Discussion with an Atheist

Below are excerpts from a discussion I and others had regarding atheism. I have changed the names or omitted last names, except mine, as I did not seek permission to post this from those in conversation. I think it may be of some value to read:

Atheist  –  I think that you’re rather missing the point atheism has no doctrines or dogma. It compels nothing. It says only that we lack belief in gods. We are tied together by nothing more than a lack of belief. It has been said that organising atheists is like herding cats precisely because there is no central set of beliefs that we all have in common.I’d also suggest that if you genuinely want to understand why an atheist feels compelled to ridicule and mock your beliefs and attitudes then you ask one. Asking fellow Catholics is not likely to get you an answer close to the trust because your fellow Catholics by definition aren’t atheists.


Matthew Menking –  Well, there are really several “types” of atheists. Many who call themselves atheists are more traditionally what are called agnostics. But due to current popular use, there are generally speaking, the hard atheists and the soft atheists (or implicit vs explicit, positive versus negative, etc). Some atheists simply don’t believe in a god or gods, and others believe that there is certainly no god or gods.However, these aside, we can show at least a unity of action, if not of belief, in the specific atheists that Paul is referring to here. He is clearly referring, not to all atheists, but to those who are militant against those of a deist or theist faith. We can, so to speak, “herd” this group, for they tend to “herd” themselves in a unity of purpose, regardless of their differences of “belief” in the particulars.

9:36 AM  –  Edit


Atheist  –  “Militant” atheism? Honestly “militant atheist” is more than a bit of an oxymoron. Has anyone ever been injured or even threatened in the name of atheism? Not kowtowing to your religious privilege isn’t militant. Not respecting your religion isn’t militant. Ridiculing and mocking your beliefs isn’t even militant. Blowing you up or threatening you is militant. Has that ever happened? LINK


Matthew Menking –  If we want to get into the history of atheism and the movements its led to, then we will see so much more destruction and death than any of the arguments against crusades and Jihad. This is a topic for a different time, and not for Paul’s topic here. But your entire response to my post argued against none of its claims but only against a term which you altered and defined for your own purposes. This is not how reasoned dialogue occurs.Has anyone every blown up or threatened me? Not successfully…I am an American soldier. And even though I’ve been threatened and it has been attempted to “blow me up” by theists, not atheists (to my knowledge), I remain objective about the totality of what history has shown. Nevertheless, let us return to Paul’s point, if we may…


Matthew Menking –  By the way, let’s define terms:Militant – The word militant is both an adjective and a noun, and is usually used to mean vigorously active, combative and aggressive, especially in support of a cause, as in ‘militant reformers’.It comes from the 15th century Latin “militare” meaning “to serve as a soldier”.So militant, by real, not arbitrary, definitions fits perfectly. The Church on earth, to which I belong, is even called the “Church Militant.” It is a description of vigorous activity and obviously need not have the connotation you tried to force upon in it in your above “argument.”

10:03 AM (edited)  –  Edit

Atheist  –  +Matthew Menking I’ve just posted on the topic of “militant” if you think that Paul’s post isn’t the right place for it.(link to address left out since it shows identity of “Atheist”

Person  –  It tells us that atheism promotes freedom of expression. If you don’t like what atheists have to say, don’t google atheist blogs. Simple.

Jeff   –  +Con I don’t think you’ve been privvy to the attacks on religionper se that Paul, Matthew, and other Catholics have been the object of here on Google Plus. We post about things that are important to us, and atheists come to our stories and deride our faith.Rude behavior is not an endorsement of freedom of expression; it’s just rude.

Paul  –  +Atheist – You said:”I think that you’re rather missing the point +Paul . Atheism has no doctrines or dogma.”How is the following statement not doctrine or dogma?

“There are no gods”

I think +Jeff  is onto something. Atheists not only have faith, but it’s a dogmatic faith!


Atheist  –  Ah +Paul  atheism does not say “There are no gods”. It says “I don’t believe in gods”.

1:53 PM

Paul   –  +Atheist – You said:”If you genuinely want to understand why an atheist feels compelled to ridicule and mock your beliefs and attitudes then you ask one. Asking fellow Catholics is not likely to get you an answer close to the trust because your fellow Catholics by definition aren’t atheists.”Did you ever notice that next to my name and the time of this post is the word “Public”? That means that this post can be seen by anyone, not just my Catholic friends. I don’t believe in hiding a lamp under a lamp stand.

1:54 PM

Paul   –  +Atheist – You said:”Ah +Paul  atheism does not say “There are no gods”. It says “I don’t believe in gods”.”Are you saying you’re agnostic, not atheist? Besides, belief implies faith. Are you saying that atheists have faith that there are no gods?


