What the modern materialist atheist basically says amounts to my legless epistemology, upon which nothing that I actually believe stands, proves that you are wrong. Of course, there are exceptions to this — I’ve met a handful of very consistent materialists. They live in a much colder, harsher world than I do, and I have to admit, that world has its own alien beauty to it. Yet, it is not what I would recommend to anyone.
The bulk of materialists are selectively so. They do not strive to apply it to every aspect of their life — for few people can endure such coldness. Rather, they simply employ it when it is time to face one specific genre of argumentation — that of a religious nature — and they put it away when it shifts to ethical and political questions. This actually goes very far in proving what I remember Rudolf Bernet saying at his lecture at KHU in 2015: there really are multiple forms of logic.
Each one of these forms of logic employs its own epistemology and its own flavor. Just as a Catholic and a Protestant employ different logic in their approach to theological truth, so, too, does a person who is a materialist atheist employ a different logic and a different set of standards to claims when they are looking for the existence of God or thinking about who they would like to be the next American President. In a very real sense, the very way that they live their lives shows the shortsightedness of the former argument.
They have this legless epistemology of materialism that they point to when they want to refuse something, and then they have this other, far more robust one that they use for their own standards of truth whenever they have the chance. Of course, if they are pressed hard on this, a good atheist will shrug their shoulders and admit that too much of what they think in category B depends on their gut feeling, and in those circumstances there is little more to do than feel kind of bad for them. There’s some internal wrestling to be done. Of course, they can continue with separate logics — that is natural enough — but it is hardly the ideal way to do things.
The only thing funnier than the cautious materialist atheist that engages in tactical nihilism when it comes to theological issues is the hard, progressive liberal whose epistemology amounts to something along the lines of we can’t really believe in anything beyond mundane scientific facts but here’s my complex ideology about why everyone to the right of me is a racist & wrong. I think these people really live in a world of total inconsistency — but it doesn’t bother them because their inconsistencies are two very separate spheres.
And they rarely have to think about it because it works in separate contexts. It never has to go that far. Every discussion is taken very separately. When you want to argue against a religious person, you can simply argue at length about how there is no proof for anything like that and so we can’t accept it. This is also a convenient line of thought for the left on social issues: unless you can explicitly point to a report showing that 8 year old boys dressing up as drag queens and focusing on their make-up is wrong, I have to just go with my gut here and say that this is wonderful.
Yet, when push comes to shove nobody actually operates in this way.
Human brains were designed to look at things holistically and come to probable conclusions given the things around them. The human mind was not intended to work solely with that which is unquestionably provable — if we did that we would be caught dead, snoozing in our mud hut while the enemy tribe scampered through the bushes, writing off the sounds at dawn as a mere animal rustling about outside because we could not prove to ourselves that we actually need to wake up and prepare for battle.
Given a world that does not have hard, specific, publicly verifiable reasons to believe X, the sane response is not selective nihilism but rather it is hard, long thinking that uses all of the available methods available to come to its conclusions.
Of course, we do not have to all come to the same conclusions. History shows that it is impossible and that it is perhaps far better if we do not come to the same conclusions in every possible instance. Rather, we have to strive for consistency and maturity in everything that we do, and I highly suggest that we employ a very consistent epistemology.
I have to confess that I am not bothered at all by the atheist and his arguments. These are standard things that we have to routinely deal with as Christians — and these are present in every single generation.
The only thing that is actually bothersome is how the bulk of them are naked in their inconsistency and their feet are never held to the fire.