With a title like this, you'd think I was going to have a rant about a shitty Christian apologist making outrageous claims about atheism.
Except I'm about to go on a rant about two atheists that I'd otherwise admire making outrageous and indefensible claims about theists.
I'm talking about David Silverman and John Loftus.
There's been some buzz because Justin Schieber publicly criticized this meme from David Silverman's book Fighting God, which was created by Dr. David Madison:
#atheism #secular #humanism #atheist #humanist— David Madison (@DavidMadisonPhD) July 22, 2017
More than 200 titles in the Cure-for-Christianity Library: https://t.co/cSHRx0cdz3…/ pic.twitter.com/HP69Gp5Ehq
This prompted some rather astounding defenses of Dave Silverman on Twitter from one John Loftus:
Yep. Honesty requires atheists to tell the truth, not placate them, no more than doctors with patients. @MrAtheistPants @RealAtheology https://t.co/Yr2QlFMHxX— John W. Loftus (@loftusjohnw) July 23, 2017
So rather than go back and forth with John Loftus on Twitter, I had a brief window of free time to give a full treatment to the criticism of this idea.We're not saying the same thing. Think again. https://t.co/wvpejos2Ta— John W. Loftus (@loftusjohnw) July 24, 2017
I should preface this with the fact that I really do like and am grateful to both Loftus and Silverman. Both of them provided resources online, for free, that were immensely useful to me when I was deconverting. It should go without saying that just because I think they're wrong here it doesn't mean I think they're wrong in other areas where they get a lot right.
What's more I think a lot of the legal work that American Atheists do is worthwhile, and David Silverman personally does good work when he does appearances on Fox News shows arguing the atheist position.
But that doesn't excuse the weapons grade bullshit that is the last part of the above quote. Lets be clear what I find objectionable by going line by line.
"We need to shout from the rooftops that which we know is true:"
CA Rating: Good!
"Religion is a lie (yes, all of it)"
CA Rating: Good!
"gods are myths (yes, all of them)"
CA Rating: Good!
"and most people already know it (yes, they do)"
CA Rating: Weapons Grade Bullshit!
So why is this bullshit?
Because we can't ever really claim to know what other people truly believe or think about their own beliefs.
I can't know your subjective emotional experience, at best I can infer from your actions and statements what you're telling me is the case about your own subjective mental state.
This is because on atheism there is only one person who can truly know the fact of the matter their own beliefs: Themselves.
Dave and John are claiming that most religious people already know that their religion is a lie and that their gods are a myth - which is an outrageous, indefensible claim.
It's an outrageous indefensible claim when Christian apologists say that "deep down atheists truly know that god exists!" and that we are engaging in "cognitive dissonance" or "self deception" to say we truly don't believe that a god exists.
It is just as outrageous for an atheist to claim the inverse as true among believers.
Not because one or more religions might be true, not because one or more gods might exist. But because we can't possibly know what the majority of people (ie. theistic believers) really know or believe about their belief in religion or gods.
I for one, am inclined to believe people when they tell me they believe something to be true. At least I will after honest dialog and we've established that we're not joking around. And guess what - tons of fucking people say this! They report belief in a god and/or a religion. The data is pretty fucking clear.
To claim that people don't believe what they claim to believe is to pretend to know what you don't know. It should go without saying that pretending to know what you don't' know is a bad thing.
(Note: This is not an endorsement of defining faith as "pretending to know what you don't know).
Does Dave Really Claim This?
The only thing I can infer as a possible objection to this is that Silverman isn't really saying that all religious people already know their beliefs are false. This is something Loftus seems to be hinting at:
Except this can't be the case. Dave says that atheists know that religion is a lie and that god's are myths, and that most people already know these things.Then why are you prend to know what is meant that you call bullshit? Stop. Just think it out for yourself. https://t.co/6GlztHlGAJ— John W. Loftus (@loftusjohnw) July 24, 2017
Again, the data is pretty fucking clear that "most people" in the world today are theists.
So no, "most people" don't know that gods are myths and that religion is a bunch of lies.
At best, an atheist could try to claim that all "unaffiliated" people are atheists (this is false), and as such we'd say that only roughly 84% of the world's population are theists of some sort or another.
So for Dave's claim to work out, at best, we'd have to have 40% of professing believers to be in a state where they don't actually believe what they say they believe and for all "unaffiliated" people to be actual atheists (with none of those people not actually believing what they claim publicly).
This is an outrageous claim for which no evidence is presented.
It's an astounding leap of faith to think that this is remotely plausible compared to simply accepting what people tell you about their mental states are actually true. If you want me to believe otherwise, then you need to start providing me with some incredible evidence for that claim.
Update: An Addendum on Nietzsche
As a reader can see in the comments below, John Loftus is alleging that I'm somehow being dishonest by leaving out part of our Twitter exchange where he references Nietzsche. I don't see how this is the case, but in the interests of full disclosure I'm updating the post to include his tweet and my reply:
Was Nietzsche stupid when he declared God is dead? If not, what was he doing? @CounterApologis @RealAtheology https://t.co/xo3ChWaxTq— John W. Loftus (@loftusjohnw) July 24, 2017
That's not remotely the same as claiming to know what most believers truly think about their religious beliefs. https://t.co/CZ6UZnuqrE— Counter Apologist (@CounterApologis) July 24, 2017
Beyond that exchange, John wanted to know my reasoning - which prompted this very blog post.
I'm not sure what else to say besides the obvious. Declaring that "god is dead" is not the same thing as saying "everyone who believes god is alive really is just pretending and they know that god is dead!"
Nietzsche isn't arguing that everyone knows that atheism is true, he's arguing for the truth of atheism. David's quote is making that same assertion (he makes his arguments elsewhere in the book) and he makes another, indefensible assertion that I've taken issue with.
I should also note that I never called John Loftus, Dr. David Madison, or Dave Silverman stupid. I just think they're wrong, and that they're doing something morally wrong in the process.