A Short Introduction to Atheism

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, November 23, 2016 0 comments

by David Odegard

Julian Baggini wrote Atheism: A Very Short Introduction in the hope of compelling others to accept the ideas that atheists hold dear. He describes the universe as a completely closed system. That means that only matter exists. Only the perceived universe is real. There is no spiritual realm; there can be no God. This assertion is unscientific because it cannot be proven.

Even though the statement cannot be proven, Julian Baggini pretends to prove it anyway. He confidently barks that all strong evidence supports atheism and only weak evidence tells against it. How does he know, you may ask? He admits that this claim may be hard to prove, but congratulates himself on proving it, at least to himself anyway.

He first asserts that human beings are only biological and do not have immortal souls. He gives the following evidence. He says that experience and brain activity are correlated (related to one another). That experience is dependent on brain activity, as he says, “When their brains cease functioning they certainly stop displaying all the signs of conscious life.” He then goes on to define the human person as one who has the capacity for consciousness and rational thought. If that function is dependent on the brain, then it cannot continue after the brain ceases to function.

He is basically saying that the dead cannot experience anything without their brain functioning because there is no other dimension to humanity. He says that we are only brain because we are only brain. We know that because we can only measure brain activity. The spirit cannot exist because we cannot see it. He claims that this mountain of evidence is insurmountable. When you ask the dead if there is anything beyond the grave, they say nothing; therefore, it must be nothing.

He cannot allow that anything other than this material universe exists. If you claim that there is more than just this material universe, he will say no there isn’t, because there isn’t. Let me put it this way. Baggini believes the universe to be a closed system, which means nothing can enter from another dimension, especially a spiritual one. We will say that is like a refrigerator and we are trying to disprove the existence of butter because we cannot see it.

Baggini says that if one opens the fridge, scans intently, and cannot see any butter, that is enough reason to say that butter cannot exist anywhere. He argues that we looked through the entire fridge and didn’t see butter. If the fridge represents the universe, I don’t know how Baggini can imagine that he can look through the entire universe, since we can’t even leave our own solar system yet. Such is the arrogance of atheism.

Baggini makes the case for a large cross-section of experience being the basis by which good evidence is proven. He illustrates this by saying if a man says his dog spontaneously combusts, his evidence is not good because the overall human experience is that dogs do not spontaneously combust. So why doesn’t he apply that same rubric to his own assertion that there is no butter in the fridge?

If most of the people who open the fridge insist that they are overwhelmed by the smell of butter, even though they cannot see it or point to direct evidence, wouldn’t that be a clue that maybe there is more to the story than just seeing a stick of butter? Just because I can’t say, “Hey there is a stick of unsalted-Meadow-Gold-best-if-used-by-this-date butter,” I can point out the overwhelming sense of most people that it is in there. Wouldn’t the same basis for not believing in a dog blowing up on its own be for believing in the presence of the unseen butter?

What Baggini needs is a sense of smell. He is being arrogant by believing that God cannot exist, because He cannot sense God in his own less-than-exhaustive scanning of the universe. He thinks that if he lacks the capacity to perceive God, it must mean that no one can perceive God. In our butter analogy, he is being obtuse by insisting that the nine others who sense the unmistakable smell of butter are wrong because he himself smells nothing.

The vast majority tell Baggini that they smell butter. Some attempt to prove that the butter exists because of the chemical evidence for butter is found in the cake, the fried eggs, the pie, and the soufflĂ©, but because Baggini lacks the capacity to perceive butter, he disbelieves in it all. He says that anyone who believes in butter is stupid when they say that butter exists. There is no escaping a circular argument like that. Baggini reinterprets the chemical evidence to mean something else, because obviously to him it can’t be butter since butter doesn’t exist. It must be something that randomly occurred in the fridge.

Baggini then denies that the sense of smell exists, causing people who know what smelling is to walk away exasperated calling Baggini a fool saying, “How can I prove it to you if you refuse to see?” And for Baggini, it really is a refusal to interpret evidence in any way other than in a way he has already chosen to believe it.

The Gospel of John gives plenty of eye-witness evidence to the one who will believe, but for those who stubbornly disbelieve, there is no remedy. John does not point to the material world as a closed system; John was a theist and his God was Jesus Christ. In fact, from John 1 to the close of Revelation, John is showing God to be real, constantly opening the fridge door if you will. God reveals himself to us by way of a preponderance of evidence to be reasonable and faith-worthy.

Baggini’s random occurrence is a particularly sour and pungent fart, but happily for him he is the only one in the car who can’t smell it!

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