Intellectual atheists try to present their main premise as rational, but it is not. For example, the titles of these two best-sellers, The God Delusion and God Is Not Great, advertise clearly the lack of rational thinking in those books. Even an atheist like Terry Eagleton felt compelled to refute such a presentation of atheism. In his book Reason, Faith, and Revelation: Reflections on the God Debate, he did us the service of exposing the irrationality and naive faith in Progress of “Ditchkins,” as he humorously branded the Dawkins-Hitchens duo.

I can speak only of the impression I get from the titles, but judging by what Eagleton and others said, my impression is not false.

God Is Not Great (Christopher Hitchens)

This proposition is simply a contradiction in terms: if there is a God, he is necessarily great, otherwise he would be no god at all. Maybe irony was intended, but it came out rather as mockery, which is not a good predictor of sound philosophy, especially considering the accusatory tone of the rest of the title: How Religion Poisons Everything.

The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins)

The main premise of materialist atheists is that there is nothing to existence but matter and that those who admit the existence of God as creator of the world are delusional. However, the atheist premise is indemonstrable and self-refuting while the God-created world is perfectly rational in sound philosophy (from Aristotle onwards).

It is indemonstrable because it is a negative proposition, and self-refuting because it is the admission of effects without cause. To name the main gaps in causality, order would spring from random and entropy, life from non-living things, superior forms from inferior, thought would arise from beings previously devoid of intellect and, as nothing can come spontaneously to existence from nothingness, the cosmos would be eternal, oscillating from Big Crunch to Big Bang. Only this last one preserves a bit of logic.

There are of course many atheists, Eagleton among them, whose arguments are more refined and seem totally rational, but when examined closely the fundamentals are always at odds with the first axioms of philosophy: existence and movement presuppose a first cause and immutable mover, contingent beings need a necessary pre-existent being, order presupposes finality.

The one under a delusion is the atheist, not the believer in Christ, whose faith is not at odds with reason in the least (except if heretical). This is so because atheism is not in the mind, but in the will. It is only by a decision of the will that man can obscure his mind to believe something untrue, hence real atheism is a kind of reversed faith. Maritain explained that in his works on morals, particularly in the first part of The Range of Reason, a collection of short essays and lectures.


A reader comments as follows:

1- […] There is no logical contradiction between saying “God is great” and “God is not great.” […]

2- […] How is the atheist premise indemonstrable and/or self-defeating? And which one(s) are you talking about? […]

1- We could discuss our respective points ad infinitum and never come to an understanding. I am speaking from a classical theist point of view (Aristotelian-Thomist) and you are at the opposite stance, as exemplified by your take on logical contradictions. Logically, a proposition affirming, and the other denying, the same predicate of the same subject in the same sense are contradictory. One is necessarily true while the other one is false. To pretend otherwise is illogical.

Of course – and I made this proviso – if irony is intended then the subject or the predicate is not taken in the same sense. I guess Mr. Hitchens was really saying that God is not “great” in his “government” of the world because things go so badly and he is supposed to be a benevolent, provident and almighty God. The presence of evil and suffering in the world is indeed one of the two good arguments against God’s existence, but it is answerable and was refuted by St. Thomas in the Summa Theologica 500 years before militant philosophical atheism existed.

2- You ask to which atheist premise I refer. The main premise of your worldview is given in the etymology of the word “a-theism”: without god.

We can give two different meanings to the predicate in “God is great” and “God is not great” and it would not be completely contradictory. But we cannot pretend that the propositions “God exists” and “God does not exist” (or “There is no god”) are not contradictory because there is no predicate here. There is only a subject and a verb (in the alternate form, “there” repeats the subject). So, it can only be true or false.

I briefly summarized in my post the main Aristotelian-Thomist rational ways of demonstrating God’s existence, derived from St. Thomas Aquinas’ famous “five ways, or proofs, to arrive at God’s existence”. The contrary proposition is thus false.

Also, in sound logic, a negative proposition is impossible to prove. All one can do is to prove false or absurd the contrary proposition, if it is indeed false or absurd. And this is not the case here. No atheist, even Karl Marx, the most articulate atheist ever, could disprove God’s existence nor reduce it to absurd. He just replaced the Christian God with History, retained a few Christian values in his system and discarded the others.

As Maritain wrote, real militant atheism is a reversed faith, a substitute to Christian religion. Which one is right? Which one is true? This can be answered only with proper rational thinking, even without the aid of faith. To find and learn rational thinking, one must look elsewhere than in Descartes, Kant, Rousseau, Hegel, Nietzsche and their followers (among them Hitchens and Dawkins). These so-called philosophers do not merit the name of “lovers of wisdom” (philo-sophia) as, proportionately to their estrangement from truth, they have not much bearing on reality and nothing to do with wisdom.


References

Summa theologica: Beware of the form of the Summa (question – objections [usually three] – answer – replies to objections) and take note that the replies to objections at the end of the article are part of the answer.

Vatican II Council constitutions, particularly the ones “On The Church in the Modern World” (Gaudium et Spes), “On Divine Revelation” (Dei Verbum) and “On The Church” (Lumen Gentium), condense remarkably 19 centuries of wisdom and are surprisingly easy to read.

See also the list of references at the bottom of this page.