Do Atheists Exist? by Ralf Stüttgen

September 26, 2009 at 12:33 am (philosophy, theology) (, , , , , , )

Three sages: Dave, Ralf, Pete, in a reflective disposition

Three sages: Dave, Ralf, Pete, in a reflective disposition

Ralf Stüttgen
Ralf Stüttgen

People who call themselves atheists say, “God does not exist.” But, do atheists exist? – a matter of definition. If you define God as existence, the reality in which we live, as truth, love, justice, helpfulness, honesty, logic, as a set of general concepts, then there are probably no atheists. Not many people doubt the reality around themselves. However, if you imagine God as a picture-book god, with a white beard and long robes, parked above the clouds, you are right in rejecting such an image. It is the same as not believing in Santa Claus.

Yet, there is a meaning of atheist, that is very real. This is, in traditional terminology, the sinner , the person who objects to the truth, who opposes love, who does not want to obey his or her conscience, who would like to insist on a lie. And this type of atheist is everyone of us.



1 Comment

  1. Antony said,


    Asking whether atheists exist does not seem a useful question. Prior questions pose themselves: a semantic phase, where each interlocuter states the question in his terms, not in another’s terms, which he might reject. These different ways of putting a question, if we establish them, need to be kept in play, otherwise each person is talking to himself and talking at others. The art of dialectic enables one to do this.

    Once the correspondence or lack of it between one person’s use of a term and another person’s use of the same term has been established, they can then proceed to the second phase, inquiry, which deals with the real problem, assuming that the interlocuters have agreed one exists.

    Belief in god is a practical question for me. I take a stand about it, and it leads me to speak, think and feel and act. So, telling a self-confessed atheist that he does not make sense is a personal attack.

    Treating the issue theoretically involves one in definition of terms, statement of basic rational principles and the strategy of proof, which leads to difficult technical issues. A friend, with whom I studied, wrote his thesis (which Princeton University Press published) on proofs to the existence of god beginning from the phenomenon of motion. He dealt with proofs given by Aristotle, Cicero, Newton and Hegel, all giving different meanings to the same terms, employing different methods of proof and concluding the existence of a reality which most people would find ambiguous. Horses for courses.

    Over the years I have found argument increasingly useless. The process, which I have outlined above, demands effort and patience, virtues often lacking in so-called religious discussions.



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