Monday, April 21, 2014

Are Atheists Intellectually Dishonest?

I've been involved in online discussions / debates with atheists for some time now, and one thing that I've found is that many atheists can be intellectually dishonest in their debate tactics. Not all atheists are like that, but a significant proportion of them.

It could be said that all professed unbelievers are being intellectually dishonest in a sense because of their suppression of the truth as it says in Romans chapter 1. But what I'm wanting to look at here is those atheists who are unwilling or unable to engage in an honest discussion with Christians.

I think that the dishonest tactics become much more obvious when atheists are faced with a presuppositional apologetic approach because they know that they don't have good answers to defend their atheistic beliefs at a foundational level.

Again and again I find atheists resort to insults and evasive tactics.
One of my "admirers" using a whole bunch of logical fallacies, insults, and dishonest tactics crammed into one short post.

As for evasive tactics - avoiding questions and stonewalling is a common resort of those who have no good answers but don't want to admit that this is the case or look at the fact that their worldview is fundamentally flawed. Wikipedia has a good page on the art of evasion under the title of Question Dodging Many atheists will be very familiar with this art (taken from Wikipedia):

The form of a dodged question, this example being "Why are you here?", could be:
  • Refusing to answer ("No comment.")
  • Changing the subject ("Your shoelace is undone.")
  • Explaining redundant things to distract one's focus ("Well I arrived here 10 minutes ago and I decided that...")
  • Creating an excuse not to answer ("I'm feeling sick, I can't answer now.")
  • Repeating the question ("Why are you here?")
  • Answering the question with another question ("Why do you think I'm here?")
  • Answering things that weren't asked ("I'm in the corridor.")
  • Questioning the question ("Are you sure that's relevant?")
  • Challenging the question ("You assume I am here for a reason.")
  • Giving an answer in the wrong context ("Because I was born.")

I also found this interesting web page which includes a list of 54 intellectually dishonest debate tactics. I think I've seen pretty much all of the 54 used by atheists, but some of the more common ones would be:

1. Name-calling (e.g calling creationists "cretards")
2. Changing the subject (evasively avoiding difficult questions)
24. Theatrical fake laughter or sighs (e.g. You believe that? Lol)
40. Mockery (e.g. Christians are idiots)
45. Claiming well-defined words are ill-defined (E.g. God)

One example I've encountered recently of someone who uses evasive and dishonest tactics would be Atheist Lee (See my blog here and one of our Google plus discussions here). I tried again and again to get straight answers from her on Google plus, but was met continually with a barrage of insults and evasion of the issues. I asked her repeatedly if she could be wrong about everything she claims to know - and she gave an answer that was a non-answer talking about how she could be wrong about many things and how science is supposedly constantly refining her beliefs. I never did get an answer as to whether she knows ANYTHING at all for certain.

The other thing to point out too is that when atheists do this they are being consistent with their worldview which has no moral absolutes. Why not lie if there is no God holding you accountable? If truth is not a priority for you, but merely keeping your ego intact, then why not use dishonest tactics? This is a fundamental difference between Christians and professed atheists - for the Christian one of the highest priorities in any discussion is truth - but for the atheist their highest priority is usually winning the debate and protecting their ego.

In relation to this, a good book I read years ago was 'People of the Lie' by M Scott Peck. While I don't endorse everything he says or believes, the book was an eye opener for me in helping me to more clearly realise how some people actually prefer living a life founded on lies and self-deception - those kind of people have no interest in finding truth or growing as a person.

The Bible warns that in the last days we will see an increase in those who hate God and hate truth in 2 Timothy 3:1-9

"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,  treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—  having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.  Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone."

An example of some intellectually dishonest atheists
(Note - Another dishonest atheist tactic is twisting Bible verses and taking them out of context in order to make a strawman argument - so here is some further explanation about the above Bible passage. When this passage above says, "Have nothing to do with such people" it does not follow that it is wrong to interact with any atheists in order to try to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. (Christians are commanded to preach the gospel to the lost - e.g. Mark 16:15). Most atheists are not abusive, slanderous, brutal etc as described in the passage from 2 Timothy. But if through interactions it becomes clear that a professed atheist is being abusive and has no interest in an honest discussion, that is when I ban them. For more on the issue of Christians' reasons for banning see this blog by Dr Purdom here.)

