Philosophy has a major problem, namely, the number of people who consider themselves capable of doing philosophy with any amount of integrity. I’ve got news for those of you who think you’re doing philosophy when you’re reading jokers like Aristotle or Kant: You’re not doing philosophy. Doing philosophy is reading Aristotle or Kant and thinking about why they are right or wrong (Aristotle or Kant are both wrong on several accounts, but what philosopher isn’t?). Instead, what appears to happen is that a person reads something from someone like Aristotle or Kant that sounds clever or that they agree with (because they already thought the same thing) and end their thinking at that point. In cases where they don’t end their thinking about a given philosopher’s assertion or general idea on the table, their thinking is routinely searching for arguments to strengthen what they already agree with, dispensing with the skepticism that is necessary to do good philosophy since any amount of skepticism will probably undermine what they are comfortable believing. Presumably this is due to the need to believe something at some point, which often results in sloppy thinking.
I routinely challenge the assertions of so-called rational atheists on atheist-related threads and what happens on a routine basis are ad hominem attacks against me simply because I choose to challenge what they believe or the reasons why they believe certain things. Basically, if you don’t kowtow to the party’s line, you’re evil in their view. As we all know, this is what theists do to outsiders and what many atheists proclaim to hate about theists. Meanwhile, many atheists do the exact same thing and don’t even seem to realize it. Not a socially uber-liberal femi-Nazi supporter? Evil. Support a single viewpoint with an opposing political party? Evil. Don’t think theists are necessarily worse people than atheists? Evil. But, people are arrogant and love nothing more than to proclaim their righteousness no matter how wrong they may be; atheists are no exception. And like the attitude of theists atheist claim to hate, so-called rational atheists are just as pig-headed and stubborn, unwilling to budge on their beliefs.
If you don’t believe me, ask a so-called rational atheist what it would take to change their mind about the existence of God. (Atheists often employ this kind of question against theists. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, someone once said.) Their answer is always the same as a theist’s when such a question is posed to them: nothing. Why? One answer would be that they have no way of telling a god apart from a sufficiently powerful or knowledgeable alien. That is, if the god in question appeared to violate the laws of physics in some way, we as a species do not possess sufficient enough knowledge to know whether the laws of physics have actually been broken (which harkens back to not knowing how much a knowledgeable alien knows). Another answer would be that even if said being could prove they created us, creation does not entail that the entity in question is a god. (Do we program or even expect robots to view human beings as gods because we created them? Only in the movies.) The point is, you cannot call yourself rational if you are unwilling to change your mind.
This is where any so-called rational atheist will roll their eyes because no one is willing to change their mind that one plus one equals two. It’s a stubborn belief because it appears so rational to the point it is intuitive, but one can easily think of counter-examples if one takes one plus one out of its prevailing mathematical context. Sure, one plus one equals two, but one has to rely on context to make that assertion true. Not changing one’s mind on the existence of God is much the same way as many atheists view God existence in the same context, as that of a (supposedly) physical being like you or me. Myself? I am willing to change my mind on God’s existence, which upon internal examination would have more to do with me wanting to believe in a god than the arguments for God’s existence, almost all of which I find specious. Perhaps as an exercise in critical thinking, a future blog will try to come up with arguments in favor of God’s existence. You will not see any so-called rational atheist taking on such an assignment, though. It’s because they are not the philosophers they think they are.
Here’s a quick test that strengthens my assertion. Ask a so-called rational atheist if they are a Humanist. (Some will answer “yes,” some will say “no.”) For those that answer yes, ask them if they subscribe to the Humanist notion that all people have inherent worth. (They must, if they identify as a Humanist.) Now ask them where that inherent worth comes from. They cannot say; their belief that all people are born with inherent worth is simply what they wish to believe. Or are they going to say that worth is inherent from the mere act of being born? Really, says who? Is that some kind of instinctual desire, not unlike the instinctual desire to beat stupid people about the head? It’s a nonsensical belief backed by no scientific evidence or rational reasoning. But, like the theist who will not admit they’re pretending to know something they do not, the so-called rational atheist does the same thing, just with a different belief.
This is what makes some people asshats. Take George W. Bush for example, when asked who his favorite philosopher is, answers, “Jesus.” Jesus was not a philosopher – he said such-and-such is the way it is and there is no room for doubt. That’s not philosophy and that’s why GWB is an asshat. So the next time you think you’re doing philosophy and you think you’ve come to some concrete answer, it’s no longer philosophy; you’ve either entered the realm of science or are completely wrong. My money is on the latter.