Atheist –  No. Atheism refers to belief. Agnosticism refers to knowledge. They are different questions, not answers on the same scale.


Atheist –  Belief does imply faith which is why not believing implies not having faith.


Paul  –  So, Atheist, an atheist doesn’t believe in gods, but an agnostic doesn’t have knowledge of gods. Are you saying that atheists aren’t sure that there are no gods?

2:07 PM

Michael   –  Ah +Paul Schlenker atheism does not say “There are no gods”. It says “I don’t believe in gods”.Reasonable. So, if you (or other atheists) don’t believe in a god, why is it necessary to attack those who do? I’m not suggesting you do that, but I have certainly seen atheists do this type of behavior…


Atheist-  You’re nearly there +Paul . Let’s start from a neutral position, one where belief and knowledge regarding gods is completely missing. That is agnostic atheism and ignosticism too because the question of gods at this stage is meaningless.Along comes someone, Theo the theist, who claims that gods exist. Theo has arrived at his position through his own faith in a cosmic somethingbut has no repeatable evidence or information to convince others beyond his faith. Theo is an agnostic theist.Gary goes further than Theo and claims to know that there is a single God with a set of rules that everyone must live by as well as a punishment and reward scheme. He claims evidence and knowledge of God exists but is a bit vague on the specifics. Gary is a gnostic theist.

Sally utterly refutes Gary’s claims and says that his evidence is false and that reality actually shows that no gods exist. Sally is a gnostic atheist or a ‘string’ atheist.

Now given that gods remain undefined or at least so nebulous a concept as to be so poorly defined as to be meaningless Ian claims to be ignostic. The questions of belief and knowledge coming after understanding of the question. The question is too vague and so is rejected out of hand.

Personally the lack of evidence for or against gods makes me agnostic, the lack of meaning make me ignostic and my lack of belief make me atheist.

The harm done by religion and the religious make me anti-theist though that’s something of a misnomer considering that it would be strange to be against a god that you don’t believe in but rest assured that it is religion that I oppose rather than a hypothetical god.


Paul –  I think you’re the one that’s almost there, +Atheist, as evidenced by this statement you made:”The harm done by religion and the religious make me anti-theist though that’s something of a misnomer considering that it would be strange to be against a god that you don’t believe in”You’re right, it would be strange to be against a god that you don’t believe in, but that’s exactly what you and many who claim to be atheist are. You’re against a god you don’t believe in. That’s why you spend so much time on social media and elsewhere putting down those who believe, rather than extolling the supposed virtues of atheism.


Atheist  –  :sigh: Back to judging so soon? Oh well.


Paul   –  Not judging, +Atheist. Just making observations. 🙂


Matthew Menking –  “Only reason with reasonable people” – Anthony Flew (the once atheist now deist philosopher who honestly let the evidence lead where it will.)Now, Atheist, you state many things that are true, some that are “this particular Atheist’s” definitions, and some that are verifiably false (I claim in these last only that you are in error, not that you are intentionally deceitful: although a theist I know that god is not me and I don’t know your mind).I do have to say that, these days, “atheists” share one very common thing with protestant Christians: there seem to be as many brands of them as there are individuals (not, however, surprising, since this is at least consistent with the nominalist philosophy that usually underlies both camps). One atheist is a positivist atheist – “there are dogmatically no gods”. The next is a negative atheist – “there is no evidence of god.” Etc, etc.

Each individual human being is, of course, entitled to his own belief (yes, they are beliefs unless you have demonstrative proof of something…this is the definition of faith in a logical context – and so saying lack of faith in a god is lack of any belief is simply false by logical standards. All you can state honestly is the tautology that “lack of belief in a god is lack of belief IN A GOD).

Any logically argument and useful debate generally will go by three things, and in their proper order:

1. Define terms

2. Make statements that include a middle term to link to the conclusion

3. Show the demonstration through the two agreed statements

When an argument is refuted we must either

1. show that a term is used ambiguously

2. Show that at least one of the two statements is false

3. Show a fallacy in reasoning

We have, at least taken some time here to “discuss” terms but not to define them. But then to use that term in the exact same way is necessary to prove your conclusions. You have repeatedly used terms ambigiously throughout this discussion. This is not an attack on you (I certainly see my Christian brethren do it often as well, and, like you, is most likely unintentional). But, still, it serves no one to debate in this way.

Of course, this lesson is for all, not just Jason.

Here is a nice video all should take a few minutes to watch. Not so much for the sake of the arguments themselves (although they are by two very respected and respectable philosophers) but because of the manner in which the discussion takes place:

Fr. Frederick C. Copleston vs Bertrand Russell – Part 1


Atheist  –  +Matthew Menking I find myself largely in agreement with your logic. So, could someone please define ‘god’ (see ignostic earlier).