At the end of the day professed atheists who use evasive and dishonest tactics to avoid engaging presuppositionalists (or any Christian) in open and honest discussions are just exposing the bankruptcy of their worldview. Avoiding questions and then mocking presuppositionalists does not equal winning a debate - no matter how much you claim that that is the case.

Professed atheists will argue that Christians use dishonest tactics too. I don't believe this to be the case, but if it were the case we would be acting inconsistently to what the Bible teaches. In contrast when atheists behave dishonestly they are being consistent with their worldview that has no moral absolutes - no God to guide them or motivate them to be respectful or honest in their behaviour.

I'd also like to point out that this particular blog post is not attempting to prove that God exists. The proof that God exists is not that Christians are morally superior to atheists. From a human perspective many professed atheists may even be much better people than many Christians - but that's not the issue. The proof that God exists is that without him you could not prove anything. (See my website here for proof that God exists).

(For further examples of intellectually dishonest atheists in action see my blog post The Realistic Nihilist.)

Further Reading:


  1. //Why are you here?//

    I am here to argue, it is that simple. Consider it an exercise in critical thinking, if you will.

    //The other thing to point out too is that when atheists do this they are being consistent with their worldview which has no moral absolutes.//

    My worldview certainly does have moral absolutes. And I am an atheist, surprise! I would be more than happy to unpack my moral theory for you, if you wish?

    //Why not lie if there is no God holding you accountable?//

    I do lie, but only some of the time. And it is immoral, regardless if a God exists or not.

    //If truth is not a priority for you, but merely keeping your ego intact, then why not use dishonest tactics? //

    Because truth does matter to me...

  2. Hi Origin. Absolute morality cannot be accounted for adequately without God. If there is no God then morality just becomes personal preference and majority opinion on the level of which flavour ice cream you prefer. The fact that you agree that lying is immoral but can't account for absolute morality without God is evidence of the kind of intellectual dishonesty I'm talking about. How do you get absolute morality without God? You've arbitrarily asserted that you can get morality without God, but that's all it is - an arbitrary assertion.

    I think I've asked you before Origin, but let me ask you again for the sake of clarifying things again between us and for the sake of those reading - could you be wrong about everything you claim to know? (You've made a lot of knowledge claims in the above post and I want to see if you can account for knowledge).

    1. Why does truth matter to you? Do you believe in absolute truth?

    2. What is truth according to your worldview?

    3. Morality is a consequence of autonomous agents. <---Account, ie this is why the concept exists...

      And no, I can not possibly be wrong about everything I claim to know. All things which exist must necessarily exist in some manner, even a god.

      //Why does truth matter to you? Do you believe in absolute truth?//

      Because I value the truth when it comes to certain matters, no other reason. I do believe that there are states of affairs that are necessarily consistent, and some that are not.

      //What is truth according to your worldview?//

      An accurate/correct statement about a particular, or a set of particular states of affairs.

    4. @Origin. You said you could account for moral absolutes, but have given a description of relative morals.

      You said truth matters to you but have given no reason why you value it. (You gave a circular answer)

      You said truth is that which is correct but have no way of knowing for certain what is correct about anything.

    5. This looks like fun! Do you mind if I jump in?

      I'll answer some of your questions from my point of view:

      1. Why does truth matter to you?
      2. Do you believe in absolute truth?
      3. What is truth according to your worldview?

      1. Because truth tells us what is, and therefore gives us understanding, which then allows us to predict, reason, and react in an (usually) advantageous manner.

