Atheism & Theism Compared

Atheism & Theism Compared


When the staunch atheist confronts the question of atheism & idealism, an apparent conflict, s/he encounters a bit of trouble WRT to the perennial debate about the ontological status of numbers. Are they discovered, or invented?

Pertaining to the real or ideal question, numbers fall betwixt and between. What is a number? It’s the ultimate marker. Because numbers firmly mark position, a function that affiliates strongly with time, space, energy, motion, direction, volume and momentum, they’re indispensable to science which, for the past three centuries or so, has firmly planted itself within the realist-physicalist camp. Problematically, numbers don’t grow on trees. Clearly, numbers are an abstract, mental construction and yet, they are essential to myriad foundational operations within the real world of empirical experience.

If one says numbers are discovered, then such person lands somewhere in the vicinity of the objective idealism camp. Abstracts objects that, nevertheless, are out there in the objective world of experience hark back to Plato’s Theory of Forms.

If one says numbers are invented, then such person lands somewhere in the vicinity of the subjective idealism camp. Abstract objects, originating in the cognitive operations of mind, hark back to Berkeley’s Immaterialism.

The two above choices pose a problem for the atheist because any type of idealism, being, cognitively speaking, the express lane to theism, looms as a threat to the purity of the atheist, many of whom are realist-physicalist scientists who count numbers as essential.

The Comprehension Restriction

If we think of theism as a whole, logically, we can represent this whole as an all-inclusive set that encompasses all theisms. This is the set of all theisms.

All-inclusive sets allow us to make generalizations in the form of categorical statements. However, categorical statements don’t always lead to valid generalizations.

At the start of the twentieth century, British mathematician Bertrand Russell discovered, along with others, a limit to set-theoretical generalizations. Regarding the set of all sets not members of themselves, if left unrestricted in scope, it terminates in paradox.

Let R = {x ∣x ∉ x}, then R ∈ R ⇐⇒ R ∉ R

If the set doesn’t belong to the set, then it belongs to the set

If the set does belong to the set, then it doesn’t belong to the set.

The theistic parallel to Russell’s Paradox is what you get if you try to refute all theisms by way of a refutation set with no comprehension restrictions.

*Regarding the set of all theisms not members of themselves,

If it is not a member of itself then,

It is a member of itself> it is a theism

If it is a member of itself then,

It is not a member of itself>l it is a not-theism

*A theism that is not a member of itself i.e., not a theism, is a not-theism, as in, “doesn’t exist.”

** In this parallel to Russell’s Paradox, the paradoxical switch, in addition to alternating between member of itself/not a member of itself, also alternates between theism/not-theism.

Just as a set cannot simultaneously be a member of itself and not be a member of itself, a theism cannot simultaneously be a theism and not be a theism.

The necessity of the comprehension restriction tells us that, regarding set theory, there can be no categorical inclusion set that encompasses an entire category and, likewise, there can be no categorical refutation set that refutes an entire category.

In application, this tells us that there is no inclusion set of all sets that are not members of themselves and, likewise, there is no refutation set of all sets that are not members of themselves.

Talking specifically, this means there can be no wholesale, set-theoretical refutation of all possible theisms.

Each specific theism must be refuted individually.

Conclusion – Atheism is a theory of not-theism. If offers no categorical refutation of theism as a whole. Instead, it strives to refute logically, every instance of physicalist evidence claiming to prove theism.

Therefore, atheism, like theism, is an article of faith. As the theist seeks evidence of a cosmic, teleological sentience, the atheist seeks refutation of a cosmic, teleological sentience.

Transcendence Is Essential

By inference from the above, neither theism, nor atheism, at the physicalist-materialist level of existence, can be a sufficient, stand-alone category. Neither category, alone, constitutes reality.

Sufficiency of being requires transcendence of being & transcendence of self across a spectrum that incorporates the empirical universe & the transcendent Logos of deity.

Moreover, this transcendence is bi-directional. The logos of deity needs the physicalist-materialist manifestation of its will no less than its material beings need Logos.

The connection between material being, let us say human, & Logos, effects a mystical duality that subsumes all upwardly dimensional evolutions of reality.

At the level of science, upwardly dimensional evolutions of reality will manifest themselves as stages of increasing empirical complexity.

Monism – Solipsism*

*Note On Solipsism Being a variety of Idealism, solipsism, through Idealism, links atheism to itself.

… Language can only exist and have meaning in relation to the empirical world and social/linguistic habits of communities of language-users. — Seppo

Seppo’s description of language absent cosmic, teleological sentience equals SYNECDOCHE for cosmic monism-solipsism. The rejection of Logos leads to separatism in cosmic solitude. Matter evolves upward dimensionally to the status of a conscious self with no dialogue between that physicalist-materialist self and a cosmically transcendent source. Dialogue with other humans doesn’t break this solitude as the cosmic dialogue between self & other is between categorical human & transcendent deity.

