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Sensible Belief

Updated on March 25, 2016

Sensible Belief - The "intellectual superiority" of Atheism challenged.

What does it mean to hold a sensible belief? What is an irrational belief? What are valid ways to gain knowledge?

TOPICS: Reason, logic, belief, faith, rationality, God, atheism, new atheism, naturalism, rationalism, theism, deism, agnosticism, science, philosophy.

God, or no God? - An anonymous POLL

I am of the persuasion that there...

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3 assumptions of Atheism you should question.

- Assumption #1 -

"A person cannot rationally believe 'God' created the universe without first answering 'who created God'."

Or as RationalWiki tries to explain it: "One example of a viciously infinite regression, arises in intelligent design creationism; which states that there are problems in the theory of Darwinian evolution by natural selection which can only be resolved by invoking a designer or first cause without proposing a solution to the immediate question "who designed the designer?"

Why this assumption is questionable on the basis of reason and common sense:

Accepting this assumption logically necessitates that you reject thousands of years of human HISTORICAL knowledge as being 'useless' at best, or 'fallacious' at worst. We claim knowledge (despite only having partial data in many cases) of past persons and events (causes) and we have no trouble assuming their veracity. Imagine if we applied the same poor reasoning to Archeology and Forensics. A detective doesn't have to know anything about a person's parents, or his favorite type of hat. Most relevant of all he need not know anything about the specific person suspected in order to conclude rationally that person is a murderer, and hence caused a person's demise. At best, avoiding God as an explanation results in an equal hypothesis, as doing so only pushes the accused infinite regress back one step farther when any other concept replaces it. (multi-verse/other-worlds theories, take your pick). - Without a "First-Cause" of some sort in place, it's unavoidable. Arbitrarily filling gaps of knowledge with "God did it" due of a lack of understanding in natural science of a particular phenomena (one that is addressable BY natural science, see assumption #3) is a valid criticism of the use of 'God', but an inference to the best explanation possible (abductive reasoning) by using 'God' as the most logical concept available to explain the origin of all contingent matter and energy is wholly different.

Recommended study topic:

Understanding that the real conflict between Atheism and belief in God with this argument (at its root) is a philosophical one and it comes down to: Which is 'primary' (ontologically speaking), 1.) Matter and energy or 2.) Mind?

3 assumptions of Atheism you should question. - - Assumption #2 -

* Credit to for image link

"Using 'God' as a possible explanation (when an empirical scientific explanation isn't forthcoming) stops the use of reason and the possibility of scientific advancement."

OR as RationalWiki tries to explain it (not to pick on them again, but it's sadly proving to be too easy) "Ultimately, some people will always believe that something cannot come from nothing, and that any scientifically explained manifestation/creation of our universe will require that something "caused" it to exist. (There is, of course, rarely if ever a serious question of what caused the causer.)

Why this assumption is questionable on the basis of reason and common sense:First of all, "some people will always believe that something cannot come from nothing" - This is thankfully true, as only sane, logical and moderately rational people would believe this. Second, the"what caused the causer." objection stated above has already been addressed above with Assumption #1. It demonstrates poor reasoning to demand an explanation OF an explanation when trying to determine IF something merely exists.

This is a failure to understand the distinction between 'Agency' and 'Mechanism', which are two very real phenomenon that exists in the world. Philosophically speaking this is essentially a very basic "category mistake" and demonstrates an inability to differentiate between a mechanical process (even if reducing something (reductionist style) to its very atoms) and any agency that may be involved. Consider a custom computer...the laws of physics has a lot to say about it physically, but it cannot tell you anything about who assembled it, or the parents, or even the motivation behind its creation. This matter of Agency is forever estranged from empirical scientific discovery. (Aka: a different category). A great example of this is provided by Mathematics Professor John Lennox of Oxford's, and his Aunt Matilda's cake analogy: (Referring to nutrition scientists, biochemists, chemists, physicists, and mathematicians) --->"Their disciplines, which can cope with questions about the nature and structure of the cake, this is answering the 'how' questions, cannot answer the 'why' questions connected for the purpose for which the cake was made. In fact, the only way we shall ever get an answer is if Aunt Matilda reveals it to us, the plain fact is that no amount of scientific analysis will enlighten us." (1*)