      2. No, though for all-intents-and-purposes logic works like this because we have no way to see outside our worldview. If something can be proven logically, then it must be absolutely true (at least for all-intents-and-purposes) because for it to be refuted you would have to use a tool that is illogical. And if it is illogical it is, by definition, not logically consistent. If we find a single example of logical inconsistency that is actually correct, then the entire logic system has to be thrown out and everything we have ever assumed - every tiny detail - is wrong. We have 14 billion years of evidence that logic has stayed consistent - it hasn't let us down once in all that time. It would be quite the feat to show it to be wrong... and it bends the mind to try and consider how you could prove logic itself wrong.
      tl;dr Yes, logical statements are absolutely true.

      3. A logically true and consistent statement is truth.

    6. No, Brendan, what I have given you is an account for a contingent, not relative, phenomena. Do you understand the difference between these words and what they mean? Serious question.

      I value the truth because I am the only thing, as far as I am aware that can make these sorts of decisions for myself. Does God inform you about everything you should value? Does god tell you that you should value surfing over not surfing? Or does he only inform you about the philosophical bits of life?

      I did NOT say 'truth is that which is correct...' I said 'An accurate/correct statement about a particular, or a set of particular states of affairs.'

      Please do take your time to understand what I am saying...

  3. I don't think Origin gets what a moral absolute is. ;-)

  4. I get the impression "BANNING!" or censoring from webpages is one of the more common presuppositionalist tactics in dealing with skeptical or opposing views?
    **...along with nonsensical claims of "dodging the question" (WITHOUT being able to specify what specific question was dodged!!)
    **...also incoherent, repetitive, stonewalling claims along the lines of: "but you haven't explained how it's possible you can know anything!" when in fact the issue HAS been addressed...

    1. Hi Neil. Banning is required at times in order that we don't waste our time dealing with people who've firmly made up their minds and have no real interest in truth or knowing God. As for censoring - yes - I censor out abusive and intellectually dishonest or arbitrary comments. We could go on for a long time trying to determine whether or not things have or haven't been addressed but I'm not really interested in playing that game. Commenting on my blog, facebook page, or website is a privilege and not a right. If you want to start your own website or page arguing for your worldview then you are welcome to do that.

    2. Most banning is the result of people just plain mocking, swearing, and being generally abusive - and others are banned for being evasive and making arbitrary claims without adequately supporting their own worldview - the latter of which was the case with you Neil. If you want to debate Christians that is fine, but I'm not interested in debating with you as it seems clear to me that it wouldn't achieve anything.

    3. QUOTE: ….”others are banned for being evasive and making arbitrary claims without adequately supporting their own worldview - the latter of which was the case with you Neil.”
      > Sorry you need to be more specific with this and show an example(s), please.

      QUOTE: “If you want to debate Christians that is fine, but I'm not interested in debating with you as it seems clear to me that it wouldn't achieve anything.”

      >This sounds like an admission of defeat.

  5. I see all of those behaviours from creationists.

    1. "I see all of those behaviours from creationists." Tu quoque fallacy. Even if it *is* true, it's a distraction from the main point.

    2. @Quasarsphere - I find that hard to believe. What evidence do you have to back up that assertion where you personally have been sworn at or sworn about? When was the last time you were sworn at by a creationist? I don't think I've ever seen a creationist swearing at an opponent, but it's a very regular thing for atheists to swear at their opponents - and when they do that kind of thing they are acting consistently with their worldview, whereas if a Christian were to abuse people they'd be acting inconsistently with theirs.

  6. Hardly original. Accusations of supposed "Intellectual dishonesty" are often used as an arbitrary wildcard against any skepticism toward presuppositionalism. It seems ANY skeptical inquiry can be dismissed with a convenient arbitrary assertion that the person making it is "being less than honest, intellectually"......

    1. If you observe my discussions and debates you'll see I don't arbitrarily dismiss honest skeptical inquiry and I don't write off all challengers by calling them dishonest. I'm also not saying that all atheists use intellectually dishonest tactics. Many atheists are kind, polite, and honest in their debating tactics, however, I have found that a significant number of professed atheists are rude and dishonest in their tactics - and when they do that they are acting consistently with their worldview.

