Presuppositional Questions from Christians Part I

Godless Cranium has an interesting post on a survey/study by CARM on his blog today. I got me to thinking and out of my slough of inactivity here.

Whether deliberate or not questions are often formed from inside the framework of biased thinking. None so much as ones from the bastions of christianity. Each question is actually a statement formed as a question, the answer is actually irrelevant for the purpose of the questionaire. I think they need to be exposed to the light of reason. What follows are some recent examples taken from CARM and a proper reformulation of the question. Very often you will find variations of the same question reworded in an attempt to steer the respondee in a desired direction. Sophism at its finest. I await anxiously the “result” and “conclusions” of the CARM study and presentation for “peer review’. [/sarcasm_font]

How would you define atheism?

The framing here implies that there is more than one acceptable answer. There isn’t. Motivation? To abet the idea that atheism is a belief, or something other than disbelief.
“What is the definition of atheism?” would be correct.

Do you act according to what you believe (there is no God) in or what you don’t believe in (lack belief in God)?

The presupposition here is the implication that atheism is a belief. “Do you act according to” is the hidden “set up” for the underlying premise. The latter part seems like a sop to a rational position, but is still intentionally flawed with the inclusion of the belief statement. An honest question inside christian bias would be: “Do you believe there is no god?” The correct question is: “Do you order your life primarily around disbelief?” or “What percentage of belief subsets influence your life decisions?”

Do you think it is inconsistent for someone who “lacks belief” in God to work against God’s existence by attempting to show that God doesn’t exist? [and] Not all atheists are antagonistic to Christianity but for those of you who are, why the antagonism?

I see various iterations of this in social media and it makes me want to punch someone right in the verbiage. See also “Why do you hate god?” The presupposition here is: Why are you trying to obstruct our daily proselytizing and intrusion into your personal life? There is no correct question to this vapid nonsense.

How sure are you that your atheism properly represents reality? [and] How sure are you that your atheism is correct? [and] Why do you believe your atheism is a justifiable position to hold? [and] Do you affirm or deny that atheism is a worldview? Why or why not?

These are all re-wordings of the same statement. The presupp here is: Atheism isn’t a credible position to hold. It serves to shift the burden of proof away from the theists and requires justification of a disbelief they insist is a belief. The correct question is: What evidence would you accept to demonstrate the validity of my claims?

How would you define what truth is?

This is almost a good question. It’s certainly worthy of exploration. The presupposition is: Why don’t you accept my assertions that truth can’t exist outside “god”? The correct question is: What is the definition of truth?

Are you a materialist or a physicalist or what?

This is often accompanied by a sneer when asked by apologists. The implication is that those who hold those views limit themselves from the “reality” of the metaphysical realm. The correct question is: What position best describes your explanation of the universe? I.E. Materialism, Physicalism, etc.

If you were at one time a believer in the Christian God, what caused you to deny his existence?

The presupp here is: Why are you in denial of your belief in god? See also “Why are you angry at god?” and similar statements. It does have some limited merit as an inquiry of historical value.

Do you believe the world would be better off without religion? [and] Do you believe the world would be better off without Christianity?

The presupp here is: the world is a much better place with religion/christianity. This is often accompanied with statements asserting nihilism and chaos in the absense of the influence of religion as if that were the only credible alternative. Correct question: can you cite examples of societal benefit/detriment where the irreligious are dominant?

Do you believe that faith in a God or gods is a mental disorder?

This is a million dollar question right here. There isn’t a black and white answer. It’s complex, with many variables and degrees of presentation. Many atheists are hesitant to answer this truthfully, because the “faithful” don’t take it very well. However, one doesn’t need a medical degree or special credentials to recognize sociopathic and maladaptive behavior when it occurs. And it occurs with alarming regularity. Not all the religious experience it, but there are enough to create undeniable problems across a large spectrum of society. A direct correlation can be made between “beliefs” and the behaviors that result. So, I respectfully disagree with my atheist compadres that it categorically isn’t a disorder. It is, at a basic level, a function of the brain is to fill in gaps of data in order to make sense of sensory input. Optical illusions are a good example of how the brain interprets contradictory input. We all experience it to some degree.

I would refer those curious about this to the recent study examining “the association between beliefs about God and psychiatric symptoms in the context of Evolutionary Threat Assessment System Theory, using data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey of US Adults (N = 1,426). Three beliefs about God were tested separately in ordinary least squares regression models to predict five classes of psychiatric symptoms: general anxiety, social anxiety, paranoia, obsession, and compulsion. Belief in a punitive God was positively associated with four psychiatric symptoms, while belief in a benevolent God was negatively associated with four psychiatric symptoms, controlling for demographic characteristics, religiousness, and strength of belief in God.”

Jerry Coyne refers to it as a-

Delusion. noun: an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder.

Kathleen Taylor was asked what positive developments she anticipated in neuroscience in the next 60 years.

“One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated,” she explained, according to The Times of London. “Somebody who has for example become radicalised to a cult ideology – we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance.”

I have to err on the side of direct observation and conclude that unjustified belief is, at a point, a mental structural deficiency. The studies seem to be moving us in that direction.
The presupposition is: Something that gives us so much emotional security and moral guidance can’t possibly be a bad thing. The correct question is: How do my religious beliefs cause me to act in ways harmful to myself and others? It IS a question all “believers”[not atheists] should consider and answer.

Must God be known through the scientific method? [and] If you answered yes to the previous question, then how do you avoid a category mistake by requiring material evidence for an immaterial God?

These questions ARE a category error. It demonstrates the authors cluelessness or deliberate obfuscation of the meaning of commonly understood terms.

cat·e·go·ry mis·take
noun LOGIC: the error of assigning to something a quality or action that can properly be assigned to things only of another category, for example, treating abstract concepts as though they had a physical location.

Presupp statement: You can’t force me to accept the reality that metaphysical claims are unfalsifiable. We claim god is an ineffable entity and so needs no concrete definition, and simultaneously claim everyday manifestation of godly intervention with no verifiable result. The correct question is: how do you determine a justified truth in regard to gods existence?

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About Egg Zackly

Retired amateur pundit.
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5 Responses to Presuppositional Questions from Christians Part I

  1. Nicely done! I like how you took it in a different direction.

    I think the ‘deny god’ question presupposes that God exists but we supposedly ignore or deny its existence so we can do what we want.

    Great post and thanks for the shout out!

    • P Yew says:

      Thanks for the inspiration. I appreciate the visit and kind comments. My hope is to winkle out a small list for our good friends the christians. Although it has been my experience they aren’t keen on participating in things that call their beliefs into question. 😉

  2. Pingback: Presuppositional Questions From #Christians Part II | Consigliere Del Papa

  3. Pingback: Questions for Atheists? Answers for Everyone! | Shame on The Universe

  4. Pingback: On Some Questions for Atheists | The Caveat Lector

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