitting” reference to. This will be important later.
Let us move to atheism and its logical implications now.
Atheism is the viewpoint of a person who does not believe in any gods or God, or anything supernatural in general, for any form of reason, be it a lack or positive argumentation (it does not matter). Stated simply: There are no gods or God.
For the sake of categorical differentiation, per the theist, let us differentiate this statement into two:
There are no gods.
There is no God.
(Anyone concerned with metaphysics will understand the distinction; if not, I will have to make a separate video for it)
Let us explore some extrapolations of the statement “There are no gods.” In referencing gods, we speak of any other deities besides that of the Judaeo-Christian God. If we replace the term “gods” within the statement with a singular god, let us say Zeus, the extrapolation becomes easier.
“There is no Zeus” entails that events which contain Zeus did not happen. For example, there was no overthrowing of Chronos because Zeus never existed to have overthrown Chronos. This is one, of a few, strict logical implications.
Herein the statement follows: If the statement “There is no God” is true, then the statement”There is a God” is false. Rather straightforward, yes?
Now this statement becomes trickier, wherein what is understood by the speaker and listener as “God.” For example, if “God” simply means another kind of being, as say, a “god,” then the logical implications are not that worrisome. “God” is just another being among beings, like Zeus. However, if the term “God” as understood in a Catholic sense, perhaps more precisely within a Thomistic sense, then we can replace the term “God” for other descriptions to help us understand the point.
Simply, “God” equates to “Creator of all things.” Philosophically we may present them as:
Ultimate Ground of Intelligibility and Absolute Standard of Goodness
If the statement “There is no God” is true, then the statement “there is an ultimate ground of intelligibility” is false.
The gravity of these statements come to climax in understanding the deeply interwoven foundation within Western metaphysics, held both by theistic and Atheistic philosophers: Things have an essence only insofar as they are fashioned by thought.
Indeed, Sartre goes as far as to say, “There is no such thing as human nature, because there was no God to make it.” which may be more famously known as the “Existence precedes Essence” claim. However, since there is no God to fashion things, then everything that exists does not possess an essence. Now essences is that whereby we know what a thing is. Since there was no God to fashion essences, then we cannot come to know our world, for we do not know what anything actually is. Herein we find the breakdown of the ground of intelligibility. What we find, instead, are merely things that possess no intelligibility, for the very reason they have no essence. They cannot be understood by the intellect; and, much in the same way Sartre says we give ourselves an essence, thus do we give an essence to other things. That is to say, we do not know anything, nor can we know anything, and so we create a fictional world from a world that cannot be known, for there are no essences to be known.
Following this train of thought, then, there is no standard of what is good, except where which we decide what is good or evil for us. There is no “objective standard” or “objective position” to attain. What is considered good is defined by us; likewise, what is evil is also defined by us. That we should define motherhood as evil or slavery as good is up to us. If a society upheld laws that supported slavery, but then in a different generation upheld laws that condemned slavery, then this is not due to some objective standard of what is good or what is evil; rather, it was the whim of those particular generations to decide what was good or evil for them at the time. Indeed, neither generation was right nor wrong morally. The latter generation cannot look to their past and say: “Look at those degenerates! Slavery is a despicable thing. We have progressed from such foolishness.”
The question may be raised: Progressed to what standard, if no such standard exists?
In such a way, it can be extrapolated from atheism both nihilism and absurdism. If we were to put it syllogistically:
If “there is no God” is true, whereby the term “God” is understood as the term “foundation of intelligibilty,” then it follows that the statement “there is a foundation of intelligibility” is false; for the two terms are understood as being interchangeable as previously shown, wherein God *is* the foundation of intelligibility.
Fortunately for us, as well as for a majority of atheists, they do not consider God as these terms; further, few men can consistently follow their own logical implications on principles.
When a majority of atheists say “There is no God,” the term “God” has a diffusive meaning, ranging from a ‘god’ to caricatures. Rarely is God understood strictly in philosophical and theological ways. Indeed, Josef Pieper, a Catholic Thomist, notes on discussing disbelief, that men can affirm God by way of partially false concepts. Most often, atheists encountered a vulgar version of Christianity which had failed to deal with certain elements of truth within this troubled atheism.
Likewise, the atheist, though he denies God, may argue that his denial of God does not necessarily deny intelligiblity or any objective standard. This is a fair objection. He may argue that ‘God’ is not necessarily those things which Thomistic understanding applies to the term ‘God,’ viz. that there is something else that could take on these necessary roles. Namely, if the statement “there is no God” is true, then the statement “there is no ground of intelligibility” is uncertain; it would then lie with the atheist to show there is a foundation for intelligiblity and what it would be.
However he will find himself hardpressed to answer these issues; though, like some atheist converts, he may find himself gradually becoming a theist. He may even find why Thomas Aquinas himself says, at the end of his Five Ways: “And this we call God” is such a powerful statement.
I know this has been a bit of a lengthy video, so to give a tl;dr recap:
Atheists are not a monolithic group, and so each atheist has their own presuppositions, principles, knowledge and ignorance of things; therefore, their understanding of Who God Is determines what can be extrapolated from their denial of Him. Further, even were an atheist to deny God on the terms by which more seasoned philosophers consider God, they would not follow through on their own principles in a consistent fashion, for various reasons, either due to lack of thinking or perhaps from their own human nature. Nevertheless, Absurdism and Nihilism can be extrapolated from Atheism in itself by its very denial of God, and it would be up to the Atheist, should he wish to preserve himself from Absurdism and Nihilism, to find reason that he can keep these two logical conclusions at bay.