Textbook Atheism

Ricky Gervais is a man known for more than just his acting and comedic talent, he is also very well known for his atheism. He was invited on to another unbeliever’s later night talk show, Steven Colbert, to discuss and defend his atheism.

Gervais repeated most of the surface level atheist mantras. Colbert first brought up the cosmological argument, and Gervais completely sidestepped. It is an un-answerable question for Gervais, which is why all he could say is,

“Outside of science and nature, I do not believe [there is a Divine cause to everything].”

Thus, the answer to a question about how the material world came to be is “it was not God.” The problem being that is a fallacy; the fallacy of irrelevant thesis.

If someone asks how to find the restroom, it is not relevant to tell them they ought not go to the kitchen. The problem is Gervais cannot answer the question without God; no one can. Thus, an irrelevant thesis is the only possible answer his worldview affords him.

Further, the qualification that he only rejects something “outside of science and nature” is absurd. Besides the fact that it completely exposes his religious presupposition (an a priori faith commitment to naturalism), the question is asking where science and nature came from. Thus, science and nature cannot even be a possible solution. The only possible solution outside of God would be the eternality of nature, which is biblically and scientifically impossible.

To simply say what I most often hear, “I do not know where the universe came from, but there must be a natural explanation we do not yet know” is missing the point. The logic behind the question is that there cannot possibly be a naturalistic explanation for the origin of nature. Thus, it is not epistemic humility to answer “I do not know” in this regard; but in fact, is actually an epistemic contradiction.

“Everyone is technically agnostic, we don’t know [if God exists].”

There are so many problems with this claim it is hard to know were to begin. I would like to point out that Mr. Gervais would need infinite knowledge to make a claim like this.

How does he know what I know? How does he know what anyone else knows? How is he able to be certain of every single person’s knowledge, but no person can be certain of God?

Most importantly however, this statement is not only untrue, it is to the contrary, true exactly opposite. Romans 1: 18-25,

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”

The emphasis is mine, and its purpose is to remind us all that someone does know God exists. And not only that, but they know this the same way Ricky Gervais does, by God’s clear revelation of Himself to all with clarity.

“Atheism is not a belief system.”

This could not be more untrue. Atheism is a worldview. To demonstrate this I ask, can a person be a Christian atheist? Obviously not, and that is because both of those terms are contrary systems of belief.

More importantly, the claim of atheism, or even agnosticism, requires one to view every detail of reality in a certain way. The claim that “I don’t know that God exists” does not just float in the vacuum of the skeptic’s mind among the host of other piecemeal facts they have inserted there; but instead, the claim that God may not exist must now serve as the ground to stand on. It must give way to all other thoughts. And that is why atheism is very much a belief system. It is not just the claim that God does not exist, or that God may or may not exist. It is simultaneously the positive claim that everything else can exist, function, and be accounted for without God.

Thus, Ricky Gervais must have a worldview which begins with a Godless axiom, and then accounts for things like logic, science, ethics, evidence, knowledge, etc. And that he cannot do.

“You deny one less God than I do. You don’t believe in 2,999 gods, I don’t believe in just one more.”

This is very common and I hear this a lot. But notice the structure of the argument:

The argument is attempting to argue from the existence of counterfeits, to the non-existence of the authentic.

Let me spell that out: this claim, garbed in humor, is trying to say that because there are good reasons to reject false gods, there must not be a true One.

What happens if that logic is applied to counterfeit currency? Does it follow that because there are many counterfeit dollar bills, that it is reasonable to suspect there is no currency at all? Obviously not.

If that is the case, I would be the happy recipient of all the money in your possession which you no longer believe to be authentic.

This claim also presupposes that the Christian denies the false-gods of the world for the same reasons as the skeptic. There may be some overlap, but overall this is simply not the case.

I reject Mormonism because it contradicts the Scriptures. Therefore, I could not possibly reason from the denial of Mormonism to the denial of Christianity, since the Christian Scriptures were the standard by which I measured Mormonism. 

“If we took any fiction, any holy book, and destroyed it, in 1,000 years time that that wouldn’t come back just as it was. But if we destroyed every science book and every fact, and destroyed them all, in 1,000 years they’d all be back, because they would do all the same tests.”

I wanted to spend the most amount of effort on this claim as, in its formation only, it is original.

The claim itself is wildly untrue. There are two primary reasons for this:

First, it simply assumes God has not spoken.

If God has not spoken, and the Bible is exclusively a human enterprise, then it is true that in 1,000 years it would not be resurrected.

However, if Peter was right when he said “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1: 21)”, then we can expect the Holy Spirit is able to reproduce what He once inspired.

