Friday, 5 January 2007

Apathy and Ignorance

In a comment, or a reply to a comment, on Tim Challies website (comment 31 and following) I referred to atheists as being characterized by apathy and ignorance. Or at least displaying an apathy that leads to ignorance. I did not mean it to be taken personally. It is my observation of the atheistic mindset in general, and perhaps even at that, requires some clarification. I meant it to apply very broadly to the atheistic worldview, not necessarily to every individual who clings to that philosophy, bankrupt though it may be (insert smilie here ).

Sometimes in these types of discussion we run the risk of trying to be too expedient. We use a word because we are too lazy to use a phrase. Sometimes we may use a word to express a thought when we should have used a paragraph. And so it may have been in this case with my choice ot the words “apathy” and “ignorance.”

I used the term apathy because in my experience and thinking, atheists have not bothered to go far enough in their exploration into the real meaning of things. They have taken an easy way out. They have reached a certain intellectual plane and felt it good enough. They have not bothered to examine even their own philosophy below its own surface. I have mentioned that I came to faith when I was 45 years of age. One of the things that God used to bring me (completely by surprise, by the way, for my Calvinist friends) into His kingdom was the fact that I always questioned everything. Everything I was told and everything I thought. I still do. But it is one thing to question falsehood, and thereby discover that it is indeed false, and quite another to continue to question the truth, because the truth, by its very definition, cannot be proved wrong, so continued questioning can only reinforce it. Fire destroys paper and straw, but refines metal.

Now, the term ignorance I only meant not in the pejorative popular sense as an insult, but merely in the sense of lacking in knowledge; or to put it perhaps more correctly, not fully cognizant of the truth. Again, the atheist, in his search for truth has stopped short. He has, as I have posted here before, not asked enough questions, or at east not the right questions. He has not examined his own position impartially, at least not in enough depth. He has become satisfied, complacent or, to return full-circle, apathetic. And apathy in the intellectual or in this case the spiritual sphere cannot help but result in ignorance. If you think you know all there is to know, there is at least one thing you do not know, and that is that you do not know all there is to know.

Atheists, by the very definition of the label, think they know all there is to know about God; namely, that He does not exist.

And that, dear friends, is my definition of ignorance.

Take care


Brent Rasmussen said...

He has, as I have posted here before, not asked enough questions, or at east not the right questions.

OK, so what questions exactly have these stereotypical atheists that you speak of not asked? What exactly are the "right" questions?

Atheists, by the very definition of the label, think they know all there is to know about God; namely, that He does not exist.

No - atheists do not believe in any god or gods. This is qualitatively different than what you have asserted in your paragraph above.

You seem to be mis-characterizing atheists as folks who "believe there is no god". This is an incorrect definition of atheism. Atheism, at it's most basic level, simply describes a person in whom god-belief is absent, for whatever reason. It does not suggest anything other than that. In much the same way, the word "theist" describes a person in which god-belief (of any kind) is present.

It is a binary equation. God-belief of any kind is either present, or it is absent.

Period. The end.

Now, individual atheists or individual theists may add additional beliefs to that basic definition. For example, an atheist (that is to say a person in which god-belief is absent) may hold the belief that the Christian God does not exist.

Does this mean that this individual's personally-held belief is part of the basic definition of the word "atheist"?


Another example would be a theist - someone in which god-belief is present - who holds the belief that Allah exists and is the supreme deity for all mankind and the universe.

Does this mean that belief in Allah is part of the basic definition of the word "theist"?


So, as I have demonstrated above, when you argue against your incorrect definition of "the atheist", painting all atheists with your same broad brush, you are only tilting at windmills - or at the very most, arguing against the personal beliefs of only a handful of atheists who happen to hold the positive beliefs that you claim ALL atheists hold.

Do you consider that to be a sound way to argue?

Just asking.

Brent Rasmussen
Unscrewing The Inscrutable

John K said...

Hi Brent,

Thanks for your comment.

It seems to me you are putting a pretty fine point on your definition of atheism. If I were to ask any atheist the question, “Do you believe that God or gods exist?” I’m sure I would get the answer, “No.” Not believing and lack of belief seem like the same thing, in practical terms, to me. One might argue that non-belief is active whereas lack of belief is passive, but effectively I believe they are the same. You say tomayto, I say tomahto, and all that. Atheism also carries a much narrower connotation than does theism. Atheism is a lack of belief in any gods, Christian or otherwise. On the other hand, as you say, a person who believes in Allah would be a theist, but not all theists believe in Allah. A person who believes in a god that takes the form of a pink polka dotted leprechaun would still be a theist.

Don’t know if this contributes to the discussion, but anyway,

Take Care

wade said...

Jesus said that if you are not with me you are against me, Matthew 12:30. This narrows down the definition of atheist somewhat. Scriptures leave room for people that will deny the exsistence of God. So I agree that it is a fine line that Brent is drawing while defining an atheist. People, even ones that deny God have a tendency to call out to Him when they experience a disaster or tragedy in their lives. They ask Him why, they blame Him, etc. It makes me wonder if there are that many atheists out there, or if as you say they have not gone far enough in their search for who God might be. For me it is very difficult to not believe in a God Creator. The closer you look at the things created in this world, the more beautiful and intricate they become. When you think of things like the human body for example it would be extremely difficult to explain first of all how it could have evolved from a big bang, or how it has the ability to heal itself from many different medical problems, how it is concieved and grows into a likeness of another human or a likeness of it's parents with five fingers and toes instead of fifteen. And that is only one of the living organisms that can do this. There are millions of others. One last thought; to my knowledge, there is no evidence of evolution in the latest millinium or so. Species are becoming extinct, not evolving to survive. How anyone asking the right questions could deny the exsistense of Creator God, is beyond me. Love your blog John.