In this on-going debate regarding the existence of an all-powerful consciousness, Michael Poole takes on what he believes is the crux of the Atheist argument. He chooses ten statements believed to be the main argument in favor of Atheism and then attempts to refute each of them. He admits early on that this refutation is based on the Judeo-Christian concept of a monotheistic deity.
This particular point seems to leave the author open to more criticism than if there were more of a general refutation. On the surface, this would seem to provide a good dialogue for both sides to consider the arguments of each. Unfortunately, because of the specificity of his critiques, he seems to fall into the same traps as those he claims the “New Atheists” do when making their arguments.
The basic ideas that he ascribes to Atheism focus mainly on their critiques of religion itself. He uses merely anecdotal evidence and very little time on the actual refutation of the invalidity of the idea of faith, in itself, being a flawed concept. He does not take the time to properly identify what the definition of an Atheist is and why he is refuting this idea.
The problem with this is that there are legitimate refutations of some of the arguments made by Atheists, and it is not necessary to misstate them in order to refute them. Yet, the arguments are not such that one particular religion can be raised above another. There is no need to be defensive regarding one’s particular religion. They all have similar requirements of faith which cannot be individually refuted, as things without evidence that can be replicated, cannot be disproved any more than any other anecdotal claim.
Similar Arguments from Atheists and Religionists
There are, incidentally, similar arguments used by both Atheists and Religionists which are brought up by this book. For example, the first argument that he claims Atheists use is: “Religious People Do Bad Things.” This self-same argument is often used by Religionists in their claim that Atheists do bad things, as well. Unfortunately, the only reasonable conclusion is that all people do bad things, regardless of their faith or lack thereof.
In other statements, he misstates a common argument regarding religion and then similarly accuses it of misrepresenting what Religionists actually do believe. For example, the second argument he claims Atheists state is, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” The problem here is that the real argument from Atheists is that “Faith is believing that for which you have no evidence.” There’s an important distinction between the two statements which has to do with the actual definition of Atheism.
Atheism does not refute the existence of one god over another.
It merely states that there is no god for which there is more evidence than another. It is not the “faith” that there is no god but merely the absence of evidence of any god. There would be many happy converts to any religion which could provide evidence for the existence of their god. It’s the fact that they require evidence in place of belief which is the sticking point. So, the idea that people of various religions require faith at all is the real issue, not the belief, which is false.
It is these types of simplistic paring down of the statements which causes them to lose the essence of their meaning and therefore open up, even unintentionally, straw man arguments. For an actual dialogue between those of faith and those who require evidence, there should, at the very least, be close attention to detail regarding both the wording of the debated material and the essence of what is intended.
This is where the major failing of this book lies. These are important conversations that cannot be had by cute quips. There needs to be a real attempt by both sides to understand what is intended before making quick judgments and arguments.