An Inconsistent Set of Propositions

Some atheists are eliminative materialists and they hold that common-sense mental states, like beliefs, don’t really exist.

Following in the footsteps of the late Anthony Flew (1984) many atheists now prefer to define atheism as a lack of belief in God rather than as the affirmation of the stronger claim that God does not exist. Atheism as a lack of belief in God can encompass both agnostic atheism and stronger atheistic claims. But framing atheism as a lack of belief in God means that the atheist shoulders no burden of proof.

However, it should be noted that a large portion of the world’s population rejects atheism in favor of some form of theism.

So the following three propositions cannot all be true at the same time:

(1) Eliminative Materialism is the case and beliefs don’t really exist.

(2) Atheism is a lack of belief in God.

(3) Some humans are not atheists.

Clearly if (1) and (2) were true, then everyone would be an atheist, which would entail the falsity of (3). But, it seems quite obvious to me that (3) is true. So, I’d have to say that either eliminative materialism is false, or say that atheism is not really a lack of belief in God.

Since you can’t have all three, which proposition(s) will you reject?


Posted on July 11, 2013, in Atheism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Words have meaning. It takes a certain arrogance to disregard the accepted meaning of words for personal convenience. The DK Illustrated Oxford Dictionary defines atheism as follows: the theory or belief that God does not exist. Proposition 2 is clearly false, since it uses and incorrect definition of atheism.


  2. (2) is false because a person can lack a belief in God at Tn without in any meaningful sense be an atheist. Think of theists in comatose or a Christian who has lost her memories due to head injury and can not thereafter remember that she used to believe in God. It seems false to say they are at this moment atheists.


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