Friday, December 11, 2015

A pseudo-intellectual loathing of atheism


Joseph G. Trabbic, an associate professor of philosophy at Ave Maria University has penned The Gods of Atheism for Crisis Magazine. Dr. Trabbic is a Thomas Aquinas scholar — and it shows. The problem with Thomism is the insistence of the Church and devotees that it reflects truth beyond debate. This ignores the fact that, what was philosophical in the 13th century, might be subtectable to  scientific determination today. It also overlooks the fact that Thomism is full of religious mysticism.


The title is unoriginal. The Gods of Atheism is a 1971 book written by the late Jesuit priest and philosopher, Vincent Miceli. Miceli and Trabbic are both doctoral products of Fordham University.

Dr. Trabbic, provides a lengthy polemic. Why are these folks always so verbose? I have highlighted just a few paragraphs:
A standard distinction is made between theoretical and practical atheism. In this context “theoretical” means what people officially profess and “practical” refers to how they actually live their lives. Theoretical atheists, then, are people who expressly deny the existence of any gods and practical atheists are people who live as if there are no gods.
Practical atheism (apatheism) is subject, in some respects, to the judgment of someone else (like Trabbic).  Who is to say whether or not someone is living as if there are, or are not, gods? I'm uncertain whether making a distinction is either necessary or productive.
Thinking of the divine and religion in the way suggested by Tillich (supplemented by Aristotle and Aquinas), we see that some obvious problems arise for both theoretical and practical atheism.

The problem for atheism at the theoretical level consists in having to admit that everyone, including theoretical atheists, has a god and, hence, is religious in some plausible sense. However, theoretical atheists can still go on arguing (whether they can do so successfully is another question) that nothing exists that truly deserves the name “God” even if everyone lives as if there were and cannot do otherwise.
Nice try Doc. A god, by definition, is a deity with supernatural powers, sometimes referred to as “a higher power.” Religious people believe that deities require worship which is a demonstration of respect and adoration for the deity (apparently their god is insecure). Prayer is a request to the deity (or saints) for supernatural intervention. “God save us from [fill in the blank]” People are asking us to pray for Robert George who has been hospitalized with a serious heart condition. An agnostic doctor will probably be more effective.

Atheists neither seek nor require gods. Atheists are not religious in any sense whatsoever. Trabbic needs to create a problem:
The problem for atheism at a practical level is far more devastating, to put it mildly. If the reasoning that I have been urging is cogent, then practical atheism is simply not possible. Ultimate concern (or having highest goods) is unavoidable. So, no one can be an atheist, practically speaking.
“Highest goods” is probably a reference to Aristotle who wrote that “the highest good is happiness.” It has been my personal observation that religious conservatives often appear to be unhappy. I don't blame them because their jealous god is always pissed off about something. If the god is pissed then they aare pissed at whatever their god doesn't like.

Atheists find it more productive to consider how their actions affect others rather than the supposed wrath of God. Making a deity happy, or at least happy enough not to fear him, seems like a waste of time and energy. At the other end, some very religious people have proved to be extremely evil. The religious blame Satan who seems to be a god, with supernatural powers, who deserves only fear. Adherents are often called upon to be participants in a battle between good and evil where good means devotion to the religion which may, or may not, be actual good.

We gays are often portrayed as evil incarnate, part of a demonic conspiracy to steal your kids and do other nasty things. I used to be on the edge in that I had some belief in God tempered by pragmatism. The battle for marriage equality pushed me over the edge to atheism or Secular Humanism if you prefer.

Shabbat candles are lit this evening at 5:14 pm ;-)

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