Best Atheist Objections to Theism

Intentionality= The direction within mental processes.

Example: Think about your wife. Are your thoughts directed at her? If so, you have an example of intentionality.

Not a spooky definition, and quite honestly, not at all hard to understand. It is a special kind of teleology, which is, in aristotelian definitions, a directedness toward something (e.g. the ball to the ground because of gravity, medicine toward certain receptors in order to achieve certain effects etc.). Teleology, at its most basic form, can be found in every material process. Intentionality concerns directions within mental processes. The question, and the difficulty for naturalistic philosophers, is to eliminate the intentionality and bring it down to a mere material process.
This is also why in the context you bring it up in your last comment

you´re actually not making, but missing the point. The intentionality you are elaborating on is meaningless, as long as we don´t assume that the mind is a computer and therefor reducible to the material process (which is also not a premise, but it must be argued for).
This is also why I don´t recognize you as having made any explanation about which intentionality (as if there were anything other than the specific defintion) you believe in. Because you haven´t made any meaningful statement with that definition in mind, as far as I can see.
Simple: Does direction in your thoughts exist? Do you have the ability to think about something? Then intentionality exists and the metaphysical consequences from that premise follow. If not, then not, then there are other consequences.
This is what I have been outlining my points with, which is why your confusion is a mystery to me (or maybe not, remember the Rosenberg-quote?).

The rest follows tomorrow, particularly about your misunderstanding of the different ontological status between software and hardware.

Nope. I can think of her even when I have no idea where she is and even if she isn’t anywhere so direction has nothing to do with it. What we mostly have in our thoughts are connections. I can think of her name and/or face and connect it with an attribute of beauty or with a feeling of love. So no, I don’t see that thoughts are “directed at things” they are simply OF things.

Or is that what you mean… that intentionality simply means that we can think of things, because I certainly think that we can do that, but all this requires is the memory of names, faces, sounds, etc. We can recall those memories and we call that thinking of those things remembered and it does not mean that the thing itself or one of Plato’s abstract universal essences somehow entered into the brain. This is demonstrable because the memories often don’t match up to the realities which they are supposedly about.

I don’t think the word “direction” is helping your argument. Teleology has to do with purpose and motivation – a future aim as a cause for something. And goal oriented problem solving is something that computers can do very very very well – all in a perfectly mechanical process. Yes, these goals are typically programmed in by the programmer, but that is only because we want them to achieve a goal which serves our interests. The fact is that the goals don’t have to programmed in. They can be randomly constructed and the iterative learning process will still have a goal even if it is not something any of us would consider useful.

This has no different meaning than to say that I think something. So this word “about” serves no substantive function in that statement. I can certainly dwell on a particular subject in my thoughts, but that simply means I am having many thoughts of that particular thing making many connections to other things. And do I intend to have those thoughts? Certainly, but that is talking about something rather different than what you seem to be talking about. That is the sort of thing I am referring to when I speak of intentionality – the fact that living organisms do things for their own reasons.

Since my answer was no to your questions then apparently I don’t think the intentionality you speak of exists, but I certainly think that the intentionality which I speak of exists.

What confusion? Are you equating thinking differently than you do with confusion? Or is it your failure to communicate (which you measure by your failure to convince) which you are calling confusion? Does this point to some rigidity in your way of thinking?

By the way… I watched a rather interesting video clip of Jordan Peterson commenting on Sam Harris and the discussions they have been having. And I don’t disagree with Jordan Peterson when he says that I doesn’t believe atheism will lead to rationality. I am inclined to think he is right.

This reminded me of something I wanted to reply to one of DoKo’s comments but forgot…

I despise rationalism.

I think this idea that you can derive everything from logic and reason alone is delusional. Logic can only take you from premises to conclusions. But then where do the premises come from? They are of a necessity accepted with some degree of faith.


I think what unites atheists and theists, with few exceptions, is desire to know and follow the truth. From my experience and understanding, we differ on the methodology in determining what is true.

Theism relies on faith, defined as belief in the unseen and untestable, whereas atheism doesn’t require faith. Even a theist is an atheist when it comes to other Gods (ie Zeus, Thor, Baal, etc). Atheists just disbelieve one more God.

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Metaphysical arguments are more like mathematical equations than scientific experiments. One does not have to apply the scientific method to God, unless one is arguing for God from scientific cosmology, which I do not do, nor does Ed Feser, or Aristotle, Avicenna, Maimonides or Aquinas.

