Sunday, December 02, 2012

G. K. Chesterton on Atheism

"If there were no God there would be no atheists."

- G. K. Chesterton
Where All Roads Lead, London 1922

19 comments :

Anonymous said...

and since it is believe that there is a God, there are some atheist and many theists? Of course not all can be atheists.
IF THERE IS NO GOD, THERE COULD BE NO THEIST EITHER???
Is there a possible world where all could be theists? or all atheists?
what's so great about this quote??

Smith

Anonymous said...

one irony about theists-
Quote something, that's it, the ultimate truth...
Smith

Anonymous said...

Smith,

If God did not create, there would be no theists or atheists.

If you disagree please present your case

Chad said...

Hello Anonymous One (2),

Strange. I've re-read the post a few times and didn't see where Brian said, "Ha, ha! Ultimate truth!"

In the past, these quotes have served to:

1. spark respectful dialog
2. challenge ones thinking

However, it has not been my experience that they were suppose to be a stand alone apologetic. Please correct me if I'm wrong here Brian.

It seems you have successfully attacked a straw-man.

Further, don't atheists quote fellow atheists? So couldn't the same charge be leveled against them?

Godspeed

Ex N1hilo said...

If there were no God; well, the atheists would just have to create themselves.

Anonymous said...

(1) If God does not exist, atheists do not exist.
(2) Atheists do exist.
(3) Therefore God exists.

So what's the problem here? :)

Bless you all, Terry

Anonymous said...

(1) If God does not exist, atheists do not exist.
(2) Atheists do exist.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

So what's the problem here? :)

Terry

Michael said...

Of course there would be atheists. Whether or not there is a God has, it seems, little to do with what people have believe. Imagine that instead of a Christian saying this that it is an ancient Greek referring specifically to belief in Zeus.
We can also use the same logic to say that there would be no Bigfoot skeptics if there was no Bigfoot.
It's clear that Chesterton should have stuck to his poetry and not wandered into philosophy/theology.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous
//If God did not create, there would be no theists or atheists.//
I don’t agree with you because if God did not create, nobody knows whether there would be theists or atheists. 50/50?

Chad, thanks for your comment. Sure, I agree with you, Brian did not mention, that’s the ultimate truth. Perhaps I took it as kind thinking theists generally concur. Anyways, i think I am not wrong in saying that either, for it looks like the assumption of Chesterton implied that’s it, kind of.
...IF THERE IS NO GOD, THERE COULD BE NO THEIST EITHER???... And me, a straw-man attacked?? That’s the problem of theists…. What if I said, Chesterton’s observation is a straw-man attacked, because no atheists concur or think what Chesterton seems to be saying?
Smith

Anonymous said...

I think Michael deserves the gold star - conditionally!

It goes without saying that the truth of God's existence is completely independent of anyone's belief in His existence. It does not follow necessarily, however, that Chesterton is wrong. It could be argued, certainly from a Christian perspective, that if God did not exist, the very concept of His non-existence would not exist (in the minds of humans, both of which He did not create - minds and humans, that is) and so belief in His non-existence would not exist. So chesterton's premiss, if it was a premiss, could be true as stated. Of course, there would be no Christian perspective either. Maybe Chesterton's statement is true, necessarily!

Furthermore, I believe Chesterton, the old cat, was out after tongues. I obviously can't know how many tongues he got, but I do know he got a lot of goats. Perhaps, rather than dabbling in philosophy/theology, he was dabbling in psychology.

Bless you, Terry

Chad said...

Hello Anonymous Smith,

That’s the problem of theists…

What, we use logic?

You claimed in your initial post the following:

one irony about theists-
Quote something, that's it, the ultimate truth...


Now, I took that to mean that you were saying Brian was making a quote as if it were "ultimate truth;" however, Brian did nothing of the sort. Therefore, you attacked an argument he was not making and/or a position he wasn't defending.

Respectfully

Anonymous said...

Hi Chad,
Right, i appreciate your comment.
By the way, wishing you all, Christian friends, a merry Christmas season.

