An atheist I follow on Twitter recently tried to get #atheism trending by getting as many atheists as possible to tweet the silliest things they’ve heard theists say. I confess I rolled my eyes, here we go again with another caricature fest – arrogant atheists versus stupid theists. But, I guess it’s really just a bit of fun. As my own writing has somewhat stalled with the arrival of the football World Cup I thought I’d keep the blog ticking over with my own experience: the silliest things I’ve ever heard from internet atheists.
In no particular order:
1. In one instance I presented a form of Plantinga’s ontological argument for the existence of God. I admit, I was just trying to be a smart-ass and presented it to baffle more than to enlighten (and who hasn’t been baffled by ontological arguments?!) But I didn’t expect the response I got. I was told the argument was invalid. I was certain it was logically water-tight so I asked where my atheist interlocutor saw a flaw. He told me premise 2 didn’t follow from premise 1 and premise 4 didn’t follow from 1-3. Seemingly my opponent on this occasion knew diddly squat about how arguments are constructed: premises do not have to follow from other premises, but rather the conclusion must follow from the premises. So much for his claims to philosophical sophistication.
2. My favourite ever Twitter atheist was an Australian lawyer who attacked everything I wrote about theism with venom. Nothing wrong with that, but I asked him what arguments for the existence of God he had considered and found wanting. His response was that he had considered all of them, and in fact had refuted every single argument ever for the existence of God on his blog site. I wonder do professional atheist philosophers know of this incredibly talented Aussie lawyer who has – as a hobby when he’s not in the court room – managed to refute every argument ever for the existence of God. Intrigued but justifiably skeptical I had a look at his blog site. As I had guessed he had made the same mistake that many make after reading an introductory philosophy of religion text. In introductory texts we tend to see an examination of classical arguments – such as Aquinas’ cosmological arguments, or Paley’s argument to design. It’s easy to get the impression that little has been written since. But, of course, there are many modern versions of all these classical arguments. I saw no evidence that this guy had considered any of them, much less refuted them. Objection! Sustained!
3. Just this week an internet atheist presented me with a pretty massive facepalmer. We had been discussing whether Hitler was an atheist or a Christian. I claimed that it hardly mattered and that neither atheism nor Christianity can properly be said to support or motivate something like the holocaust. My atheist opponent seized his opportunity to proof-text. He threw two verses at me to overturn my contention that Christianity could not support or motivate something like the holocaust. Regrettably one of these proof-texts was from the Qur’an. What to say in response? No idea. I should pray to Allah in the name of Jesus for the answer to that one.
So, whilst it’s true that theists often say silly things, we shouldn’t kid ourselves that theists have the monopoly on daft utterances.
Stephen J. Graham