Tuesday, March 08, 2005
[An Atheist is asked to draw a region representing all knowledge, then another (smaller) region representing only the things he knows.]
Ask the atheist this, "If that small region is all you know, how do you know God is not in the rest of the area?" So long as there is a shaded region the atheist does not know everything. He or she therefore cannot outright declare there is no God. To declare that there is no God requires the atheist to know everything, that is, be omniscient, an attribute reserved for God.
This question is a misrepresentation of Atheism. First, Atheism doesn't have to mean an absolute declaration that there is no god. In fact, on the same page where this question resides, there is a definition of Atheist that does not require a declaration of a universal existential negative at all:
Atheist n. one who does not believe in the existence of God.
This is disbelief, also called "weak Atheism". It can be contrasted with denial, or "strong Atheism". A weak Atheist would say "I don't believe in god" while a stong Atheist would say "I believe there is no god", but that stronger position is not necessary to call yourself an Atheist.
Even though strong Atheism is a stronger statement, that doesn't make it irrational. It is not always wrong to declare a universal existential negative. For example, we know that there are no square circles anywhere in the universe because square circles are internally contradictory. Similarly, if the Atheist can show that a god idea is composed of contradictory but necessary attributes, show that a god contradicts some aspect of reality, he can reasonably say that this contradictory god exists no more than a square circle.
It is also possible to conclude that there is no god based upon the best available evidence. Such a position is tentative, based upon the same kind of inductive reasoning used by science. Science is not absolute, yet it can come up with useful and rational conclusions. The Atheist can come to a rational conclusion as well without declaring an absolute truth. There are several evidential arguments against the existance of God such as the Evidential Argument from Evil and the Evidential Argument from Non-belief.