Dale Tuggy

Dale Tuggy is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.


  1. Sean Garrigan
    October 26, 2015 @ 8:41 am

    “This last part strikes me as a red herring, a distraction. Why must Emil “account for… objective morality”? For me part, I think atheists are consistent in simply believing that some actions are intrinsically right or wrong. One has to wonder why morally aware animals like us arose, yes, but how does that affect Emil, exactly?”

    What would make any action “intrinsically wrong” in an atheist’s universe? It’s not a red herring; it’s one of the most powerful proofs of God’s existence, and it demonstrates that atheists have to borrower from the Christian worldview in order to make their case against it.

    Many atheists have themselves admitted that without God, objective moral values and duties do not exist. By “objective” I mean (to quote William Lane Craig) that they are valid and binding regardless whether anyone chooses to believe in them or not. I can’t even imagine a valid reason for believing that moral values and duties are truly objective without God as their foundation. What would make them “objective”? They just are, and that’s all?

    “Rauser responds that it’s not to the point that Paul is not in Romans 1 speaking specifically about believers. That is true, but this does not save the reading that Koukl thinks is obvious from implying the guilt of any doubting Christian.”

    The Bible doesn’t say “The fool has said in his heart ‘I wonder if God is real in light of all this misery?'”, which is what it would have to say for the point to be valid, it seems to me. The “fool” in Psalm 14:1 is the one who declares to himself and/or to others that God does not exist. He is a fool not only because he is blind (whether willfully or not) to the evidence that a god must exist, but because in making such a positive declaration rather than a mere expression of doubt, he is claiming knowledge that he literally cannot possess. He is making a positive assertion about something that he is not in a position to be positive about. He is claiming to know what a less foolish person would realize we cannot know, and he has raised his own unsubstantiatable opinion to the level of established fact.



    • Roman
      October 26, 2015 @ 9:46 am

      Of course Atheists have to be logically inconsistant when they approach morality, unless they are total nihilists which is damn near impossible for a real human being to be. But that doesn’t mean that they are rebelious, humans are logically inconsistant all the time, People honestly hold inconsistant beliefs in good faith all the time, we are not Perfect.
      So it doesn’t say anything toward the idea that atheists are supressing, consciously the knowledge of God but pointing out that they are inconsistent in their thinking.


      • Sean Garrigan
        October 26, 2015 @ 7:45 pm

        “So it doesn’t say anything toward the idea that atheists are supressing,
        consciously the knowledge of God but pointing out that they are
        inconsistent in their thinking.”

        Who said it did?



        • Roman
          October 27, 2015 @ 4:31 am

          Probably some Calvinists 😛


          • Sean Garrigan
            October 27, 2015 @ 7:00 am

            “Probably some Calvinists :P”

            Well, I think some of them probably make room for the notion that the suppression of belief in God can be SUBconsciously done, but I’ll let them work that out.

            I just wonder if this blog entry got off to a misguided start, since I’m not sure that Emil’s doubt really does suggest problems for Koukl’s view, as stated here. And there is the further question of where Emil’s doubt ultimately took him, and *why*? Did Emil respond emotionally, in the moment, in the throes of his overwhelming sadness but later come to accept Job’s response to suffering, or did Emil subconsciously *choose* unbelief, more out of anger than anything else? I suspect that there are many atheists who are really believers who have come to suppress their belief, whether consciously or subconsciously, because they’re just really ticked off at God, and that IS a form of rebellion.



            • Roman
              October 27, 2015 @ 8:32 am

              I’ve heard the idea from Calvinists, that anyone who is not a Christian is morally culpable for supressing the knowledge of God and in rebellion, that’s the notion I was responding to, not you.
              I don’t think you can subvonsciously “choose” anything, in a meaninful way, I mean perhaps you subconsciously decided that there is no God, but part of the motivation was angery, but that motivation was subconscious, I don’t know how one could be held morally culpable for that anger?
              I absolutely agree With the distortion of Christianity, unfortunately especially in the United States, where in much of the country it has become more of a Cultural/political thing rather than a dedication to the person of Christ. Some of the rediculous defences of war, capitalism and other political ideas on christian grounds show that, the arguments are so weak and rediculous that it’s obvious what the religion is in that case.


              • Sean Garrigan
                October 27, 2015 @ 8:19 pm

                “I don’t think you can subvonsciously “choose” anything, in a meaninful
                way, I mean perhaps you subconsciously decided that there is no God, but
                part of the motivation was angery, but that motivation was
                subconscious, I don’t know how one could be held morally culpable for
                that anger?”

                Self deception is one of the most pervasive of all human failings. Everyone practices some form of self deception at one point or another in their lives. That’s one of the reasons my old Psych teacher would say that everyone is three people, conceptually: There is the you that you perceive; there is the you that others perceive; and there is the real you, which never corresponds perfectly to either of the other two. Only God knows the real you and the real me.


                “The easiest thing of all is to deceive one’s self; for what a man wishes he generally believes to be true.” Demosthenes (Olynthiaca iii. 19)


                • Roman
                  October 28, 2015 @ 3:58 am

                  But the question is, are you responsible for what you’re not conscious of?


                  • Sean Garrigan
                    October 28, 2015 @ 6:35 am

                    “But the question is, are you responsible for what you’re not conscious of?”

                    Is there any reason why an atheist, who rejects God because deep down in his subconscious he wants atheism to be true, should not be held accountable for his atheism? I guess that’s a question for God.



