Last modified on December 15, 2022, at 23:38

Atheism and knowledge

A common and legitimate criticism of the atheist worldview is that atheism is irrational.[1] See: Atheism and irrationality

In relation to atheism and knowledge, atheism provides no ultimate starting point for knowledge.[2]

Epistemology is the analysis of the nature of knowledge, how we know, what we can and cannot know, and how we can know that there are things we know we cannot know. In other words, it is the academic term associated with study of how we conclude that certain things are true.[3]

The Christian apologist Jason Petersen wrote about atheism and epistemology:

The atheist’s foundation for reasoning must be inductive. The reason being is because in the atheist worldview there is no ultimate starting point for knowledge. It has to be induced. If atheism is true, there can be no universal values - nature is all there is. But nature itself provides no benefit for knowledge. Nature itself is not knowledge. Thus, because there would be no ultimate universal standard for reasoning , there would be no starting point for knowledge. When humans came into existence in an atheist worldview, there wasn’t an embodiment of knowledge in which they could deduce the possibilities, rather, they had to build possible inferences while starting from nothing.

Most atheists agree that their foundation for reasoning is inductive. However, what a lot of people are unaware of is that inductive reasoning does NOT deal in absolutes. It only deals with what is possible or what is probable. This means that given that all of the premises in an inductive argument are true, the conclusion can still be false.

If an atheist agrees that their foundation for knowledge is inductive, then they must live consistently with that implication in order to have a self consistent foundation for knowledge. But if the foundation of knowledge is no more than induction, then it entails that one can not be ultimately certain about anything. If the atheists say that their foundation for knowledge is inductive, but yet they make absolute claims, then the atheist is contradicting their own epistemology. This is because the atheist, who uses inductive reasoning as their foundation for knowledge, has limited themselves to what they believe is probable, but they can’t make absolute claims due to the limitations of inductive reasoning.[4]

Peterson also wrote:

Since there is no omniscient being given the truth of atheism, all knowledge (the possession of the truth) must be acquired inductively. Unfortunately for our dear atheists, induction cannot be an account for knowledge. There are several reasons for this:

1. In induction, the truth of the premises does not guarantee the truth of the conclusion.

2. Since the truth of the conclusion is not guaranteed, all conclusions that are reached through induction are probabilistic.

3. You cannot validly reason to a universal truth from a particular truth by using induction.

4. There is no rule in logic that allows for the validity of inductive inferences.

The Consequences of Being Stuck with Induction

Since induction only draws conclusions on the basis of probability, there is always a possibility of the conclusion being false. Because there is no way to demonstrate the truth of the conclusion by using induction, atheists are stuck in skepticism. They say they try to evaluate the claims on the basis of evidence, but evidence is acquired inductively. Just because they think they see evidence for a claim doesn’t make the claim in question true. Thus, there is no interpretative framework for atheists that allow them to discern true propositions from false ones. Thus, atheists are stuck in epistemological skepticism.[5]

Dr. Greg Bahnsen became known as "the man atheists fear most" due to Michael Martin's cancellation of their scheduled debate.[6]

Greg Bahnsen wrote about atheism and presuppositional apologetics:

Presuppositional apologetics as taught by Cornelius Van Til urges the Christian to argue with unbelievers in an “indirect” fashion, doing an internal analysis of the unbeliever’s worldview (his fundamental assumptions about reality, knowledge, and ethics) and comparing it to the worldview revealed in the Bible. Many students of apologetics have come to see the strength of this apologetical challenge when it is applied to the various kinds of views advocated by atheists or materialists. Given the presuppositions of the atheist, he could not make sense out of adherence to the laws of logic (as I tried to show in my public debate with Gordon Stein), nor could he make sense out of the principles and procedures of science itself (as I tried to show in my public debate with Edward Tabash). The atheist cannot give a rational account of the fundamental assumptions of ethics, either. Atheism is philosophically unable to argue ethically, scientifically, or logically against the Christian faith.[7]

Atheism, theism, knowledge and issues relating to the acquisition of knowledge

Ray Comfort on atheism and knowledge

Ray Comfort says about atheism, knowledge and the existence of God:

Let’s say that you know an incredible one percent of all the knowledge in the universe. To know 100 percent, you would have to know everything. There wouldn’t be a rock in the universe that you would not be intimately familiar with, or a grain of sand that you would not be aware of. You would know everything that has happened in history, from that which is common knowledge to the minor details of the secret love life of Napoleon’s great-grandmother’s black cat’s fleas. You would know every hair of every head, and every thought of every heart. All history would be laid out before you, because you would be omniscient (all-knowing).

Bear in mind that one of the greatest scientists who ever lived, Thomas Edison, said, “We do not know a millionth of one percent about anything.” Let me repeat: Let’s say that you have an incredible one percent of all the knowledge in the universe. Would it be possible, in the ninety-nine percent of the knowledge that you haven’t yet come across, that there might be ample evidence to prove the existence of God? If you are reasonable, you will be forced to admit that it is possible. Somewhere, in the knowledge you haven’t yet discovered, there could be enough evidence to prove that God does exist.[8]

See also


  1. Atheism by Matt Slick
  2. The Epistemological Argument against Atheism
  3. "1", A Christian's Guide to Critical Thinking. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 336. ISBN 1-59752-661-4. Retrieved on 16.2.2012. 
  4. The Epistemological Argument against Atheism
  5. The Epistemological Argument against Atheism
  6. Bahsen at the Stein debate by John Frame
  7. Presuppositional Reasoning with False Faiths by Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen on April 8, 2009
  8. [God, Tsunamis, and Cheese Sandwiches] by Ray Comfort