The Non-Existence of Atheism

Atheism is non-existent because it is self-contradictory, the reason being that God and theism must first be accepted in order to argue in favor of atheism. 

How is that? 

The reason is that atheism cannot account for the universally existent and necessary preconditions of human cognition and intelligibility on which itself and all other wordviews are built. Now, what are these preconditions? Here follows a list of some of the most important ones:

Preconditions of human cognition and intelligibility:

  • The validity of human reasoning.
  • The laws of logic.
  • The existence of truth.
  • The existence of knowledge.
  • The validity of human sense perception.
  • The existence of an external world outside our own consciousness.
  • The existence of other minds.
  • Our continuing personal identity.
  • The reliability of our memory.
  • The relationship between the mind and body.
  • The reality of cause-and-effect relations.
  • The existence of the past.
  • The existence of matter.
  • The Principle of Induction.
  • The existence of values.
  • The existence of morality.

All humans must necessarily accept and presuppose these foundational and transcendental categories as being true, otherwise we would not be able to think, and make sense of anything. 

Specifically, without presupposing the laws of logic, truth, knowledge, and the validity of our reasoning and sense perception we would not be able to conduct one single line of reasoning.

The problem for atheism, in any of its forms, is that, while it does certainly accept the above presuppositions as foundational to our human cognition and intelligibility, it cannot account for any of them. All worldviews are based on thoughts, and on the assumption that our human reasoning can lead to truth. But since atheism cannot account for the epistemic validity of human thinking, it cannot account for the epistemic validity of the cognitive faculties needed to create and substantiate itself. This fact leaves atheism dead as a logically coherent philosophy.

C.S. Lewis expresses this particular problem of atheism thus:

“It follows that no account of the universe can be true unless that account leaves it possible for our thinking to be a real insight. A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory would itself have to be reached by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished…It would be an argument which proved that no arguments were sound—a proof that there are no such things as proofs—which is nonsense.” (C.S. Lewis, Miracles, Touchstone edition, 1996, pp 23-24; original 1947)

And thus, atheism undermines itself. 

Theism, on the other hand, suffers no such problem. If God exists He can create living beings with functioning epistemic faculties, and revealed knowledge of the truth about Himself as the perfect Creator of the preconditions of human cognition and intelligibility. According to the Vedic worldview He has done so. This foundational knowledge is innate in all souls, and even in the subtle bodies of the conditioned souls. Atheism is the process of trying to deny and suppress this knowledge. 

C.S Lewis writes about the need for a creative mind, God, behind the universe:

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought. So I can never use thought to disbelieve in God. (C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity, p. 32.)

If God is left out of the equation, and if, as adherents of evolutionism claim, our human brains are the result of a combination of chance and time working on mutations and natural selection, then how can we trust them? We cannot.

C.S. Lewis wrote:

“If naturalism were true then all thoughts whatever would be wholly the result of irrational causes. Therefore all thoughts would be equally worthless. Therefore, naturalism is worthless. If it is true, then we can know no truths. It cuts its own throat.” (C. S. Lewis, from God in the Dock, p. 137)

Even Charles Darwin expressed concern about the trustworthiness of the human mind as a product of unguided evolution:

“But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” (Letter to William Graham, 3. July 1881)

Why was Charles Darwin so concerned? Most likely because on darwinism, i.e. atheistic, unguided evolutionism, our cognitive faculties are aimed at survival, and not necessarily truth. Everything we consider to be true might simply be our brains keeping us in a deluded state of mind favorable for our own survival. This is not just a thought experiment. From science we know that our brain from time to time uses delusions to cope with situations that threaten our mental and physical health and well-being. 

Alvin Plantinga elucidates this point:

“Toward the end of the book, Dawkins endorses a certain limited skepticism. Since we have been cobbled together by (unguided) evolution, it is unlikely, he thinks, that our view of the world is overall accurate; natural selection is interested in adaptive behavior, not in true belief. But Dawkins fails to plumb the real depths of the skeptical implications of the view that we have come to be by way of unguided evolution. We can see this as follows. Like most naturalists, Dawkins is a materialist about human beings: human persons are material objects; they are not immaterial selves or souls or substances joined to a body, and they don’t contain any immaterial substance as a part. From this point of view, our beliefs would be dependent on neurophysiology, and (no doubt) a belief would just be a neurological structure of some complex kind. Now the neurophysiology on which our beliefs depend will doubtless be adaptive; but why think for a moment that the beliefs dependent on or caused by that neurophysiology will be mostly true? 

Why think our cognitive faculties are reliable?

From a theistic point of view, we’d expect that our cognitive faculties would be (for the most part, and given certain qualifications and caveats) reliable. God has created us in his image, and an important part of our image bearing is our resembling him in being able to form true beliefs and achieve knowledge. But from a naturalist point of view the thought that our cognitive faculties are reliable (produce a preponderance of true beliefs) would be at best a naive hope. The naturalist can be reasonably sure that the neurophysiology underlying belief formation is adaptive, but nothing follows about the truth of the beliefs depending on that neurophysiology. In fact he’d have to hold that it is unlikely, given unguided evolution, that our cognitive faculties are reliable. It’s as likely, given unguided evolution, that we live in a sort of dream world as that we actually know something about ourselves and our world.

If this is so, the naturalist has a defeater for the natural assumption that his cognitive faculties are reliable—a reason for rejecting that belief, for no longer holding it. (Example of a defeater: suppose someone once told me that you were born in Michigan and I believed her; but now I ask you, and you tell me you were born in Brazil. That gives me a defeater for my belief that you were born in Michigan.) And if he has a defeater for that belief, he also has a defeater for any belief that is a product of his cognitive faculties. But of course that would be all of his beliefs—including naturalism itself. So the naturalist has a defeater for naturalism; natural-ism, therefore, is self-defeating and cannot be rationally believed.

The real problem here, obviously, is Dawkins’ naturalism, his belief that there is no such person as God or anyone like God. That is because naturalism implies that evolution is unguided. So a broader conclusion is that one can’t rationally accept both naturalism and evolution; naturalism, therefore, is in conflict with a premier doctrine of contemporary science. People like Dawkins hold that there is a conflict between science and religion because they think there is a conflict between evolution and theism; the truth of the matter, however, is that the conflict is between science and naturalism, not between science and belief in God.”

From the above we can build this argument:

Premise 1: For a worldview to be true it must be able to account for the preconditions of human cognition and intelligibility (on which itself, like all other worldviews, is built).

Premise 2: Either the atheistic or the theistic worldview is the true worldview.

Premise 3: The atheistic worldview cannot account for the preconditions of cognition and intelligibility.

Premise 4: The theistic worldview can account for the preconditions of cognition and intelligibility.

Conclusion 1: Therefore, atheism is not the true worldview.

Conclusion 2: Therefore, theism is the true worldview.

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