  2. Roman
    October 26, 2015 @ 7:58 am

    when it comes to this debate, and others that some evangelical apologists engage in, one thing that sometimes bugs me a little, is when they start out trying to establish some detailed and presice philosophical argument for a position, only to in the end find out that the Whole thing was based on a theological position taken from a specific exegesis of a text. Generally the arguments are somewhat Shady, and usually have holes in them, but I sometimes see it as kind of a Waste of time given that the real basis of believing that thing is a specific exegesis along With biblical inerrency. I just wish they would get to the core of the issue right away, and then deal With the secondary arguments after.
    So in this case, one can argue all one wants about psychology or moral culpibility and so on, but the Whole basis of the belief comes from a specific exegesis of Romans 1 … that’s the issue, everything else is secondary.
    Another thing that some apologists do, is read the text as if it were a detailed and careful philosophical text, it is not, none of the bible writers, even Paul, were analytic philosophers or theologians, and they cannot be read that way. There is no reason to think that Romans 1 is a descriptive psychological diognosis for all People who deny belief in the supernatural, it’s making a larger point, which is that everyone is deserving of wrath but that God has given us a way out.
    BTW, as to the argument that some People are rebelling against God but are not aware of it themselves. I don’t see how someone can be held accountable for a motivation which they are never actually ever aware of and thus have no ability to ever actually deliberate and decide whether or not to Accept or go along With the dictates of that sub conscious motivation. People are held accountable for rebelling, because they CHOOSE to rebel, in order to choose to do something you must be aware of it, by definition.


  3. Randal Rauser
    October 24, 2015 @ 6:23 pm

    Dale, this is a great summary. Thanks for putting it together. Let me address your objection to the misoatheist charge by making three points.

    First, I agree that one could in principle believe the Rebellion Thesis without being bigoted or prejudiced. Likewise, it is in principle possible to believe that women should never be president without being bigoted or prejudiced. But it is also possible for individuals to be guilty of bigotry and/or prejudice against atheists. By giving the phenomenon a name, we can begin to become more aware of the problem and ask the question of whether specific individuals express views that are indicative of misoatheism.

    Second, our assessment of whether a specific individual is prejudiced or bigoted will depend in part on the evidence one proffers for the view in question. If the evidence is very poor — as I believe Koukl’s is — then that makes the charge of bigotry and/or prejudice to be more plausible.

    Third, evidence of bigotry or prejudice in a specific individual is also found in additional displays of hostility or dismissiveness toward the target group. As you note, Koukl’s dig at atheists as fools is an unfortunate potshot, but I think it is plausibly read as indicative of precisely the kind of hostility that is indicative of bigotry and prejudice. The same is true in the case I provided of the fellow flippantly asking whether we’d be comfortable leaving the nuclear codes with a woman.

    Consequently, I think Koukl’s behavior is indicative of what I call misoatheism. But whether or not I’m right about that, at least we can agree that misoatheism is a problem which we should begin to address within the Christian community.


    • Dale Tuggy
      October 24, 2015 @ 7:20 pm

      Hi Randal,

      Thanks as always for a good and substantial comment. Yes, I agree that it is good to have a name for bigotry against atheists, and that it is a significant problem, and one too often excused in Christian circles. And I’ve no objection to the term you suggest, and don’t have a better one.

      I’ve met atheists who will tell me with a straight face that they want to believe that God exists, and that they wish they could come up with more evidence for it, so they can believe it. I can’t in good conscience tell them that they’re willfully suppressing evidence – I don’t know that this is so. I do believe that God will reveal himself to them eventually if they continue to seek, but I have to beg off trying to explain why this hasn’t happened yet. Having said all of this, I agree with what Paul is saying in Romans 1, in his general critique of the nations.

      About Greg Koukl, yes, sort of gleefully quoting Psalm 14 is *consistent with* being a misoatheist, as is thinking that Romans 1 condemns all atheists as deniers of the obvious. BUT, I just think charity requires holding back on the charge, till we see unequivocal behavior or speech that unequivocally shows the contempt in question. I just don’t see that. I could easily be proven wrong, of course. But a few years back, I read this book of his http://www.amazon.com/dp/0310282926/?tag=mh0b-20&hvadid=3485750047&hvqmt=e&hvbmt=be&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_2rtpfizwwn_e , the product of a lifetime of dialogue with non-Christians, including atheists. I think you and he have this value in common, of being willing to fully hear out atheists, showing them respect via truly rational argument. I think maybe you should revise your charge that what he’s saying is consistent with that bigotry, and may even encourage it. I would argue to him that he should cease and desist calling atheists fools via Ps 14, and that he should carefully consider again just what, strictly, Romans 1 asserts, in light of Ed’s and your observations. It’s consistent with a dark, Calvinist or Augustinian view of fallen humanity, but it doesn’t require the Rebellion Thesis.


      • Randal Rauser
        October 25, 2015 @ 9:13 am

        Dale, you write:

        “BUT, I just think charity requires holding back on the charge, till we see unequivocal behavior or speech that unequivocally shows the contempt in question.”

        I agree that we should only render a charge on adequate evidence, but folks will disagree on where that threshold lies, and background experience will inform where folks draw that line.

        I remember a documentary in which a Caucasian man was made up to look Afro-American. He then walked down the street with an Afro-American friend. As they approached two Caucasian pedestrians, the Caucasian pair crossed the street and started walking on the other side. After debriefing the situation, the Afro-American man called out the behavior as racist whilst his Caucasian (undercover) friend insisted the other two Caucasian men simply needed to cross the street.

        Is the Afro-American man hypersensitive or does the Caucasian man lack sensitivity? It’s an interesting question, and to answer it, I suppose I’d need to know more about each.

        Anyway, having spent a long time reading Christian attitudes toward atheists, you might put me on the sensitive end of the scale.


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