Regards,
Smith

Michael said...

Hi Terry,

Thanks for the gold star. However, if we swap out the word God in your proposition you'll see where you'd have to apply it only to God to get the answer you want.
To slightly restate: "It could be argued, certainly from an Irish perspective, that if Leprechauns did not exist, the very concept of Leprechauns' non-existence would not exist (in the minds of humans, both of which Leprechauns did not create - minds and humans, that is) and so belief in Leprechauns non-existence would not exist."
You've only reiterated what Chesterton wrote using more words, but to the same effect. Stating it the way you did, any obvious fiction (Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, elves, The Wizard of Oz) would HAVE to exist because we couldn't conceive of it otherwise.
Of course we could.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael:

Thanks for calling back. I was beginning to believe I was being ignored!

Swapping things does nothing for your contention. Of course I see that I have to apply the argument only to God to get the answer I want. Like Chesterton's, my statement is only about God. Why would I change my discussion from God and atheists to Leprechauns and Leprechaun sceptics? The same reflex relationship seems not to be there.

So if He exists, God is, by definition, the uncaused cause of everything. The maximally great being. He is unique. No analogy will work. Now you know you don't have to believe all that (after all you've already been awarded the gold anyway), but according to the belief of most theists, and all Christians who have considered it, God has created us to know Him. Only a dysfunctional mind would reject Him (as Plantinga puts it). However, if God did not exist, He couldn't have created us, let alone created us with the capacity to know of Him (i.e. to know of His existence) or to believe in His non-existence. Ergo, no atheists. Not Leprechauns, Santa Claus, Easter Bunnies, elves, The Wizard of Oz, nor spaghetti monsters or maximally great pizzas cut it in God's place!

Unless of course you believe that leprechauns created Irishmen, instead of the other way around. Or maybe you believe that man created God, and not the other way around...Some do.


Bless you,
Terry

Michael said...

Hello Terry,

Actually, swapping God for Leprechauns does everything for my contention because it makes immediately clear what's wrong with your argument. You took Chesterton's word-game one step further and claimed that I couldn't even have the concept of God if God didn't exist. Swapping Leprechauns (or any fictional character) for God shows that argument is nonsense. You want to now exempt God by special pleading and go back to Chesterton's mistaken notion that a God, one which he simply assumes, created everybody and so also created atheists. It's both a circular argument and question begging.
Then you start out by saying: "So, if He exists..." Precisely the point: IF. Trying to make a logical end-run that somehow only applies to a pre-defined God (you need reasons for definitions or else all you have is either make-believe or an assumption) leaves us with a hollow, rather useless assertion.
I mean, think of this, if Chesterton (or any apologist for that matter) could conclusively demonstrate the existence of God in a sentence consisting of no more than ten words, the matter would be completely obvious to everyone or make a God so trivial as to not exist at all. Either way, the atheist is completely justified in quickly dismissing both arguments by showing a single instance in which the rule breaks down. Hence, my restatement using clearly fictional Leprechauns. Let's not be silly.

Regards,

Michael

Anonymous said...

Actually is hard to conclude what Chesterton meant. Either is he is talking about God as the creator and therefore no creator no humans. OR if he means that the concept of God when rejected create atheists!

... the second is true XD of course, just like the concept of God create theists.

Now personally as an argument, or rather as a conclusion it doesn't make much sense, and I do understand Smith's behavior after listening to it, but if you take the second interpretation... well then cheterston is correct! It doesn't stablish anything for or against theism, but surely theism and atheism makes reference to God, at least in western society it usually does.

So I guess maybe reading what chesterton said later of before the quote may actually clearify what he meant!

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

A couple of things should be clear. First, as the latest poster here has pointed out, the context of Chesterton's comment is unknown, certainly to me, so that I put no words in Chesterton's mouth beyond what was quoted in the subject post. On the surface, the gold star was warranted.

