Monday, August 16, 2010

We're not adeists, okay?

Gary Gutting writes:

...Dawkins’ argument ignores the possibility that God is a necessary being (that is, a being that, by its very nature, must exist, no matter what). On this traditional view, God’s existence would be, so to speak, self-explanatory and so need no explanation... His ignoring this point also undermines his effort at a quick refutation of the cosmological argument for God as the cause of the existence of all contingent beings (that is, all beings that, given different conditions, would not have existed). Dawkins might, like some philosophers, argue that the idea of a necessary being is incoherent, but to make this case, he would have to engage with the formidable complexities of recent philosophical treatments of the question...

Here we go again...

Look, even if the "formidable complexities of recent philosophical treatments" manage to resurrect the dubious Ontological Argument, Argument from Contingency, or Cosmological Arguments -- and frankly, I have trouble imagining how they might, but I'll grant Mr. Gutting the benefit of the doubt and assume that this is merely a symptom of a lack of imagination and/or ignorance on my part -- those only get you as far as a deistic God. There's a great yawning chasm between deism and theism, and Dawkins' (and others') arguments are quite effective at demolishing any would-be bridges seeking to unite the two.

We are not a-deists. While many of us find deism to be unnecessary, irrelevant, and frankly somewhat silly, most of us don't categorically reject it as impossible. Moreover, you will rarely find an atheist mounting an attack on deism. The most we have to say about deism is when somebody tries to play the old switcheroo (as Gutting does here) and we are forced to point out that what that person is trying to pass off as a justification for theism is really just a justification for deism, and that the latter is a great big Whofuckingcares. That's about the worst you'll find an atheist saying about deism.

So please. If you are going to make an argument to undermine atheism, do not make a case for deism. That's retarded. That would be like if I said I didn't like soccer, and you tried to convince me to watch a game by extolling the virtues of baseball. It's not even a coherent conversation. So just stop, please, thank you.


  1. Action Figure Apologetics Jesus! Now with bonus Cloak of Deism! Whenever he's in trouble, just wrap the action deism cloak around jesus, and he turns absolutely untouchable by anything in the universe! With his cloak of deism, jesus can escape all possible detection, even in principle! Never let jesus get backed into a corner again!

    (action figure apologetics jesus cloak of deism removal kit sold separately; no refund for action figures forever lost to the void)

  2. Nice post.

    Pretty much all of the "logical" (and I use that word generously) arguments I come across for the existence of God fall into one of three categories:

    1 Reasons why it would be nice if there were a god without any support for the existence of such.
    2 Reason why it is beneficial to believe in a god without any support for the existence of such.
    3 Reasons to believe in some sort of first cause/ prime mover/ creative deity without any real support for the existence of such AND without any reason to translate that belief into a belief in Jesus Christ as your lord and savior.

  3. Part of the reason you don't see too many athiests attacking deism, is that the deists where pretty much what would have passed for athiests in the late 18th and early 19th century, before Darwin came along to explain the origins of complex and diverse life and before physics had gotten to the level of explaining how things worked down to the subatomic level.

    At that time the rational thinking person had plenty of reason to distrust religion due to its own internal contradictions, but no good scientific explanations existed yet for the aforementioned things and it was still plausible to suppose that some singular, vast, powerful intelligence was necessary to explain where all this stuff came from and how it worked.

    Additionally you had the fact that the freedoms of religion and speech and such were still novel and revolutionary ideas, and espousing actual atheism in those days could get you killed....

  4. Thought experiment on how to disprove the ontological argument. Make the following argument:

    There is a perfect personal fortune, which in addition to being large enough to cover any financial needs I might have and anyone I know whom I want to help, also, as a logical necessity for perfection, must have the property of existence. This would be more perfect than a hypothetical fortune of the same value which does not exist.

    Now check your bank account.