The Childishness of Atheistic Hyper-skepticism.

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There is always a healthy level of skepticism but, like everything else, it can be abused. Note that this is a line widely associated with the atheist comedian George Carlin. I’ve come to know, having reviewed Carlin before, that he is widely known for saying dumb things without thinking. That’s not to suggest that Carlin himself is dumb, but rather that what he says is. But it is also worth noting that many atheists espouse this hyper-skepticism; a skepticism that is taken to the extreme and thus is irrational.

If, for example, a fellow Christian told me that he experienced a miracle, I’d like to question him on it (is it consistent with what the Bible, that he believes is God inspired, reveals? Has he seen anything else that is similar? Does his explanation have a natural cause, or is it overtly supernatural?). I’d also like to ask other eyewitnesses about this event, and hopefully get cross corroboration (did others see it? Are these other people accessible for me to question? Are they describing the same event, even though from differing perspectives). If multiple eyewitnesses confirm this event then I can feel justified believing that God acted in a miraculous way with a decent amount of certainty. In this way I am not blindly accepting the testimony of others; I am remaining open while letting testimonial evidence speak for itself. This, though only one example, is how I view a healthy sense of skepticism. It’s neither closing one’s mind off to evidence, nor is it blindly accepting it.

However, a hyper-skeptical way of thinking by many atheists is illogical. They say to “question everything.” Well? Where does questioning everything actually stop? Does it stop with moral realism? Or how the physical universe popped into existence from literally nothing? What about the atheists own atheistic dogma? Does that deserve to be questioned, or is it just the things that the atheist doesn’t agree with? Probably the latter. What if I feel that I have better reasons for believing that the external world exists, rather than it simply being an imaginative projection in my own mind? At what point am I to stop questioning this, or anything else for that matter?

I also don’t intend to call atheists childish though their hyper-skepticism is, but at the same time not all atheists are hyper-skeptics. This well reminds me of one interview the agnostic New Testament historian, and widely known Christian skeptic, Bart Ehrman had on an atheist show. The atheist, whoever “The Infidel Guy” is, would ask Ehrman a question, and in this case it was on Pauline authorship. Scholars know that several of the New Testament letters attributed to Paul are authentic, and that they (no matter their personal ideologies) have really good reasons for believing why this is the case. But no matter how Ehrman would answer, from a standard scholarly point of view, this atheist host would repeatedly ask “how do you actually actually know that?” This interview eventually got to a point where I actually asked what the hell I was doing listening to it. Any engagement with Ehrman on an intellectual level was squandered (whether that engagement be about his skeptical position or not), and it reminded me of that childhood game many of us used to play when we were young:

Child: “Why you going to work?”
Father: “Because it keeps me busy.”
Child: “Why?”
Father: “Because it’s important.”
Child: “Why?”
Father: “For us to live happy lives.”
Child: “Why?”

In this way this atheist has failed to intellectually mature from childhood in manner through which he views, investigates & critiques worldviews. It’s the “adult” version of the Why Game we used to play. This is not intended to undermine healthy skepticism, nor is it intended to insult the atheist. Rather, it is to drive home the point that hyper-skepticism is irrational and that it’s not applied by the atheist consistently; although some atheists might think that it’s the in thing to do. So, sure, question things for yourself but, like with everything else, do so responsibly…

6 responses to “The Childishness of Atheistic Hyper-skepticism.

  1. Excellent post. In my opinion I question things out of curiosity. It’s in me, in my personality. I want to know more, I desire knowledge. Maybe that’s the case with most hyper skeptics? They might be in some sort of quest for knowledge.

    • I’d say being on a quest for knowledge, to know more, is a product of an attempt at rational thinking. Which I don’t believe hyper-skepticism is. Hyper-skepticism is a presupposition that one imposes one evidence, therefore its not an attempt to be objective.

      But at some point one has to realize that they have better reasons for believing X over Y. That’s how worldviews work, they are a lens through which we view reality, and we have to, at some point, claim to believe X or Y. It’s impossible not to have a worldview that makes unverifiable assumptions. At what point does the hyper-skeptic stop “questioning everything”?

      However, I’d wander if the hyper-skeptic was at all hyper-skeptical about his hyper-skepticism. It’s basically the hyper-skeptic being skeptical about everything else, except for what he believes. This demonstrates that to be a hyper-skeptic who questions everything is impossible.

  2. But according to you, if I believe X over Y, It’s because I’m rebelling againsgt god and not looking at the evidence objectively. You are basically saying that if I don’t believe in god it’s because I’m hyper-skeptical. There is only one conclusion that a person should accept in your mind if they are being honest. All other conclusions are false. Isn’t that calling the kettle calling the pot black?

    • “But according to you, if I believe X over Y, It’s because I’m rebelling against god and not looking at the evidence objectively.”

      -It’s possible that how one views looking at evidence objectively, is not actually objective. In that way the alleged objectivity that one claims in investigation may be an illusion. Also, it’s possible, that if the Christian God exists, that looking at something objectively (something that takes one away from belief in God) is not actually being objective. That would, in my mind follow, if God has revealed enough himself in the world to make belief in him rational. To not believe in what he’s revealed would thus be rebellion even though one claims that their position in unbelief comes from “objective investigation.”

      “You are basically saying that if I don’t believe in god it’s because I’m hyper-skeptical”

      -Not necessarily. Hyper-skepticism is irrational regardless of the subject, whether that be focused on God or a sport.

      “There is only one conclusion that a person should accept in your mind if they are being honest.”

      -One may be honestly mistaken, and think that what they believe is true. I could even be honestly mistaken in my belief in Christianity. But I don’t see why one considering the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, for example, would not be convinced of it unless they did not want to believe.

      “All other conclusions are false.”

      -If Jesus was resurrected from the dead then yes. Christianity is exclusive, like atheism is exclusive too,

  3. ‘First, question everything’ doesn’t literally mean ‘question EVERYTHING.’ It is worded this way because mottos are supposed to be pithy, and that’s what this is. Second, it is worded this way because the exceptions to ‘EVERYTHING’ are self-evident (not to everyone, but to those for whom this is a motto). Third, it is worded this way because to delineate the exceptions (for the benefit of those for whom it is _not_ a motto) would invite questions requiring lengthy explanations – explanations unnecessary for those for whom it _is_ a motto.

    Consider the motto “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Can’t think of any exceptions to that? How about this one:

    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, unless you are going to kill yourself.”

    I can think of literally hundreds of other exceptions.

    Should we delineate them all?

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