  7. Most of the Internet atheists I have encountered are obstreperous. They will attack the person instead of the argument, and offer distractions. I have a stalker that insists that I am lying ("Listen to me, Norman. I am lying!" - from "I, Mudd", Star Trek). His proof? Assertion that he said so, but he does not have supernatural powers to be able to prove my intent or the intellectual acumen to be able to prove it, so he becomes the liar himself.

    So many people do not use their reasoning abilities, they "think" with their emotions. These atheists and many evolutionists will not only "reason" with emotions, they also attempt to manipulate and distract. There are times when atheists will leave comments and attack the Christians and/or creationists, saying how they are smarter than we are because they are atheists (which is a form of the genetic fallacy). I have pointed out that someone claiming to be smarter than we are committed multiple logical fallacies in his opening salvo. Some will even justify their fallacies with more fallacies. One reason I'm hated, I believe, is because I will not let someone build an argument on fallacies, assertions, unargued philosophical biases and so on. They also dislike to be kept on topic, as changing the subject helps illustrate.

    A basic education in logical fallacies will help Christians realize that atheist bluster has no substance, and they are more intent on personal attacks, emotional manipulation (including intimidation) and being in control than in having a rational discussion.

    1. Excellent point on becoming versed in *logical fallacies*!!! When mentoring those who are new in faith, it also helps greatly to COMPLETELY IGNORE or trash altogether any distinction between FORMAL vs INFORMAL fallacies! Informal (perceived) fallacies can be modified, developed, or clarified to a state of soundness through argumentation, dialectic and supporting outside evidence or facts - - you certainly didn't hear me say that, now did you... ;<)

    2. Your abusive, smug, illogical comments are why you were banned from The Question Evolution Project.

  8. "Are Atheists Intellectually Dishonest?" Interesting question from a man who censors any dissent.

    1. "censors any dissent" - Absolute statement - refuted by posting your dissenting comment.

  9. Posts a verse telling one not to have anything to do with people of character this blog associates with atheists; engages with atheists on the internet. Hypocrisy, or irony? You decide.

    1. Hi JD. I've addressed your comment by adding a note to the blog under the verse you are referring to. The key is understanding the verse in its actual context and also having a good knowledge of the rest of the Bible so that one can use scripture to interpret scripture. Unfortunately many dishonest atheists don't care about taking verses in context and delight in twisting bible verses to raise a strawman argument.

  10. This is a spoof blog? No one in their right mind could believe in this fairytails... It's like grownups believing that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or Unicorns is real.

    1. Please note my commenting policy. I usually don't bother responding to these kind of comments and just delete them, but because this blog is about intellectual dishonesty I've included the comment as being a good example of the kind of dishonest tactics that atheists use. Here you've used condescension and mocking but not made any actual substantive points that address the issues in any way. As your comment is totally arbitrary I could just insert atheism and turn it back on you:

      You've made a spoof comment right? No one in their right mind could believe in the the fairytale of atheism and evolution. You believe that logic, rationality, morality, and the universe itself came from nothing? You probably believe that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and unicorns are real too.

  11. "1. Because truth tells us what is, and therefore gives us understanding, which then allows us to predict, reason, and react in an (usually) advantageous manner."
    That sounds like someone ascribing personality to a non-personal. Requiring God as a personal truth it seems.

    1. Correct - they've used the fallacy of reification. Truth doesn't "tell" us anything, unless professed unbelievers believe as the Christian does that ultimate truth is found in Jesus Christ who said that he is the way the truth and the life - but then if they believed that they wouldn't be an unbeliever any more.

    2. if truth is personal then its arbitary and subjective Bee

  12. "This is a spoof blog? No one in their right mind could believe in this fairytails... It's like grownups believing that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or Unicorns is real."

    Way to prove the original point.

  13. "I see all of those behaviours from creationists."
    Ouch. You got me. Someone seems to be running for the title of Catty Comentating Queen.