As for the ‘I just reject one more God than you’ objection, I am writing a blog post on this. This objection misses the mark for two reasons:

  1. According to the classical theist conception of God, which me, @DoKo, and most historical Jews, Christians and Muslims hold to, God cannot even in principle belong to any specific or genetic grouping, so cannot be grouped together with other gods which may or may not exist. If there was a God species, or genus, this would have to be a part of God, when God is simple, a prior state acting on God, when God is necessary, and must have some unactualised potential distinguishing it from other species, when God is purely actual.

  2. God is a god in name only. Unlike the gods of Greek, Egyptian, Babylonian, etc mythology, the God of Classical Theism (and indeed theistic personalism) has no theogony, no specific attributes, like Athena, goddess of wisdom (instead having ‘all’ attributes in one), no body or temporal dwelling place, no anthropomorphisms, and omnipotence, omniscient, omnibenevolence, etc, which the gods of mythology lacked.

Heck, even the Hindus make a distinction between God (Brahman), and the gods like Ganesh, Krishna and Kali, who are more like Judeo-Christian Angels.

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Absolutely. Not only that, but both are very much concerned with and motivated by the questions of what is right and moral. If anything, atheists are more thoughtful in this regard because they are not simply parroting claims about what is moral but looking for the reasons why to understand what is right and wrong.

Nonsense! The basic facts of logic as I just explained doesn’t change for atheists. Let me repeat it: logic can ONLY take one from premises accepted on faith to conclusions. Thus atheists of necessity rely on faith just as much as theists do. Denials only prove they are delusional and lacking in rationality, and the number of atheists spouting irrational rhetoric which is demonstrably false has been increasing rapidly as atheism becomes more popular.

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Is your concept of God testable or not? Ie can it be falsified? I agree all ideas about God are different but I would submit an untestable God is no different than the Gods of antiquity. The modern idea of God is cloaked into a more sophisticated language.

This is a false dichotomy. Similar to the popular misconception that the only two positions in the philosophy of mind are materialism and dualism, so when one rejects the former one adheres to a position like the ghost in the machine.
So when I say that I despise fideism and you despise rationalism, we´re probably not talking about the school of rationalism as it has been defined by Leibniz.
To illustrate what I mean, let´s take three versions of the Principle of Sufficient Reason:

  1. Leibnizian version: There is an explanation for every aspect of an object, it´s existence, attributes and abilities.
  2. Pruss´s version: It is possible for every contingent fact that there is an explanation
    The difference looks trivial, but is very important. Pruss and Gale created the “weak PSR” as part of his rationalist cosmological argument for the existence of God, and, given some necessary further premises, this weak PSR terminates into a necessary fact underlying everything. An explanation is not necessarily given, but possible.
  3. Version required for Aquinas´ Third way: There is an explanation for the existence of every object.

I agree with every of those thinkers that there are no unintelligible brute facts. There is no aspect of reality which in principle lacks any explanation for its state and existence. The denial of those kinds of brute facts is what the PSR and the rationalist position entails.
Note that I made no reference to science, logic or mathematics. The position doesn´t require the explanations being of one of those kinds. This would also be incoherent since science very much presupposes metaphysical premises in order to function in the first place. Hell, the rationalist doesn´t even have to assume that the explanations are open to us. No, we only state that there is such an explanation, nevermind if we could never reach it due to biological restrictions in the cognitive faculties or if the concept of theoretical science become some abstract that noone understands them. It is only required that an Explanation. Is. Possible.
This is also why the fideism you draw when contrasting it to the rationalist position you describe is not fideistic at all. We can have a look at the doctrines of Catholicism to understand why. One doctrine is that the existence of God can be proven through the intellect. And fideism is condemned.
In theory you can reject the former while still holding onto the latter. Because fideism puts believe in the first place, while letting reason behind. This however isn´t given if you have any real reason to hold to the believes you have. You might have bad philosophical reasons, but maybe due to experience, have other reasons to keep the faith.
And faith is the keyword here. It means trust. Ergo if you have any reasons you judge to be good, then you don´t profess fideism. The latter is mere belief.