Second, I proposed the idea that more was meant than the superficial (i.e. that Chesterton meant more than the obvious), not based on what I know of Chesterton, which is precious little beyond his reputation, but on the belief that he probably knew well that his statement was significant for those who had ears. So that's why I suggest that "Chesterton's premiss, IF it was a premiss, could be true as stated".

As a bit of an aside, you suggest that my IF is somehow significant; that you have realized a flaw that somehow successfully puts the argument to rest. Now, that's silly. My IF is followed by a (limited) definition of God, supported by many, that suffices in the context of this discussion. Surely, at least a cursary definition of terms is demanded. BTW, I'm waiting for a definition of Leprechaun, attributes and all, beyond just "a fictional character". Okay, never mind. I guess fictional character just about covers it.

So, I find your criticism of the quality of my definition funny. Your definition of those substitutes that you use to refute the validity of the argument is that they are, wait for it, fictitious. The implication seems to be that God, therefore, must be fictitious too. How does that follow? Further you claim that "Swapping Leprechauns (or any fictional character) for God shows that argument is nonsense." How does it show that? I really don't see your point, unless you simply mean "everyone knows that leprechauns don't exist so neither does God."

(need a second post - sorry)

Anonymous said...

Also, it should also be pointed out that the substitution of "leprechaun or any other fictitious character" into the following argument proves, logically, as I know you must be aware, that those fictions do exist (are real). Only the imposition of your presupposition that they are fictitious allows you to conclude that the argument is flawed, based on your UNSUBSTANTIATED BELIEF that leprechauns, et al. don't exist. That unsubstantiated belief apparently also allows you to arrive at the (unwarranted) conclusion that God too is a fantasy and that the conclusion that He exists is false. That might, to the casual observer, indicate that you are presupposing that God is a fiction, and therefore that He doesn't exist. Might that be construed as assuming what you hope to prove and therefore a classic case of begging the question, circular reasoning? Actually, it's the premiss (1), with your substitutions, that is flawed. Of course, the premiss "if leprechauns don't exist (i.e. if they are fictitious), leprechaun sceptics don't exist" is false. Anyone may reasonably be sceptical about the existence of a fictious being unless one is very willing to be fooled, or one should demand evidence that the apparently fictitious entity is in fact not real, thereby permitting a rational judgement. Of course, as discussed next, you are not preserving the conditional character of premiss (1), but are making an unwarranted assertion.

By assuming that the characters, variously substituted for God, are fictitious, you are substituting a mere assertion, a personal belief, for the conditional premiss. By declaring your leprechaun to be non-existent, you prove nothing as to his actual existence. It goes without saying that the truth of a leprechaun's existence is completely independent of anyone's belief in his existence. Asserting that God is non-existent proves nothing about the truth of His existence. It goes without saying that the truth of God's existence is completely independent of anyone's belief in His existence. Haven't we been here before? Changing premiss (1) from "If God does not exist, atheists do not exist" to "God does not exist because I say so" does little to advance the discussion. In fact the argument dissolves.

Leaving Chesterton out of it for the moment, the notion that God is the creator of all is a contention that has been defended for millennia. I don't think it can so easily be swept away by the substitution of a Leprechaunic fantasy. That also might indicate that you are presupposing that God is a fiction, and therefore that He doesn't exist. Another circle?

The point is, the question is "does God exist?"

So, to restate Chesterton's statement and to formulate an argument,

(1) If God does not exist, atheists do not exist.
(2) Atheists do exist.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

The only contentious proposition is (1). If you believe God is a fictitious entity like a leprechaun then all you have to do is shown some evidence that would outweigh the probability that God is in fact not a fiction, that He created man to know Him, and that He possesses the attributes as described as a term of the proposition. Then, based on this evidence, you'd have provided a good argument that God more probably doesn't exist than does exist. So what's the problem here? :)

God bless you,
Terry

Anonymous said...

Leprechuans did not create the universe, neither did Zeus. Zeus, by nature, has a physical body. God, by nature doesn't, therefore the comparison fails.

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