Compare Theism and Atheism

There are a number of ways that we can compare theism and atheism. In a debate that is increasingly politicised, in the USA at least, it is important to understand the objective or emotion of any person who is engaged in such a debate. This post is a brief look at the charge levelled against atheists that they too are expressing religiousness.

The simple view would be that to compare theism and atheism is trivial as one side (theism) offers a position of belief, whilst the other (atheism) counters with the negation or rejection of that belief. However, there are a number of different ways we can make a comparison particularly when we see either side stray from the real notion of what they are in fact supporting or denying.

Emphasised in earlier posts has been the point that theism is the assertion that there is a God who exists separately from the universe that he has created. Atheism is the denial of this claim. This is the “in a nutshell” definition of what theism and atheism entails.

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Theism vs. Atheism

Though Darwin didn’t casually forsake his religious faith, many of his scientific descendents have been much less reticent to equate evolutionary theory with atheism. Indeed, many theists see their religious belief system as incompatible with evolution; consequently the theism vs. atheism debate is often fought in the theory of evolution arena. This is unfortunate as the idea of evolution has no bearing on the claim that God does or does not exist. Evolution no more proves that God does not exist than gravitational theory.

Theism is at its most embarrassing and cringe worthiness when it adopts a contrary position to evolutionary theory. It plucks out of the air a ridiculous idea called creationism and subverts its own self by imposing the artificial claim on the bible that it is some kind of ancient scientific text. Any value that the bible has is immediately lost as it is used to propose an alternative unscientific account of the creation of the universe.

At a stroke, creationism turns what was once a sacred text into a competing scientific treatise. It was never the intention of the biblical authors to create a mundane scientific document, yet today that is what the most determined literalists insist it should be. If we are to view the bible as something which should be of scientific interest then we completely miss the intentions of the biblical writers.

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Verification and Falsification

The process of science is undertaken through two similar but distinct paths; verification and falsification. The two, though different, have more similarities than they have differences. Verification and falsification are based on two strands of knowing something; these are empirical data and rationality.

Empirical knowledge is basically that knowledge which is presented to our senses. Direct empirical knowledge is generally considered reliable and so is a route to knowledge. If I can report that there is a white thing in front of me that appears to have the characteristics of a wall, then it is reasonable to assume that I am standing in front of a wall.
Taking a step away from this direct knowledge does lead us away from certainty. For example, if I was to claim that yesterday I had a wall experience then I am adding another category of explanation to my wall experience, that of memory. A remembered experience is not as reliable as a current experience. But a current sensory experience is one of the best and most reliable chunks of knowledge that we can have.

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