As I lay in bed trying to go to sleep last night, atheism crossed my mind. Strange, I know, but it occurred to me that an atheist cannot argue against Christianity (or really, just about any form of theism) without first abandoning an atheistic pretense.
Take Epicurus’ failing attempt at being clever: “Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?” (quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief).
Curiously, I saw that quote tied to an image of Epicurus styled as a motivational poster with the tagline “Atheism: Winning since 33 AD.” That’ curious because Epicurus lived several hundred years before that, but given the atheist’s requisite ability to invent truth out of thin air, I guess we can forgive the creator of the image for his oversight, right?
Epicurus’ riddle or paradox or whatever you want to call it presupposes the existence of good.
You see, beginning with a Judeo-Christian understanding of a Sovereign God who works all things according to His Will, there is no “problem of evil.” However, ripping the idea of absolute good from a Judeo-Christian framework and then attempting to marry that idea both with a limited understanding of the world and an erroneous concept of God… well, of course there’s going to be problems with your conclusions. Epicurus, were he a wiser man, would have faulted his own starting points rather than attempting to fault faith in God based upon his conclusions.
So what do I mean when I say that an atheist must abandon his atheistic presuppositions in order to mock, deride, or otherwise challenge the concept of God?
Epicurus’ riddle itself presupposes an absolute measure of moral goodness by which God can be judged, but if there is no God, then who is the arbiter of this measure of goodness? Inevitably, that arbiter is the atheist himself or, perhaps, a grouping of his peers or a majority in whatever culture the atheist is coming from. While only an absolute, transcendent being could arbitrate an absolute, transcendent morality, plenty of atheists claim to be able to do so, effectively making themselves their own gods. Atheism, then, becomes a guise for worshiping the creature rather than the Creator, a system of playing god legitimized by so-called “great thinkers” such as Richard Dawkins or Friedrich Nietzsche.
The difference, an atheist might say, is in theism, one worships a supernatural god whereas in atheism, there is nothing supernatural.
Fair enough, but I think claiming the ability to arbitrate some all-encompassing idea of moral truth is a claim to something supernatural. After all, true naturalistic morality is truly an “anything goes” affair. Eat your young, fight over territory, kill your mate, throw your droppings, attack the weak first.