Atheism and critical thinking

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Tony Wichowsk of the Christian Apologetics Alliance wrote:

,,,I have encountered numerous atheists and other critics of Christianity who by all accounts have stopped thinking critically themselves. The common perception among them is that by being critical of religion (particularly Christianity in the west), they are exercising critical thinking. However, critical thinking implies not only questioning authority and commonly held views, but your own views as well.

Critical thinking has often been popularly described as “thinking about thinking.” Stephen Brookfield is an award winning expert on education and teaching critical thinking skills. Below is his definition of what critical thinking really is.

"Critical thinking describes the process we use to uncover and check our assumptions. First we need to find out what our assumptions are. We may know some of these already (these we call explicit assumptions) but others we are unaware of (implicit assumptions)…. Once we know what our assumptions are, we enter the second phase of critical thinking, that of research. We try to check out our assumptions to make sure they are accurate and valid… The third and final phase of critical thinking puts the first two stages into practice by applying our analysis to our decisions. Decisions based on critical thinking are more likely to be ones we feel confident about and to have the effects we want them to have.”

– Stephen Brookfield Developing critical thinkers: Challenging adults to explore alternative ways of thinking and acting. (1987, Page 9)

If an atheist wants to be a good critical thinker, and not simply a cynic, I would recommend that he or she would do as Brookfield suggests, and check their assumptions. This might entail opening a book by an apologist that they do not like, such as William Lane Craig or a conservative text critic like Daniel B Wallace, and be open minded that they might have some things right.

Checking multiple sources that disagree with each-other and weighing the evidence in your mind is sometimes tedious, but in the end it is worth it.[1]

The fallacy of exclusion is a logical fallacy where "Important evidence which would undermine an inductive argument is excluded from consideration. The requirement that all relevant information be included is called the 'principle of total evidence'.".[2] Atheists avoiding and ignoring the many legitimate arguments against atheism and for theism are engaging in fallacious reasoning (see also: Rebuttals to atheist arguments).


Atheism, commonly held beliefs by atheists and lack of critical thinking

See also: Atheist worldview and Atheism and beliefs

Atheism, as defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and other philosophy reference works, is the denial of the existence of God (See also: Definition of atheism).[3]

The atheist Stephen Hawking supports the multiverse hypothesis despite the fact that the universe exhibits a significant amount of fine-tuning.[4] See also: Anthropic principle

Inductive reasoning does not lead to atheism as there is no proof and evidence that God does not exist (see also: Attempts to dilute the definition of atheism). On the other hand, even in atheistic Japan, researchers found that Japanese children see the world as designed.[5]

The physicist Stephen Barr points out, “How ironic that, having renounced belief in God because God is not material or observable by sense or instrument, the atheist may be driven to postulate not one but an infinitude of unobservables in the material world itself.” See also: Multiverse and Dark matter and Dark energy

Although many atheists deny that atheism is a worldview, atheists commonly share a number of beliefs such as naturalism, belief in evolution and abiogenesis.[6] Since World War II a majority of the most prominent and vocal defenders of the evolutionary position which employs methodological naturalism have been atheists and agnostics.[7]

In 2012, the science news website Livescience.com published an article entitled Belief in Evolution Boils Down to a Gut Feeling which indicated that research suggests that gut feelings trumps facts when it comes to evolutionists believing in evolution.[8]

In response to evolutionary indoctrination and the uncritical acceptance of evolution by many evolutionists, the scientists at the organization Creation Ministries International created a Question evolution! campaign which poses 15 questions for evolutionists. In addition, leading creationist organizations have created lists of poor arguments that evolutionists should not use.[9]

Hundreds of creation vs. evolution debates have occurred at colleges/universities and other venues since the 1970s. In the vast majority of cases, evolutionists fared badly in these debates and evolutionists have admitted that the audiences almost always deem that the creationists won these debates (see: Creation scientists tend to win debates with evolutionists). Evolutionists no longer widely debate creationists.