The monist cognition of atheism is stoic, as human, by nature, wants to talk to the creation as a whole. The demands of human nature don’t stop there. Human wants creation to talk back. Human wants to experience cosmic dialogue. The essential gravity of sentience is other sentience. Sentience-to-sentience, on the cosmic scale of self & other, alone can satisfy the soul.

The theism-atheism dialectic boils down to the dualism of sentience-to-sentience vs. the monism of sentience upwardly evolved from non-teleological matter.

The monism-solipsism of realist-physicalist atheism and, therefore, of humanity, as viewed through this POV, is the result of expunging the upwardly dimensional (i.e., beyond three-dimensional reality) presence i.e., deity from existence.

Theism says human is mystically connected to the upwardly dimensional, divine presence which is transcendently real & transcendently sentient. Through this connection, human, in turn (as above in heaven, so below on earth) becomes transcendently real & transcendently sentient.

The chief attribute of this connection is, arguably, faith.

Put in everyday language, faith (vis-à-vis the material world) is the unseen window in a room without windows.

Life, then, under theism, is never completely containable as material substance. It begins in transcendence & whilst it persists, endures in the transcendence of sentience-to-sentience. This is the explicit stance of Neo-Platonists & Christians.

For the atheist, sentient life is only upwardly evolved, and thus upwardly dimensional from matter, but is not transcendently real & is not transcendently sentient. There is no trans-rationality of faith. There is only rationality. If the room has no windows, there is no way out. This is the rationality of physicalism-realism.

And yet, QM continues to pose challenges to this. QM is upwardly dimensionalizing 3-space articulation, thereby reducing its finality.

Jesus, being claimed as the physical manifestation of God, obligates atheists to refute the resurrection of Jesus as God in the flesh.

Since atheism denies the resurrection of Jesus on the cross, it must refute verbal evidence handed across two millennia with contrary evidence, say, another verbal account, contemporaneous with the crucifixion of Jesus.

If human understanding leads to reason-logic-truth, wherein the advent of human has no prior, cosmic, teleological sentience as its cause, but rather follows from a numerical probability of animate physical processes combined absent intent, then the forces driving history & evolution forward are probability and self. This is cosmic monism wherein animal kingdom, with human apex, forms a monist universe arisen probabilistically.

It doesn’t matter if the self takes human form, or some other form. Still, there is only one categorical self. Under the rubric of atheism, the universe is both monist & solipsistic. To be clear, under atheistic evolution, monism-solipsism prevails in the relationship between the collective self and its circumambient universe. Interrelationship between individual instances of selves has no bearing on this.

This monist universe of self-willed human stands in distinction from the binary universe of God-the-other and human, united in the cosmic mystery of LOVE.

Solipsism of Atheism 1 – It’s due to human consciousness being a probabilistically evolved sentience vis-à-vis its circumambient cosmos, or generative matrix. There is only a probabilistically evolved and then self-willed & self-directed self. There is no pre-existing cosmic sentience intending the human self into being. This is a MONIST universe WRT sentience.

Human sentience intended into being via a pre-existing cosmic sentience i.e., God, forms a DUALIST universe WRT to sentience.

Solipsism of Atheism 2 – The physical universe, by including a possible combination of factors that lead to sentience, provides physical evidence that allows recognition of the universe as neutral on the question of cosmic, teleological sentience. This cosmic duality is the essential component of LOVE. Its structure consists in the SELF-OTHER dynamical relationship.

This innate possibility for cosmic duality, through human acknowledgement, leads to the essential component of LOVE. Its structure obtains in the SELF-OTHER dynamical relationship.

To deny cosmic neutrality on the possibility of teleological sentience ordaining the advent of human sentience as a mathematical probability, atheism must postulate a physicalist universe wherein no possible combination of physical factors leading to sentience exists.

Since the agent of this project must necessarily be a sentient being, it’s doomed from the start.

The default option for atheism is to propound a theory featuring an auto-expansion of sentience paralleling the Big Bang.

This is an argument over whether possible combinations of physical factors that prove to be sentience-bearing only occur absent intent. If these combinations can be described & therefore predicted according to mathematical probabilities, then they are not randomly occurring.

The atheism project to deny a cosmic & teleological sentience can, at best, stipulate a paradoxical atheism since the agent of the project, a non-randomly evolved human sentience exists as a contradiction to its own project.

In a solipsistic universe of a monist self, probabilistically evolved and, at some point, self-directed in its upward evolution, LOVE is narcissistic.

This seems like a long manifesto about your worldview. Most people aren’t going to slog through it. What question would you like people to discuss?


I second @Christy’s suggestion. Could you boil this down to one or two questions?

As one of the resident atheists, I do have some general comments. Atheism isn’t some large ideology or belief system. Atheism is just a lack of belief in deities. Nothing more, nothing less. Many of us atheists gladly admit that God could exist, but we lack belief because we have yet to see compelling evidence that God does exist. However, many of us do adhere to a simple form of skepticism, so we are sensitive to logical fallacies such as shifting the burden of proof and arguments from ignorance. If someone says that something exists it is up to the claimant to supply the evidence. The burden isn’t placed on the skeptic to disprove someone’s claim.