Recommended Study Topics:

Understanding that the real conflict between Atheism and belief in God with this argument (at its root) is a philosophical one and it comes down to: Understanding the actual scope of science and its limitations in the acquiring of knowledge. (Of which some people fiercely disagree) so now I invite you to: Assumption #3)

*1."Has Science buried God?" by John Lennox (2012) Pg. 105-107

3 assumptions of Atheism you should question. - - Assumption #3 -

* Credit to for image link

"Any knowledge (if any) that is not obtained scientifically, cannot be objectively true (Aka: it's outside the real of human understanding)."

Or as Atheist Peter Atkins has put it: "There is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence" *(2.)

Why this assumption is questionable on the basis of reason and common sense:

Besides the fact that the distinction between 'Agency' and 'Mechanism' is being ignored (or denied) by many Atheists as explained in the previous assumption, the belief that science alone gives us knowledge is a philosophical statement, not a scientific one. (Science can't prove the statement itself as the assertion is self-referential/incoherent.) Science while powerful, can't teach you, no matter how many times you try to run experiments, if it's okay to murder your neighbor’s dog for being too loud (moral judgments), it cannot tell you how to best utilize your scientific knowledge (whether to invent, modify, destroy, etc.), it can't grant you the ability to make aesthetic judgments such as 'this concerto is a masterpiece' or 'this painting is hideous' or how to reduce the HARD PROBLEM of consciousness to a purely material/empirical level. There is no science that can be done to prove that you even exist (as opposed to you brain being a brain in a vat for example) or that other minds exist, nor can science be done to prove the "physical" makeup of the laws of physics, nor the same for the existence of numbers (note: not the symbols we create to represent them, but the values that they hold) - all of these are all accepted by philosophical presumption and are based on other evidences. (Rationally inferred). Science for all its incredible ability in understanding and changing the natural world, is impotent to address some of the most crucially important experiences and values we hold in our lives, and it's not due to a lack of accumulated knowledge, but rather because these things fall outside of the scope of the scientific method all-together, which can describe HOW physical things work in their finest details, but is silent on the WHY.

Recommended Study Topics:

Understanding that the real conflict between Atheism and belief in God with this argument (at its root) is a philosophical one and it comes down to: Grasping a distinction: The conflation of the scientific method with the philosophy known as Scientism is at fault here.While it's not necessary to be an Atheist to be a scientist. (History shows us that many imminent scientists profess a belief in God and it doesn't negatively affect them doing science, if anything it motivates their passion to do it more) many Atheists happen to be materialists/naturalists too. This philosophical (not scientific) position is the true opposition to a belief in God/value of religion and so it is this philosophy which deserves further elucidation. (at a later time)

*2."The 'Limitless Power of Science' in Nature's Imagination - The Frontiers of Scientific Vision" (1995) Pg 125

Why Atheism is a religion, and not merely a "negation" of Gods

* Credit to for image link

"To say that Atheism is not a religion is like saying Anarchy is not really a political disposition." - Book: Illogical Atheism, kindle (loc 1357)