Paul  –  I’ll take a stab at it, +Atheist. God is the supreme being that existed before everything, and created everything.


Matthew Menking –  Simply put, the god that most people believe in is a single, omnipotent being. Certainly, there are those that believe in “gods,” although I fail to see how one can reasonably hold this unless they call one god the “god of gods” and the rest “lesser gods” and therefore should honestly give them different names.But the “one God” is the necessary being, the cause of all other being, the pure simple being as being. God is not a part of this world, not a part of this universe (rightly defined as the totality of contingent being), but rather stands apart from it.

I do find that almost every atheist and agnostic I have ever debated with I agree with in not believing in the “god” they seem to argue against, which is very similar to the old pagan gods who, while much more powerful than man, are still part of the world of empirical being rather than standing outside it.God is not, therefore, the “greatest” of all beings but the only true “being.” God is being itself. The only “being” that explains its own existence, rather than being explained by another.

I find it strange how many “men of science” spend their lives or at least careers seeking cause and effect, as if its a given, and then deny, somehow, a sufficient cause for being itself.


Paul  –  What +Matthew Menking said. 🙂


Fr. Priest  –  Defining God means that we must do what cannot be done. We can define terms which relate to God and we can define our own concept of God. But one of the concepts that I have of God is that God is “infinite”, ergo, beyond definition.God’s essence is existence, and therefore God’s “being” is not ever subject to the finite in any way. We can know some things about God, but because we are, ourselves, finite beings, dependent in our own existence we cannot possibly come to complete knowledge of infinity, which describes one aspect of God.


Matthew Menking –  true, Fr. Priest. God cannot be defined, since to define means to make finite, aka set limits around, and this cannot be done with the infinite by, ahem, definition. Same with any singular, actually. singulars cannot be defined because they aren’t part of a genus and species.

Ben –  +Atheist has been helpful for developing my apologetic, because I think he’s fair in stating that the null hypothesis is not doctrine, but rather a stance of skepticism towards doctrine. That being said, Atheist, you are really not going to seriously argue that no one has ever been hurt in the name of atheism, are you? I am a bachelor of politics who studied Russian history, and I assure you that there is a fantastic body of proof attesting to the fact that many religious people were killed in the name of atheism.


Atheist  –  +Ben really? I thought they were killed in the name of Stalinism.


Ben   –  Nope. That eventually became true, but the original Soviet motivation for killing the religious under Lenin was the understanding that the notion of God was causing people to suffer. It was politicized New Atheism, long before the so-called New Atheists.


Fr. Priest  –  Anyone can do anything “in the name of” something. I could drink a beer in the name of the Pope or in the name of Barack Obama. Anyone can use a “name” to do things. A man could decide to murder his wife in the name of honor or attack a group of people from another ethnic group in the name of racism or fairness. People can murder other people in the name of Christianity or in the name of Atheism. It doesn’t matter at all in what name someone does something. What matters is that the act is done and why the person actually did it. If a person were to accidentally hit a person it is not the same as intentionally striking the person. And there may be good reasons for intentionally hitting a person. One is self defense. But if one truly believes the teachings of the Christian Church one cannot do violence without moral cause. What, in atheism, either causes or prevents violence? I know of nothing, as it seems to me that atheism has nothing at all to do with morality, but is rather simply a statement of the complete lack of belief in God or the denial that any God or “gods” exist. Atheism is, therefore, amoral. But when an atheist decides that it is either right or wrong to do something, this belief or judgement must be based on something besides atheism. Perhaps it is utilitarianism or emotion or something else. But, by definition, an atheist’s ethics cannot be based on his or her atheism, as “atheism” has no such teaching or guideline in itself.

Both the person of the Christian religion and the atheist is wrong to accuse the other of evil based on doing that evil “in the name of” anything at all.


Fr. Priest  –  Catholics have murdered people, Atheists have murdered people. Catholics would proclaim, based on their morality, that murder is wrong. On what would an atheist base his or her decision that murder is either right or wrong?


Matthew Menking  –  Certainly, if the discussion is “what group has caused no harm in the name of what they believed to be the truth?” I would be willing to bet that the answer is “no group.” But we can ask at least two other questions:

1. What, historically, can we see has caused the largest total loss to the world (and for that matter what currently is doing the same)

2. What belief systems have an inherent tendency toward a lack of value of human life and freedom

While these questions are by no means simple and it would rightly take many hours and thousands of pages to discuss all the points, the real question should be, rather, what is true? We don’t ask about the morality of our math teacher when seeking answers to math questions. And when seeking the answer to ultimate reality (is there a God or not), the history of men’s actions based on one belief here or another are hardly relevant to the actual question at hand.

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