Friday, April 1, 2011

National Atheists Day

April 1st is traditionally recognized as April Fool's Day. Over the last few years, some non-atheist people (excuse the double negative there) have relabeled April 1st as National Atheists Day. It's a play on Psalm 14:1, which says, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” It seems at least a few atheists have adopted the intended slur and celebrate the day as a sort of “in your face” to Christians.

I thought I should make a few comments about the event and I thought about what might be an original angle to take. I didn't want to merely rehash the same points that another 1,000,000 bloggers are making today. Sometimes, when I'm trying to decide what to write, I search Google images to find inspiration. It was there that I came across this gem.

Atheists are such a tiny minority that they qualify as “fringe” by any standard. However, they seem to be louder than their tiny numbers would allow. How? When I see things like this cartoon I see how. It's because they can be some of the most brazen and outrageous liars you could ever find. Is this serious? Almost none of the people on the graphic were atheists. I almost thought this was somehow trying to paint atheism in a bad light by showing some brilliant men who were theists only it didn't quite work; of course, Carl Sagan was a devout atheist and so that doesn't make sense (I'm not sure of the religious leanings of Hemingway or Clemens). So what is the point of the pic? That Lincoln was an atheist? That's absurd! In his proclamation given during the Civil War, Lincoln called people to prayer saying:

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, and to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in Holy Scripture, and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And what about Ben Franklin? Is he an atheist too? Might I remind you of his call to prayer during the Constitutional Convention where he said:

I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that "except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel:

Jefferson, Einstein, and even Darwin – though not necessarily born-again Christians – were certainly not atheists. But you know what, so what if they were? I mean, what does it prove? Lincoln was an atheist so then atheism is true? This is a type of an appeal to authority (argumentum ad verecundiam). It's a logical fallacy that attempts to say something like, “This brilliant person believes this so therefore this is true.”

Though the Bible says fools don't believe in God, I believe atheists do a fair job of making themselves look foolish. Why did they attempt to portray several committed theists as though they were atheists? Couldn't they find enough prominent atheists to make the same point? Now that I think about it, who could they get? Dawkins? PZ Myers? Mao Tse-tung? Pol Pot? And even if they could find some truly inspiring atheists, the entire point is a logical fallacy anyway. This graphic, meant to be persuasive, is demonstrative of the foolishness of their arguments.

I think Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens – portrayed in the pic as an atheist) said it best: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

I'm tempted to wish everyone a happy Atheists Day but it's really too sad to be celebrating. Maybe we should make this day the National Pray for an Atheist Day!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

While I agree that atheism is a logical fallacy, because there is no proof that God does not exist, doesn't that also make religion a logical fallacy because there is also no proof that God does exist?

Atheism and theism are both essentially unproven belief systems, so what qualifies one to call the other "foolish"?

Surely the truly foolish are those that would make such unqualified declarations?

RKBentley said...

Thanks for visiting my blog.

It is impossible to prove a universal negative so to say, "there is no God" is a logical fallacy. However, that wasn't really the point of my post.

I thought it was rather foolish to post a picture of men who were well-known theists and claim they were atheists in an effort to make an appeal to authority which is also a logical fallacy.

To your point about evidence for God, I have discussed the ontological argument for God. The simple fact that there is a creation is evidence for a Creator. You can read that post at this link:

http://rkbentley.blogspot.com/2008/09/is-there-god.html

Thanks again for visiting.

God bless!
RKBentley

Chris said...

The question of whether it is truly impossible to prove an universal negative is a sticky question in logic, particularly in the case of inductive logic. But in this case it is not pertinent. Atheists, in general, do not assert that "God does not exist" in the sense that you mean. In other words Atheists do not claim to have examined every possible scrap of existence looking for God. Atheists, more often than not, simply assert that there is insufficient evidence for God. You may disagree with their assertion, but it is not a fallacy.

The problem with the image, or at least your analysis of it, is a different issue. The image is anonymous and many prominent atheists have already critiqued it. But it is not true that it is an outright lie. Lincoln's beliefs were private and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that they were ambivalent at best. The quote you give was written by Seward, who was a Christian. Lincoln was a politician--whether he was a "Christian" is open to debate. I would agree, though, that including him in the poster is a problem, and maybe it is unfair to lump him in the atheist camp, but it is equally wrong to lump him in the Christian camp merely because he read religious proclamations written by a Christian in his cabinet.

RKBentley said...

Chris,

Thanks for visiting my blog.

To say, "there is no God" is a universal negative. Universal negatives are a logical fallacy but that wasn't the point of my post. I was responding to the comment left by the anonymous visitor.

The fallacy I was talking about in my post is the not so subtle "appeal to authority" by claiming these famous men were atheists. So what if they were? Is there no God because Lincoln (allegedly) did not believe in God? It's a foolish argument - never mind the fact that several of the men portrayed in the picture weren't atheists.

BTW, Lincoln did turn his heart to Jesus after the death of his son according to his widow.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Lincoln_and_religion

Thanks again for visiting my blog. God bless.

RKBentley