Evolutionists and atheists inconsistency concerning debating creationists was commented on by the Christian apologetic website True Free Thinker which declared: "Interestingly enough, having noted that since some atheists refuse to debate “creationists” but then go on to debate some of those people but not others, it is clear that they are, in reality, being selective and making excuses for absconding from difficulties..."[10] In an article entitled Are Kansas Evolutionists Afraid of a Fair Debate? the Discovery Institute states the following:

Defenders of Darwin's theory of evolution typically proclaim that evidence for their theory is simply overwhelming. If they really believe that, you would think they would jump at a chance to publicly explain some of that overwhelming evidence to the public. Apparently not.[11]

Dr. J.P. Moreland points out that naturalism is self-refuting and irrational (see also: Atheism and irrationality):

For more information, see: Other attributes of the atheist worldview

Atheism vs. theism: Gathering and analyzing relevant information

See also: Atheist indoctrination

In order to engage in critical thinking, one must gather and analyze information relevant to the issue at hand. Many atheists are unfamiliar with the evidence and arguments against atheism and the evidence and arguments for theism/Christianity (See: Rebuttals to atheist arguments and Evidence for Christianity and Arguments for the existence of God).[12]

The columnist Dennis Prager wrote that a causal factor of atheism is the "secular indoctrination of a generation."[12] Prager stated that "From elementary school through graduate school, only one way of looking at the world – the secular – is presented. The typical individual in the Western world receives as secular an indoctrination as the typical European received a religious one in the Middle Ages."[12]

Atheism and logic

See also: Atheism and logic and Atheism and irrationality

A common and legitimate criticism of the atheist worldview is that atheism is irrational (See: Atheism and irrationality and Atheism and logic).[13]

In addition, many popular atheistic arguments and methods of argumentation employ the use of logical fallacies (see: Atheism and logical fallacies).

Atheism, scientism and irrationality

Scientism is the belief that the scientific method has no (or few) limits and can successfully be applied to almost all aspects of life, and provides an explanation for everything.

Many atheists, particularly new atheists/militant atheists, adhere to scientism.[14][15][16]

Strict scientism as a worldview is self-refuting since scientism cannot be proven to be true through science.[17] For other significant problems with scientism as far as its unworkability, please see William Lane Craig's commentary on scientism entitled Is scientism self-refuting.

According to Discovery Institute scientism is an effort to use the methods of science to explain and control every part of human life, in other words, the misguided effort to apply science to areas outside its proper bounds.[18] C.S. Lewis was sceptical and highly critical of scientism as an ideology which in his view was confused with science and which tried to reduce everything that we can learn scientifically to materialistic blind undirected causes.[19] He argued that scientism has the dehumanizing impact on ethics, politics, faith, reason, and science itself.[18]

Atheistic response to contemporary material in the philosophy of religion

See also: Rebuttals to atheist arguments

Richard Dawkins
The Oxford University Professor Daniel Came wrote to the New Atheist Richard Dawkins:: "The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part."[20]

Ideologues who engage in uncritical thinking often are unaware of opposing arguments and actively avoid intellectually engaging with their opponents arguments.

In 1990, the atheist philosopher Michael Martin indicated there was a general absence of an atheistic response to contemporary work in the philosophy of religion and in jest he indicated that it was his "cross to bear" to respond to theistic arguments.[21] Yet, in 1994, Michael Martin was criticized for his eleventh hour cancellation of his debate with Greg Bahnsen (see: Greg Bahnsen and debate and Bahnson-Martin debate press release).[22][23]

Atheism, debates and critical thinking

See also: Atheism debates

Well-structured debates have cross-examination by the participants which often can stimulate critical thinking by participants and audience members. And many debates have an audience questioning period where audience members pose questions to the debaters.

Generally speaking, atheists are often unprepared to address their opponents arguments and do poorly in debates (see: Atheism and debate). In addition, there have been notable cases of prominent atheists dodging debate offers (see: Atheism and cowardice).

At the atheist blog Common Sense Atheism, the atheist Luke Muehlhauser said of the William Laen Craig vs. Doug Jesseph debate: "A very typical debate in which Craig’s opponent is not prepared for Craig’s skill, speed, or organization, and things just get worse for Jesseph as things go along and he falls further and further behind."[24]

Thinking, especially critical thinking, requires mental effort and many atheistic cultures have are experiencing decline related to sloth (See: Atheism and sloth). Other times unpreparedness in intellectual matters is due to fear and avoidance and its attendant procrastination (see: Atheism and cowardice and Atheism and emotional intelligence).