Removing all religions (as Atheism understands them), logically removes the values those religions teach as true and vital to understanding the world, and so naturally this leaves open the necessity of needing to change those values to something else. It's unavoidable. Most "serious" Atheists are very adamant about denying that Atheism is a religion, they scoff at the notion, because after-all, they have no object of worship. It is clear Atheists don't chant, close their eyes and worship something invisible, and they certainly don't believe in anything transcendent. (Or do they? We will get to 'worship' and 'transcendence' in a later article), but it's important to understand that Atheism demands far more than the negation of a single premise of Theism and then happily leave what's left as a natural blank slate. (A-theism by its very name as you can spell out, IS a renunciation of theism, VITAL: not just Theism's premise of a GOD, but the entirely of its belief system, which is far more complex and explanatory than merely 'God'), to deny this and say "I only believe in one less God than you do" as do many high-school level Atheists proclaim as if proving a clever point, is to be painfully and woefully naive about what replacing "God" with Atheism actually requires. Atheism makes claims on (and about) faith, not merely the metaphysical existence of a divine being, and it is committed to making those claims known. Any position (I don't care what it is) that attempts to uproot or just demarcate (set boundaries) against another position (again I don't care what it is) is one must that logically make some kinds of positive propositions; a proposition (certainly one worthy of holding) cannot be an EMPTY one. Beyond grasping this at a personal level, which I hope you do, Atheism is adhered to (followed), supported, institutionalized, and in fact at its most fundamental level, its claims and counter-claims are believed.

Consider this: When you negate a belief system, you'd best be willing to replace the explanations you just wiped away from your own worldview by something and not merely think leaving some kind of "gap" suffices. Idealism is replaced by Materialism, Objective morality is often replaced by Subjective or relativistic Morality, (this list a very small sample of metaphysical and epistemological ones that are affected)...if you deny this added complexity and choose to remain calling yourself an Atheist, by holding that you can remain Agnostic about what it means to fill these gaps in, then such a position is not even worth the intellectual consideration of those who took the time to reason them out. Such an ideology that can't bother to make positive assertions about the world and our human existence is a useless one at best and a dangerous one at worse. If it can't convince you by the strengths of its own arguments, than it can hardly be worth choosing over another that does. (proper reason demands this) and yet the moment an Atheist admits this is fair, his worldview becomes wide open for the same sort of criticisms as any other belief. (or "lack of belief"if you chose to think that phrase means anything.) Many Atheists simply won't have that and they scream "I claim negation, negation only!" in a manner of speaking.

A person who is so skeptical about claiming a position of positive knowledge for (or against) the existence of God (and it's less abstract considerations: the negative or positive aspects of religion, it's moral claims, it's applicability to science, etc and the same for it's alternatives etc. For Ex. Agnostic) is hardly in a position to "improve" (change) the truth claims of others who do make positive assertions. Anyone who can't be bothered to choose a side that is most reasonable (to that person), is not really worth entertaining the worldview of. Lack of certainty is one thing, but embracing ignorance entirely in the attempt to negate someone else's claim to knowledge without an argument or a counter-point is not a strategy that affords a defensible intellectual position. Complete ignorance may not be as harshly condemnable in the same way that false knowledge is, but its attempt to stand on its own against the positive claims of others without being willing (or able) to raise its voice to be heard is highly questionable. Skepticism is good and very useful to proper cognition (necessary even) but such unrestrained skepticism, one that is so all encompassing, also must logically subsume its own skepticism and be self-defeating, and so should rationally be rejected.

Recommended Study Topics:

Understanding that the real conflict between Atheism and belief in God with this topic (at its root) is a failure to afford Atheism the same platform of critical analysis and argument as any other religion. Modern New Atheism's (a more anti-theistic variant) boldly attempts to avoid any refutation by adopting a position of Agnosticism against having any "positive assertions" (yet it clearly and actively tries to negate other belief-systems) which is intellectually dishonest. Atheism, like (Zen) Buddhism and Jainism DO lack a God, but Atheism is still for all intents and purposes a Religion (a civil religion if you will) and it's philosophical presumptions are just as open to debate as any other.


After fully reading this page

I feel that...

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Relevent Books to learn more

Books to read on these subjects for consideration of some of the viewpoints expressed on this page.

I'm very interested in not only sharing, but also growing in knowledge and I welcome any support as well as any honest, thoughtful, and intelligent criticisms.

I am far from perfect (who is?) but I am doing well enough in my own understanding to not want to waste any time with trolls and militant idiots (on either side of the argument), so please, anyone ELSE feel free to take the time and comment, if you would like!

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