Pete Enns wants to also try his hand at the “Atheism requires faith!” game

Pete Enns, Ph.D., has a novel idea! He thinks that maybe not believing in God takes as much faith as believing in God!

No one can know that God exists in the sense of proof or logical demonstration. Rather, people of faith believe God exists for all sorts of reasons that can’t be laid out in a spreadsheet or observed through a telescope.

Atheists are in exactly the same boat.

What holds true for religious people when they talk about God holds for atheists when they talk about not-God.

See? You can’t do a proof or a “logical demonstration” that God exists, so believers don’t really “know”. They just “believe”. It’s the same for atheism!

Enns, Ph.D., says that believing or disbelieving in God is a different kind of thing than believing “that fire will reduce a book to ashes, that there are billions of galaxies in the universe, or that gravity works”. According to his logic, those things are known for certain, and it’s not possible to know anything about the existence of God to a similar degree of certainty.

Oh, but then that’s the phrase that Enns, Ph.D., leaves out: degree of certainty.

He’s right that it’s a different thing for me (as an atheist) to say I don’t think God exists than it would be to say that fire burns paper. Probability-wise, I’d say the chances that fire burns paper are around 999,999 out of 1,000,000. Comparatively, my certainty that the Bible is not a direct translation of a message from an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent, personal God who created everything that exists is probably more like 999 out of 1000. Why do I give the God claim less weight? It’s because of the evidence I’m basing my claim on — which, if need be, could absolutely be laid out in a spreadsheet.

Enns does briefly admit that “some real live atheists” only claim to disbelieve because atheism “explain[s] their reality” better than theism. He promptly files this knowledge under the “belief” column of his belief/knowledge dichotomy without ever addressing that maybe these same live atheists also believe fire burns paper for similar, explanatory reasons.

He is missing the point. All knowledge is belief, and no belief is certain — something Enns actually acknowledges in a digression about the principle of uniformity. All beliefs are judged by their ability to explain our observations. So I must confess that, yes, I do feel that my disbelief in God is intellectually superior to others’ belief in God. The reason is that I (try to) apply the same standard to it that I do to all my other beliefs, while the religious clearly do not.

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