Atheists want to tell the world that religious beliefs are untrue and religious practices are foolish, if not dangerous. They offer atheism as the way to avoid error, superstition and fanaticism. The atheistic strategy is to make their case at a theoretical level to avoid the complicated consideration of indefinitely many beliefs and practices of the numerous actual religions.
For discussion of religious belief there are two questions in answer to which atheists develop theoretical arguments for setting aside religion. The first question asks: Is there an ultimate being? The second question asks: Are any religiously significant narratives of an enchanted reality true?
For both answers atheists hope to establish a negative claim.
There is no ultimate being
No narrative of an enchanted reality is true
Christians, of course, hold that there is an ultimate being and that there is one true narrative of an enchanted reality in which the ultimate being participates.
Disputes about the existence of an ultimate being are the familiar philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God. I am not concerned with those arguments in this post. I think that at least since Kant (1724-1804) there is a growing consensus that although there are no compelling arguments that there is an ultimate being which might be identifiable with the God of some actual religions, it is not unreasonable to accept some of these arguments as giving good reasons for believing that there is an ultimate being.
Really, it is not important for atheists to refute these arguments decisively. Mere belief in an ultimate being does not by itself lead to any of the beliefs and practices atheists find in actual religions. The threatening, to atheists, religious beliefs and practices are based on religious narratives about enchanted realities.
See Christian Re-enchantment for introduction to how I use “enchanted reality.”
Reductionism is the tactic for implementing the atheistic strategy of showing that no narratives about an enchanted reality are true. The program is to show that everything which can be clearly thought and spoken about is located in space/time and subject to laws of natural science. Yes, scientific laws themselves are an embarrassment to these reduction programs. The very mathematical lawfulness of objects studied by natural science has not yet been reduced to entities in space/time. The final solution to reduction tactic would be justification of nominalism.
I think I know what I am talking about when I talk of these reduction programs. All of my philosophical training has been in philosophy departments of secular state universities. I have spent forty years teaching in the philosophy department of secular state universities. In the background, there was an assumption that a significant philosophical achievement would be a reduction of something not clearly located in space/time to something which was. The big success, perhaps worthy of a Noble Prize, would be reduction of mind to matter.
The reduction programs are programs in process. There are many promises of reduction but few clear results. The most highly touted reduction is the claim, we read in the introductory chapter of biology texts that we no longer need to assume that there is life over and above the physiological processes. It is true that assumption of a special force called life is not needed for scientific research.
I should add that a model for reducing one area to another is the representation of all of mathematics as set theory. All mathematical objects, numbers, functions, figures etc., are allegedly reduced to sets.
Elimination of the mental: thoughts, sensations and feelings would show that there are no enchanted realities. Yes,our thoughts, sensations and feelings enchant the “colorless” abstractions talked of in natural science. But elimination of the mental seems impossible. We would have to think to realize that we had accomplished this intellectual feat.
Trying to eliminate the mental is called the mind-body problem. Actually it is not a problem unless you hold that there needs to be a reduction of the mental to the material
In any event, the unresolved mind-body problem has stalled the reduction tactic for showing that no narratives of an enchanted reality can be true. I use the weak can be true because I am not prepared to say that the mind-body problem cannot be solved. “Can” is good enough to stall the project.
It is a real possibility that some narrative about an enchanted reality is true.
My book on sexual morality requires no narrative about enchanted realities other than the everyday one about our thoughts and feeling.
My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $3.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.
To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $3.99 plus $3.71 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.