If Paul was right when he wrote that “All Scripture is God-breathed… (2 Timothy 3: 16)” then we can expect God to breath out His words again.

Thus, Gervais is begging the question with his assumption.

What must further be noticed, both as an argument and an opportunity to laugh, is that we do not need to burn the text-books to know they would not come back the same; new editions are already different.

Should we consult the textbooks over the last 100 years to see how old the universe is? I think what we will find is that the textbooks are fighting with one another.

The scientific method is a wonderful thing, and science glorifies God. But the system is established on a “learn from new evidence” mentality. Scientists have always recognized their fallibility and been willing to change. There is no reason to expect what we so passionately believe now to be empirically true will be held 1,000 years from now, and we do not even need to burn the textbooks to justify this.

This reminds me of a similar point pastor Douglas Wilson made in his book, Why Christian Kids Need a Christian Education,

“As someone wisely said, one who marries the science of the day today should be prepared to be a widow tomorrow. More than one reader of this small book has been called an idiot for not accepting something in the current textbooks, and now, twenty years later, those textbooks have all been discarded and replaced – but somehow we who remain dubious remain idiots. The textbooks may come and go, but while they are here we must apparently believe them with all our hearts.”

One thing I do know for certain is that in 1,000 years the textbooks will be different, but “the Word of the Lord endures forever”
(1 Peter 1:25).

 “I don’t need faith in science.”

This is a great place to end. This is the common mentality among the dying movement called Atheism.

The attempt is made to establish one’s personal interpretations of fallible empirical tests as being synonymous with brute fact, completely free from any subjectivity, bias, or groundless-thought.

However, much faith is needed in science. For example, how does one justify the scientific method? The skeptic must either assume it a priori, or admit its circular nature. Either way, there is a utilization of something that is in no way empirical, in order to have confidence in that which is empirical, but we will make sure to not call that faith. 

Skeptic Bertrand Russell will explain the necessary element of faith in science better than your humble blogger. In his book Problems of Philosophy, he wrote a chapter on Induction. In this, he exposed that there is no real justification for the belief that the very laws of nature that science stands upon will remain uniform and consistent.

“The problem we have to discuss is whether there is any reason for believing in what is called ‘the uniformity of nature’. The belief in the uniformity of nature is the belief that everything that has happened or will happen is an instance of some general law to which there are no exceptions. The crude expectations which we have been considering are all subject to exceptions, and therefore liable to disappoint those who entertain them. But science habitually assumes, at least as a working hypothesis, that general rules which have exceptions can be replaced by general rules which have no exceptions. ‘Unsupported bodies in air fall’ is a general rule to which balloons and aeroplanes are exceptions. But the laws of motion and the law of gravitation, which account for the fact that most bodies fall, also account for the fact that balloons and aeroplanes can rise; thus the laws of motion and the law of gravitation are not subject to these exceptions. The belief that the sun will rise to-morrow might be falsified if the earth came suddenly into contact with a large body which destroyed its rotation; but the laws of motion and the law of gravitation would not be infringed by such an event. The business of science is to find uniformities, such as the laws of motion and the law of gravitation, to which, so far as our experience extends, there are no exceptions. In this search science has been remarkably successful, and it may be conceded that such uniformities have held hitherto. This brings us back to the question: Have we any reason, assuming that they have always held in the past, to suppose that they will hold in the future? It has been argued that we have reason to know that the future will resemble the past, because what was the future has constantly become the past, and has always been found to resemble the past, so that we really have experience of the future, namely of times which were formerly future, which we may call past futures. But such an argument really begs the very question at issue. We have experience of past futures, but not of future futures, and the question is: Will future futures resemble past futures? This question is not to be answered by an argument which starts from past futures alone. We have therefore still to seek for some principle which shall enable us to know that the future will follow the same laws as the past.”

Bertrand Russel disagrees with our comedic actor; there is more faith involved in a materialist worldview than none. In fact, it takes a kind of faith which is no real faith at all, but instead a blind assumption about reality.

Ricky Gervais does find himself in the minority position, even among the non-Christians of the world. Atheism is dying, and good riddance. The worldview is untenable and even more bleak. This is why we are seeing the rise of non-christian theism. Most people “believe in god”, however, there is no real objective means of knowing who He/She/they/it/ is. 

Like the men of Athens, most people today pay homage to an unknown God (Acts 17:23). And like Paul in that text, those of us who have received the revelation of God (2 Corinthians 3: 4-6) have the opportunity to make Him known. He has revealed Himself with clarity; He has made Himself known.

He sent His Son into the world. Not only that we might be saved, but that we might know and see God, and that by knowing Him, we might have eternal life (John 14:7; John 17:3).

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