Atheism, postmodernism and a lack of critical thinking

See also: Atheism and postmodernism

Postmodernism is an antichristian,[25] far-left, 20th century worldview and academic movement characterized by denial of objective truth, and which asserts that assertions of objective knowledge are essentially impossible.

The Christian apologist Norman Geisler wrote about postmodernism: "In short, the root of Post-modernism is atheism and the fruit of it is relativism — relativism in every area of life and thought."[26] Furthermore, Jeff Myers and David A. Noebel note in their book Understanding the Times: A Survey of Competing Worldviews that "The British Broadcasting Corporation actually lists postmodernism as a subset of atheism."[27]

As far as schools of atheist thought, there are atheists who subscribe to modernism and atheists who subscribe to postmodernism (See: Atheism and postmodernism).[28] Atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Steven Novella, are critical of postmodernism.[29][30] See also: Atheist factions

C.S. Lewis, photographed in 1947.

Arthur W. Lindsley, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute, wrote:

Many postmodern contentions are self-refuting. An ancient example of this was the Greek philosopher Gorgius, who maintained that “All statements are false.” The problem is that if the statement that “All statements are false” is true, then it is false. Similarly, postmodernism maintains that it is (objectively) true to say that there are no objective truths. It uses reason to deny the validity of reason. If the statement, “all perspectives on reality are culturally determined” is true, then is this statement itself also culturally determined? If all metanarratives are suspect because they lead to oppression, then can it not be equally maintained that postmodernism is itself a metanarrative and equally suspect? If all knowledge claims are a grab for power, then are not postmodernism’s contentions equally motivated by a will-to-power?[31]

The Christian apologetics website All About Worldview declares:

Postmodern theology begins with a soft form of atheism. Atheism is the theological belief that there is no God, no supernatural Creator, no Divine moral lawgiver, and no ultimate Judge of man’s actions. It is the theological backbone of not only Secular Humanism and Marxism, but it is also the predominant theological view of classical Postmodernism.

Although more subtle in some ways than their fellow atheists, Postmodernists have their theological underpinnings in atheism. Kevin J. Vanhoozer says, “Postmodernists agree with Nietzsche that ‘God’—which is to say, the supreme being of classical theism—has become unbelievable, as have the autonomous self and the meaning of history.”...

Postmodern theology stretches from militant atheism to village atheist. All the major Postmodern writers were atheists, including Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, Bataille, Barthes, Baudrillard, Macherey, Deleuze, Guattari, and Lacan.

Charlotte Allen noted that Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, “and their [followers]...were all militant atheists, with all the intolerance and totalitarian tendencies of that breed.”[32]

The Christian educational website Beyond Teachable Moments indicates about the secular educational system:

The ability to think critically is a rare skill these days. Our educational systems are no longer designed to teach this kind of thinking. Children often are taught to memorize facts, rather than to articulate and defend a position. Even if they are encouraged to articulate and defend a position, no one is allowed to win the argument. Everyone is supposed to wind up being ‘right’. No one is permitted to be wrong if they truly believe their position on a topic. No one position is considered absolutely wrong for everyone, all the time. This is particularly the case when religion is the topic.

We’re just so friendly and tolerant of each other.

But the problem is, we can’t all be right. For example, the Christian and the atheist have mutually exclusive claims. Either God does exist, or He doesn’t. He doesn’t exist for one person and not the other.[33]

Jacques Derrida, self-identification as an atheist and the law of noncontradiction

The prominent postmodernist Jacques Derrida famously said he "I quite rightly pass for an atheist".[34][35]

The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy of Religion commenting on this matter of Derrida being an atheist or non-atheist declared:

When questioned about this turn of phrase in an interview conducted in 2000 with Mark Dooley, who asked, "Why do you say in Circumfession that you 'rightly pass for an atheist', instead of simply stating that you are an atheist?". Derrida replied:
I am being ironic. Firstly, I prefer to say what they say... So I feel free because I am not saying this. It is, however, not that simple. For I am more than one. I am the atheist they think I am. which is why I say that I 'rightly" pass for an atheist, but I also approve of those who say the exact opposite. Who is right? I don't know. I don't know whether or not I am or not.