The same principle applies to your last part. There are some premises which reason can´t touch and which have to be accepted by faith. I agree. Of course I do.
Reason needs premises which it has to presuppose in order to run in the first place. These include:

  • Law of non-contradiction: “A is B” and “A is not B” are mutually exclusive
  • Law of excluded middle: Every proposition is either true or false
  • There is objective knowledge to be gained about the external world

This premises aren´t provable. But they are supported by everyday experience. Not a fideistic position. It is the same with the premise that consciousness exists. Not provable, but accepted (mostly), since we experience it all the time.
And this is where we make a full circle. Though it is obvious that it isn´t open to us, the premises underlie our entire thinking, the rationalist claims that there is a explanation for why the phenomenon “consciousness” exists. Or why the laws mentioned above hold. For because if there weren´t any such explanation, why would we expect them to hold constantly at all?

Yes and yes. Show the logical inconsistencies or why the being drawn out in the ontological argument is a logical impossiblity and you have successfully disproven any kind of deity

I don’t understand what you mean. Let’s say there is a believer who claims the moon has blue cheese, based on faith and some revelation. Is everyone who disagrees with this claim (ie blue cheese on moon) relying on faith just as the original claimant?

The weakness in this kind of example is that the metaphorical theist is being given a position any sane person knows to be wrong.
So if you want to be polemical, congratulations. But it doesn´t function in an example

Please forgive my ignorance, but I assumed the original post was about theism and not deism. Even Dawkins admitted that he could possibly be convinced that Deism is true.

The being outlined in the traditional arguments is incompatible with any deistic entity since our entire existence is dependend on it.

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The only dichotomy here is in your imagination. I never said any such thing as you are responding to so I will let your imagination respond to this latest post of yours.

Oh and just to be clear… and I have never said that I espouse fideism. Though I would say and have often said something easily taken to be fideism. All knowledge is ultimately founded to some degree or another upon faith.

I am now looking at the stanford enclopedia article to see if there is anything in their description which I have a problem with.

well that was quick

Alvin Plantinga has noted that fideism can be defined as an “exclusive or basic reliance upon faith alone, accompanied by a consequent disparagement of reason and utilized especially in the pursuit of philosophical or religious truth” Correspondingly, Plantinga writes, a fideist is someone who “urges reliance on faith rather than reason, in matters philosophical and religious” and who “may go on to disparage and denigrate reason”

I despise fideism as defined by Plantinga also.

I guess I will have to research Deism because up to now I thought that is exactly what Deism claims too.

Excuse me? I said “I despise fideism”. You said “I despise rationalism” and ascribed the following position to me and I quote

I explained what the rationalists position is and I even went out of my way to illustrate why the rationalist agrees with your last part and what he would add. So your tone is rather inappropriate. Also I don´t just write for us two, but also for silent readers on this topic. So not everything I describe in my comments is necessarily an attack on you, but is there for the purpose to outline positions some are not familiar with.

I quote

I know that you are quite creative when it comes to defintions and use of certain terms. So I may have misread your views. But I´d say you have some guilt in there too. Especially when contrasting “fideism” and “rationalism” as you did above.

I agree.

Deism is the position that God created in the past, but now the existence of the creation is independent from him. He is at best watching us. Our (mine and @Reggie_O_Donoghue) position is that if it weren´t for God to constantly sustain reality, we´d go out of existence immediately.

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I don´t just write for us two, but also for silent readers on this topic. I also don’t take what other people post as being all about me unless they specifically say it is about me.

Ah yes the dreamer god of pan(en)theism, where we are nothing but figments of his imagination.

There is also the theistic position where God actually creates something real that can exist independently but where He participates in an active relationship with what He has created.

Mitchell, panentheism requires the material reality to be a part of God. This is incompatible with divine simplicity as it is outlined by the cosmological arguments since matter is contingent and undergoes change. God´s essence which sustains reality is the existence which holds reality up. Wouldn´t you agree that one must be familiar with concepts before dismissing them? Then why don´t you follow this pretty uncontroversial standard?

Neither Augustine, Aquinas, Mamoinedes, al-Ghazali nor Leibniz, Scotus, Avicienna or Suarez would accept panentheism. Quite frankly, the concept doesn´t make sense. So your mockery only displays ignorance about church history and the views of the great scholars.

Sure there is. But merely drawing that picture doesn´t help. I´d need to see the argument which has lead to that conclusion, otherwise I can´t consider it and the proposition becomes worthless. This position also makes statements about what the nature of “existence” is. Throwing around ideas without offering any hint on the metaphysical construct underlying it, muddies the water and doesn´t help cleaning up conceptual confusion.

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