I've Read A Few
Books About Atheism
Mystic Y. N.
Hello, I am a theist who is just wondering what you think of C. S. Lewis, mainly his book Miracles.
And how would you reply to his statement that atheism is too simple: that if the universe had no meaning then we would have never found out it had no meaning (i.e. if the universe held no light and we had no eyes, we would never know it was dark; darkness would have no meaning)?
Also I've read that atheism has never given an explanation of why a certain person's views would be either right or wrong (morality) disposing the validity of atheism's morality. Is this statement true?
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Mystic Y.N."
Subject: Re: A sincere question
Date: February 20, 2002 6:26 AM
C. S. Lewis never meant much to me. Even when I was a Christian, I couldn't see the attraction.
Today I find it impossible to respect someone who would devise his own pat (and false) definitions of atheism and them proceed to "refute" those definitions. I guess I've always appreciated people who do their own work. Even the Gospel could not drive this appreciation for honesty out of me.
As for meaning, this is an abstraction, a human abstraction, which exists independently of the state of the Universe; that is, independently of any "deep" reality. Your argument (his argument?) is not unlike asking, "How could people imagine an Easter Bunny if there were no such thing as an Easter Bunny in real life? But there's got to be something to the Easter Bunny story because we see people celebrating the Easter Bunny every springtime! The Easter Bunny, therefore, exists; otherwise, how could people possibly imagine her."
It is true that atheism has never given an explanation of the concept of "right and wrong" (which is a human abstraction). Atheism, itself, is nothing more than the absence of theism and is not, itself, a comprehensive philosophy. Could you imagine approaching a chemist and asking detailed questions about the nature and specific characteristics of "inorganic matter"? If not, then you can see why asking for "the atheist viewpoint" on anything is absurd.
In addition, the question of whether or not this or that god-claim is worthy of one's assent (this is, actually, the only question ever raised by atheism: is the claim worthy) has absolutely nothing to do with any questions regarding morality or "right and wrong." In this sense, if you can explain to me why Christianity has not given an explanation of the Hindu concept of "Maya," then I will explain to you why atheism has not given an explanation of the Christian concept of "right and wrong." Otherwise, we do well to accept that certain things (such as which question is raised by atheism) are in completely different realms than other things (such as discussions about morality).
When dealing with trick questions -- that is, questions which make statements while pretending to ask questions, it helps to remove the presuppositions from the questions which, in essence, answer the very questions you pretend to ask! It's very tempting to do this if your goal in entering a philosophical discussion is to make a point rather than simply to discover truth or test ones own views against those of another.
Thus my habit of wording my answers so as to remind the reader that we are dealing with abstractions and not any "deep" reality. This goes along with my parallel habit of respecting questions which likewise readily acknowledge that these and similar things are human abstractions, ideas, and not any "deep" reality.
When discussing these things, especially as ideological opponents, we do well to keep the dialogue on mutually acceptable grounds. In this case (theist versus atheist), we can agree that the theist is making claims but we cannot agree on anything "deeper" than that. So we do well to discuss the validity of the theist's claim. If we reach a point where we agree that the theist's claim is worthy of assent, then we may (if we want) discuss the "deeper" reality as if they were fact; until then, we do best to call them what they are: abstractions.
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