Caputo (2003c: 43) commenting on this response explains that Derrida does qualify as an atheist - by the standards, say of the local pastor, of the Pope or Jerry Falwell. But given Derrida's rejection of the unity of the self ('I am more than one'), Derrida does not believe that we can ever achieve the kind of self-identity and self-transparency required by a religious credo, where we proclaim 'I believe....". Given, further, his commitment to deconstruction and hence to the undecidability of the theist/atheist opposition, Derrida refuses to categorise himself as an atheist (or a theist). It is not, therefore, a matter of being confused about what one but of refusing the very parameters within which the question (Are you an atheist?) is set.[34]

Aristotle said about the law of noncontradiction: "The most certain opinion of all" was "that opposed statements cannot be at the same time true."[36]

In his New York Times article Deconstructing God, Gary Cutting writes:

I can see that there are influences of Judaism, Augustinian Christianity and enlightenment atheism in Derrida. But isn’t this just a matter of his detaching certain religious ideas from their theistic core? He talks of a messiah — but one that never comes; he’s interested in the idea of confessing your sins — but there’s no one to forgive them. After all the deconstructive talk, the law of noncontradiction still holds: Derrida is either an atheist or he isn’t. It seems that the only reasonable answer is that he’s an atheist.[35]

The law of noncontradiction is a rule of logic, it means that if something is true, its opposite is false, an example of this is if a red car is parked outside a building, it is not true that at the same time and in the same sense, a red car is not parked outside the building. Aristotle stated it in this way, that "The most certain opinion of all" was "that opposed statements cannot be at the same time true." [36]

Atheism, arrogance and uncritical thinking

See also: Atheism and arrogance and Atheism and narcissism and Atheism and intolerance

Joseph Stalin, the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953, patronised the League of Militant Atheists, whose chief aim, under the leadership of Yemelyan Yaroslavsky, was to propagate militant atheism and eradicate religion.

Uncritical thinking is often a result of arrogance, self-centeredness, self-deception and poor character development. Self-satisfied know-it-alls frequently do poor research and engage in sloppy reasoning. In short, pride comes before the fall.

One of the common and well-founded charges against atheists is their arrogance and presumptuousness (see: Atheism and arrogance).[37]

Atheists have established a reputation for engaging in narcissism, deception and other ill-behavior (see: Atheism and narcissism and Atheism and uncharitableness and Atheism and deception and Moral failures of the atheist population).

BBC documentary: The Trouble with Atheism

See also: Atheism and the media

In his BBC documentary The Trouble with Atheism the award-winning journalist Rod Liddle indicates:

Some atheists have become rather dogmatic. Terribly certain in their conviction that there is no God and anyone who thinks there is is a deluded and dangerous fool. ,,,atheists are becoming as intransigent about their own views as the people they so despise.

Atheism is becoming a religion of its own. It already has its gurus and its revered sacred texts... It has its magnificent temples within which lie mysteries and unknowable truths.[38]

Bible verses related to atheism, arrogance and poor character development

See also: Atheism and morality

The psalmist David declared: "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good." — Psalms 14:1 (KJV)

The biblical fool is said to be lacking in sound judgment and the biblical fool is also associated with poor character development. For example, book of Proverbs declares: "A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, But a fool is arrogant and careless. A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, And a man of evil devices is hated. The naive inherit foolishness, But the sensible are crowned with knowledge." (Proverbs 14:16-18 (NASB)).

Recommended books

  • Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith by Douglas Groothuis, IVP Academic, 2011

Books on New Atheism:

  • True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism by Tom Gilson (Editor), Carson Weitnauer (Editor), Kregel Publications, 2014

Atheism and the 20th century

According to the University of Cambridge, historically, the "most notable spread of atheism was achieved through the success of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which brought the Marxist-Leninists to power."[39]

Recommend reading relating to atheism and the 20th century

  • Dimitry Pospielovsky, (December, 1987), A History of Marxist-Leninist Atheism and Soviet Antireligious Policies, Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 0312381328
  • Dimitry Pospielovsky, (November, 1987), Soviet Antireligious Campaigns and Persecutions (History of Soviet Atheism in Theory and Practice and the Believers, Vol 2), Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 0312009054
  • Dimitry Pospielovsky, (August, 1988), Soviet Studies on the Church and the Believer's Response to Atheism: A History of Soviet Atheism in Theory and Practice and the Believers, Vol 3, Palgrave Macmillan, hardcover: ISBN 0312012918, paperback edition: ISBN 0312012926

