It is encouraging to see, paraphrasing Mark Twain, that the death of philosophical discussion about the existence of God has been greatly exaggerated.
In response to Mr. North’s Jan. 20, 2016 letter:
(1) atheism does make the truth claim “there is no God”. To propose “an atheist is one who doesn’t pretend to know God exists” is confusing atheism with agnosticism. Atheism is a stronger claim; if it isn’t, atheism is a world view that says nothing and has nothing to say.
(2) Mr. North’s uncited use of Bertrand Russell’s celestial teapot caricature of theism is curious, as even a careless, disinterested reader would note I didn’t concede there was no evidence for God’s existence (c.f., Fred Hoyle’s “a super intelligence has monkeyed with physics, biology and chemistry”).
Mr. North’s eagerness to use a set-piece argument failed to alert him to its ineffectuality and the erroneous assumptions that followed. Besides, Russell’s argument works just as easily in the opposite direction; the use of an absurd premise adds nothing to the logic.
Consider the opposite challenge: could a believer disprove the non-existence of the coelacanth? Is the non-believer justified in the belief based on a dearth of evidence? Anyone’s guess, right up to the day one is caught (in South Africa, 1938).
Atheism, in principle, could never be proven correct (you would need to know all that exists to know what doesn’t and that would mean, ironically, you would be God and I doubt He would share your view). Thus, atheism is more of a belief than theism (which could, in principle, be proven correct).
(3) Mr North misses the point again in regard to evil entailing the existence of God.
It does follow, necessarily, that we categorize the acts of ISIS as evil and morally distinct from the acts of Mother Teresa.
Even Richard Dawkins confesses a Godless world is one with “no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” I suggest Friedrich Nietzsche a “good” place to start for an understanding of what a rigorous atheism really means.
Incidentally, Mr. North’s parenthetical “absurd” actually exhibits my correlative point that we naturally find the ramifications of a rigorous atheism repugnant. Why is that?
(5) God does “reveal in concealing” in the same way “absence discloses presence.”
This is a difficult concept. Consider Blaise Pascal’s contemplation: “what can be seen on earth indicates neither the total absence, nor the manifest presence of divinity, but the presence of a hidden God.”
God reveals His otherness, unequivocally, through the human predicament and its subjection “to futility” (Romans 8:20). God is not a projection nor is He after our happiness.
Our lives will slay every god we give ourselves and reveal our spiritual bankruptcy. God knows something is missing, do we?
God is more profound than we can imagine and His challenge to save us from ourselves initially inscrutable.
Consider Isaiah and the depiction of the suffering servant of the Lord who through “what he… experienced… (would) make many to be counted righteous… for what was unthinkable they’ll have right before them… (and) who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?”
Who would have thought, indeed.