Hello Christy & T_aquaticus,

Your comments are challenging to me in a good way.

I want to boil down my statement to the following:

Claim - Human wants to talk to creation as a whole, by means of a dialogue, and this entails creation talking back. Awareness to awareness.

Question - Do others think belief in deity makes this possible, whereas non-belief makes this impossible?

I’m confused. Is nature the deity? Also, people who don’t believe in a god can still have dialogue with other creatures.


Atheists don’t believe in deities, and we seem to be able to talk to one another just fine.

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Deity means the God recognized by Christians. To elaborate a bit further, I’m referring to the God of the Father_Son_Holy Ghost trinity.

Do you talk to creation as a whole? Does creation talk back to you? If so, does creation tell you what it expects of you? Do you haggle with creation for what you want?

I think there are some humans who don’t want to talk to God and feel life is quite complete communing with other humans who are physically present in ways God is not.


No and No.

No to both of those as well.


The OP certainly makes a lot of claims about atheism which are wrong and considerable correction is very much warranted… but… I can make a correction of your claim about atheism also.

Incorrect. It is more.

Atheism is a conclusion about the existence of God or gods. It may be no more than the the conclusion that the reasons for believing that such a thing(s) exist is insufficient. But it is more than a simply a lack of belief in deities.

The difference is in the conclusion about the average atheist. Is the average atheist simply uneducated and ignorant about the question of God’s existence? Your definition says yes. My definition says no! So why would atheists prop up such a definition? Because the atheists wants to put the burden of proof on the theist and make their own a default position for a theocracy. And THAT is a symptom of ideology where they want to force their way of thinking on everyone else. Yeah you find this more often in the religious. But like we concluded in the other thread… atheism is not an antidote for all the bad human practices of irrationality, bias, and evil, no more than is the case for theism.

No. The definition of atheism has nothing to do with the resurrection of Jesus.

Now, I certainly deny the resurrection of Jesus on the cross. Jesus died on the cross. He was resurrected three days later after His body was in the tomb… IF the resurrection can even be given a time and place at all. I certainly never heard of any portion of Christianity who thought Jesus was resurrected on the cross and many who would be quite opposed to the idea. Since I believe according to Paul in 1 Cor 15, I am less opposed… for perhaps it was a spiritual event and cannot really be given a time and place.

Hmmm… One could even make a theory about the origin of God belief (as @MarkD is always seeking) from this… a nearly pervasive habit of human thinking which talks to and haggles with the world, wondering what it expects of us.

No… the stance of Neo-Platonist Christians… that portion of Christianity which decided to go with Gnosticism and the Plato branch of pagan philosophy… something which many Christians like myself are very opposed. I like Aristotle but absolutely abhor Plato, and I certainly repudiate the Neoplatonist dualism and the confusion of the mind with the spiritual.

And In a hyper-rationalized world life becomes schizophrenic.

I used to think about the same but now I have no confidence anyone means exactly the same thing when they speak of gods, either within or without organized religion. I don’t think there is any kind of bodiless entity who maintains a pipeline to everyone’s most intimate thoughts and feelings and occasionally grants favors in an untraceable manner. I see no reason to believe that. But I do think we all have a pipeline to something more within, albeit not necessarily something all powerful or all knowing, and most likely not something person like in the way that we are persons. It would probably be best not to treat God belief as an empirical matter, and any description of what we believe it to be should probably be prefaced with “it is as though …” to acknowledge the futility of reducing it to any set of explicit facts.

I’m afraid that denies some explicit facts.

I didn’t realize a hair could be split so thinly.

My main point is that atheism doesn’t necessarily include all of the larger philosophical worldviews that @ucarr was assigning to atheists.

The burden of proof does lie with theists. They are the one claiming God exists, so the burden of proof lies with them.

Paraphrasing Steven Weinberg, with or without religion we would have bad people doing bad things and good people doing good things.

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We have good evidence. The acceptance or denial of it, if that’s a burden, lies with the unbeliever.

The quality of the evidence also lies with the person making the claim.

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That may have been a sideways insult? You have seen a couple of examples, actually a couple of sets of examples, that most would think are compelling if they weren’t biased against the idea. (Even some Christians are biased against the idea of God’s active providence.)

Not at all. It was just a general statement that it is up to the claimant to provide quality evidence.

I don’t find unverifiable claims to be that compelling.

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I’m sorry you don’t accept honest firsthand reporting of objective events as in a scientist’s field journal. (Actually, I think that is a rather lame excuse for ignoring the forensic data at a scene which cannot be reconstructed.)

I don’t accept firsthand accounts from a scientist’s field journal as reliable evidence. What I do accept is data derived from experiments with published methods and conclusions drawn from data that is publicly available.


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