See also

External links

Material related to critical reasoning and atheism:

References

  1. What Is the Value of Freethought
  2. http://onegoodmove.org/fallacy/exclus.htm
  3. Multiple references:
  4. Universe or Multiverse. p. 19. ISBN 9780521848411. "Some physicists would prefer to believe that string theory, or M-theory, will answer these questions and uniquely predict the features of the Universe. Others adopt the view that the initial state of the Universe is prescribed by an outside agency, code-named God, or that there are many universes, with ours being picked out by the anthropic principle. Hawking argues that string theory is unlikely to predict the distinctive features of the Universe. But neither is he is an advocate of God. He therefore opts for the last approach, favouring the type of multiverse which arises naturally within the context of his own work in quantum cosmology."
  5. Children see the world as designed
  6. Belief in Evolution Boils Down to a Gut Feeling by Live Science Staff, January 20, 2012 04:31pm ET
  7. http://www.truefreethinker.com/articles/speaking-assiduous-absconders%E2%80%A6yet-again-vox-day-challenges-pz-myers-debate
  8. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2005/02/are_kansas_evolutionists_afraid_of_a_fai.html
  9. 12.0 12.1 12.2 How atheism is being sold in America
  10. Atheism by Matt Slick
  11. Dawkins and the Public Understanding of Scientism by Peter S. Williams
  12. New Atheism - Faith and Reason, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  13. An Examination of Atheism’s Truth Claims by Robin Schumacher at CARM
  14. Is scientism self-refuting by William Lane Craig
  15. 18.0 18.1 N/A. The Magician's Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society - Product Description. Discovery Institute Press. Retrieved on November 30, 2014. “Beloved for his Narnian tales for children and his books of Christian apologetics for adults, best-selling author C.S. Lewis also was a prophetic critic of the growing power of scientism in modern society, the misguided effort to apply science to areas outside its proper bounds. In this wide-ranging book of essays, contemporary writers probe Lewis's warnings about the dehumanizing impact of scientism on ethics, politics, faith, reason, and science itself. Issues explored include Lewis's views on bioethics, eugenics, evolution, intelligent design, and what he called "scientocracy."”
  16. The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case against Scientism 02min:20sec. DiscoveryInstitute (18 Nov 2012). Retrieved on 27-April-2013.
  17. Richard Dawkins accused of cowardice for refusing to debate existence of God, The Daily Telegraph, May 14, 2011
  18. Open Questions: Diverse Thinkers Discuss God, Religion, and Faith by Luís F. Rodrigues, page 201
  19. The Great Debate: Greg Bahnsen vs Gordon Stein
  20. Bahsen at the Stein debate by John Frame
  21. William Lane Craig’s Debates (Reviews) by Luke Muehlhauser at Common Sense Atheism on February 7, 2009
  22. John F. MacArthur, "Think Biblically!"
  23. A Response to Philosophical Postmodernism by Norman L. Geisler
  24. Understanding the Times: A Survey of Competing Worldviews By Jeff Myers and David A. Noebel, page 192 (endnote section)
  25. History of Modernism, Miami Dade College
  26. Postmodernism disrobed by Richard Dawkins
  27. Postmodernism – Sophisticated Nonsense by Steven Novella
  28. [ C.S. Lewis on Postmodernism?] by Arthur W. Lindsley, Ph.D. Senior Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute
  29. Postmodern theology
  30. The Importance of Critical Thinking: Why You Should Encourage All Those ‘Why’ Questions
  31. 34.0 34.1 The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy of Religion, edited by Graham Oppy, 2015, page 40
  32. 35.0 35.1 Deconstructing God By Gary Gutting, New York Times, Opinionator blogs, March 9, 2014 9:24 pm
  33. 36.0 36.1 Aristotle The Metaphysics page 83 Ann Arbor Paperbacks The University of Michigan Press 2013 translated by Richard Hope
  34. BBC Documentary The Trouble With Atheism BBC Horizon Documentary
  35. Investigating atheism: Marxism. University of Cambridge (2008). Retrieved on July 17, 2014. “The most notable spread of atheism was achieved through the success of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which brought the Marxist-Leninists to power. For the first time in history, atheism thus became the official ideology of a state.”