Ian S Markham wrote Against Atheism, Why Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris are fundamentally wrong.

The main point of the book is that their atheism worries about right and wrong and treating people right which seems to be incoherent for you need a God in order to understand properly what morality is. So the argument is that unless you agree with Nietzsche, that compassion and love are nonsense so seek power instead, you are not a proper atheist.

The book in fairness does show that the fruits of Christian religion for most of history have not been good and mentions how nobody thought of religions having to tolerate each other until John Locke. That Jesus didn’t either tells us a lot. Rich coming from the religion that said that good fruits were not enough and grapes need to come from thornbushes. And nobody cares either that Jesus’ logic makes this principle more important even than his rising from the dead.

Incidentally, Markham says how Walter Kaufmann showed that the notion that Nietzsche was Hitler’s favoured philosopher is untrue. He does not tell us then that the justification Hitler came up with must have come from Christianity, albeit liberal Christianity, for what else did he have to do it with?

The book then tries to say that morality tells you there is a God.

“Embedded in the word ‘ought’ is the sense of a moral fact transcending our life and world. So when I say, ‘I really ought to go to my son’s baseball game’, I don’t mean that I want to go. I mean that something is compelling me. – The ought has an external feel. It is as if something outside is making me behave in a certain way.-Slavery is wrong. Now we do not mean by this that we – personally – dislike slavery; we mean that universally the practice should be prohibited. The underlying character of moral language implies something external and universal.”

The external feel of morality and language is what makes them binding so you cannot just change them at whim. But that means that if refusing to steal is not about wanting not to steal but feeling duty bound not to steal that means it is about wanting not to steal but in a different way. It is disingenuous of our author to argue the way he does. He is making morality nonsense even if just in a different way from now Nietzsche did. It's turned into a form of hypocrisy and is not just an absurdity like Nietzsche would call it. Now what does the book say about him?

I am glad he used the example of going to the baseball game. While it would be hardly polite not to go, it is not a moral matter. There is no duty to go. The feeling is not reliable. Not going does not stop you being fair and loving. Who is anybody or anything to tell you that you are obligated to go? Or that you should suffer as a matter of justice if you do not go? Your son wants you to go because you want to not because of this forced stuff.

That is the bottom line. The feeling of being ruled is not like a voice of God. Its goodness has a bad side so it is grey not good and sometimes it is evil. It is never consistent. I could as easily feel it is my duty not to go for I want to have a well-earned rest.

Life experience not just argumentation is what shows the moral argument for God or the helpfulness of the idea of God is wrong.

Nietzsche said that logic was superstition for when a thought comes it is about when it wants not when I want. A thought just comes so it is wrong to say “I think.” You are not the agent but the recipient of the thought. The author still maintains that a thought cannot be a material thing or a property of material things so it comes from something that is not matter, “something spiritual”.

Markham says, "Materialism, then, is absurd.  A thought cannot be a material thing, nor can it be caused by a material thing, nor can it be the property of a material thing.  The only possible conclusion is that thought as such is something independent of matter, that is, something spiritual".

This is in fact all you need to think about if deciding if materialism is right or not.

The mistake here is that as a thought is not like a brick it is not material but that does not follow.

What a thought is does not change the fact that thoughts treat us like machines. They just invade.

Whatever causes them does not respect us or is not about respecting us. That is the point that really matters.

Talking about spirits by default means we should be scared out of our wits. That is worse than just nature pulling strings for at least we know what it is like.

Only tests and science could show if a thought cannot be CAUSED by a material being or thing.  A thought being without parts or composition or physicality does not necessarily mean it has no essential connection to the physical.   We do not really know what the physical means anyway very well.  The table is mostly empty space.  We know that from physics.  Talk about the physical tends to be wrapped up mostly in what the physical does and how the senses pick it up but apart from that we don't know much.  So he should be agnostic in this.  And also with the question if a thought can be a property of a material thing.  Thought can be independent of matter as we know it but how independent?  Independence is a spectrum a lot of the time.  Thought  can be some kind of matter that we don't detect while being independent of matter as we know it.

If a thought were really spiritual it would not prove the important thing that we are spirits or that we can live after death or live forever if we can make it beyond the grave.   It would not prove that it is possible that there is a God, the spirit who brings all things into being.  You cannot use a spoonful of sugar to prove that there must be a universe made of sugar.  Proving a spirit does not prove there is such a thing as one that can create.  You cannot show any spirit has the power to create matter.

Materialism is plainly simpler and has less problems than Markham and his excursion into fundamentalism and arrogance would have us believe.

Nietzsche said that life has no meaning so we have to impose our own meaning. Imposing it implies that whether the meaning is love or even God we are using our violent instinct to do it. If we just impose that is one thing but if we start using the idea of a God backing us up that is adding more violence in. It is like putting meat on the bones of the imposing. It is putting armour on the violence and giving it extra weapons. We would hope the mild violence is what we will stop at. God and so on and prayers and other gimmicks are a refusal to stop there.

The author says that Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris, “resent deeply any suggestion that morality is difficult to justify on a non-religious basis.” If their anger is that deep then they are bad people. Sin is called missing the mark and the sinner is driven by good intentions. So if they feel good that makes no difference. The implication is that the three atheists are trying to miss the mark by having a morality without the God who alone justifies morality. They are sinners. Our author is a hypocrite for saying atheists are good though they don’t see they have no reason to be. If the three atheists are annoyed then it is because they know they are wrong and hate God.

“Although I am delighted that there are moral atheists, my fear is that they will start thinking and cease using moral categories.” The book has pointed out that most contradictions are indirect. They exist because if the person was too obvious about them they would be seen through immediately. The book points out that Nietzsche who said that moral rules mean nothing or the world is without God and thus without logic or validity or meaning. There is just science and mechanics. A machine cannot have morals. Morals are not remotely relevant to the machine. He said that everything is all psychology and preferences.

The author shows that Dawkins and co think of God not as being about everything but as an add on that you can discard and it makes no real difference. They do. He correctly argues that Nietzsche realised that everything changes when you abandon God. God by definition should be the being who makes all and who deserves all our hearts. But Dawkins and co are still denying God by turning him into an accessory. So they are different from Nietzsche but not essentially different.

We are reminded of how Descartes argued that there could be a higher power that makes us think that 2 and 2 are 4 but the kept writing as if that was not going to put him off. This reminds of how Nietzsche saw logic and therefore morality as illusions but kept writing too. If logic and morality still force us even if we abandon them or debunk them does it really matter what we think grounds or validates them? No. It only matters to those who wish to feel they control us. They want to weaponise the internal forcing that is hardwired into us.

“Science depends on uncertainty: science cannot prove – with certainty – the existence of the external world.” So, “it simply assumes its reality”.

The author says that Dawkins by preaching materialism in the name of science is not being a biologist any more but a philosopher. But everything is philosophy even if just bad philosophy. And it is possible that materialism is science even if we cannot prove it yet.

The book says that the universe is about 15 billion light years in example and this seems a terrible waste if we are the only life there is. “The surprising answer is that conscious life originates from carbon-based molecules, which are born out of the ashes of dying stars.” The idea then that God’s creative energy instead of planning the path of least resistance took the path of most resistance!

The book then criticises the multiverse theory. But surely a universe in which we virtually do not register means there could be a virtually endless series of other universes? One complaint is that multiverses “cannot be falsified: they are completely resistant to the empirical facts. This is a far cry from the normal kind of explanation sought in science.”

Christians reject the idea that a theory is not a theory unless it says, “Do x or y or z to prove me false. If I say I’m sure of x then I am saying non-x is false so if you verify non-x you refute me.” This is called falsification. If something is claiming to be true then it is by default claiming that some things will prove it false. If it does not tell us or help us with the possible disproofs then it is an ideology not a theory. Yet they use falsification against the multiverse theory. Why? Because the theory is about explaining how the universe seems so orderly. They know that it is trying to be an alternative to a designer or a God. They bitterly oppose falsification in everything else!

The atheist says the Christian won't admit there must be some kind of evil that would refute God's care for his creation and thus his existence.  So faith is non-falsifiable.  It opposes falsification.  Christians then may say, "The atheist won't admit there is some kind of good that shows that God exists and shows that no evil is relevant to showing he does not."

The difference is that evil is the experience that you are at the mercy of harmful forces - alone!  No matter how much love surrounds you, you can still be alone but not if there is a God for God makes all things.  The Christian is looking at the good that happens to somebody else and deciding it must mean there is a God.  That is just theorising. Atheists experience all kinds of good and see nothing that screams, "God is here".   Evil has the stronger voice for it is about experience.

The Christians even try to say, “God or what he does is not subject to falsification theory”. It does not make sense to say the multiverse must be subjected to falsification when your aim is to get rid of a threat to God. If you want to show God is possible or probable then you will want falsification applied to multiverse theory. So if falsification applies to the rivals to God then indirectly it matters to God theory. If you avoid applying falsification theory directly to God that does not change the fact that it ties in with it indirectly. Indirect at times can matter more than direct.

The book says that God letting such a vast amount of evil is insurmountable and says the Christian answer is just to offer God suffering as Jesus on the cross not an attempted answer. Why just Jesus? What if God has become man or human being more than once? This is all about asking you to be touched by what happened to Jesus as if a Jewish child undergoing worse in Nazi Germany cannot centre how you feel about and approach evil. It is really dealing with evil with more evil.

The book says that God is love and this should attract people to God. Unpack that. It is true we all want to be loved. We need to receive love and we need to love. It’s a package and there is no getting away from that. Despite the sacrificial side and terrible risks that come with love we have to love. We have to for we live in a dangerous world. So we want love yes but not as in wanting ice cream. We want it as in survival. The Christian teaching that you cannot have the power to love unless you can also be violent and dangerous seems to tell us that too. Our author tells us we need that evil potential to be able to love. But it is not the same thing. Our needing to respond to a threatening life in a threatening universe is different from saying we are made to be potentially bad or good. One is about surviving and the other is about testing. Without belief in God, we would not be making out the power to be bad is a gift. A gift is to be celebrated whether it is used for good or not so you see the horror that God belief implies.

The book says that sin is an act of denial of our dependence on others and on God and on the environment and thus is “deeply irrational.” Really? Being cut off works as a temporary measure. The self-sufficient person will meet something that ends their independence. But that does not mean that what they did before was wrong for them. You can feel great trying to live forever. You will die but the journey can be the goal.

Markham criticises Darwinian arguments for altruism for why not “be selfish when one can be undetected?” The best way to achieve such selfishness is to decide to line up to God so that what you think God wants is what you want too. It is foolproof.  The Christian belief in a merciful God would suggest that secret evil will be treated better than obvious evil that corrupts everybody else.  If human nature is built in such a way that it cares only what other humans think then even belief in God cannot override nature.  It fits how even believers confess they are often selfish when they think no other human knows.

We conclude that the book is refreshing in admitting nobody can think of an answer as to how God can be good while people suffer and it is really built around the idea of the moral argument for God – ie that if there is no God you can do nothing to show love, compassion or justice really mean anything. Its argument is wrong for it says something about these things forces them on us. That remains intact in most of us and that is all that matters. In other words, if it is the force we want it does not matter if we cannot justify morality. Realising that is not going to change anything. If faith in God gives us the values what are we doing with scriptures that are plainly evil? Needing faith in God does not amount to needing religion.

18 2 2021 amazon review

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