Belief is Evidence? Amazingly, the Amazing Atheist Seems to Think So.

So I watched a YouTube video by T. J. Kirk aka The Amazing Atheist, called “Escaping Atheism 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold” (there seems not to be an “Escaping Atheism 1”, at least as far as I can tell. Is the 2 supposed to be a joke? If so, I would have gone with “Escaping Atheism 2: Electric Boogaloo”, but what do I know?)  Anyway, the video is about the Escaping Atheism Project, coordinated by Max Kolbe, in which I’m involved in a volunteer capacity.  The Escaping Atheism Project is essentially a loose association of likeminded volunteers, who each do things independently, coordinated by Max, to whom we have given the honorary title “Patriarch” (anyone familiar with Max’s history should understand why that’s funny).

Now, T.J. does discuss one of my posts, “Plato’s Cave Image / God and the Atheist“, but he doesn’t really say anything substantial—he calls me pretentious, a pseudo-intellectual, mocks me for using Greek words when discussing Plato, things like that.  I left a long comment on the YouTube video itself, and I don’t really have anything to add to it.  It boils down to “T.J. engages in a lot of mockery and tone policing, but he doesn’t actually claim, much less attempt to show, that I am wrong about anything.”

What I actually want to talk about is T. J.’s amazing criticism of a point made by Andrew Stratelotes in a totally different essay.  You’ll understand my amazement in a moment.

Stratelotes’ point is this: “The mere fact of a psychological property, such as a belief or a lack of belief, has no bearing on whether said belief is true or justified or whether said lack of belief is justified.”

This point seems so trivial as to hardly be worth arguing.  If someone were to ask me to demonstrate the existence of God, and I replied “I believe it,” this would not normally, and should not be, regarded as a strong argument for the existence of God.  Similarly, the mere fact that someone does not believe in God is neither evidence that God does not exist, nor that such a lack of belief is justified.

Belief, lack of belief, and disbelief are propositional attitudes human beings hold towards propositions.  They have no bearing on the truth value of the propositions in question, at least in all cases touching on first order beliefs about objective reality.

[Technical paragraph on self-referential epistemology; skip if you want: My first-order belief that “I believe that P” probably is sufficient to establish my second-order belief “I believe that I believe that P.” In cases where the proposition itself is about whether or not one believes a proposition, then and only then would one’s believing a proposition function as the truth-maker for a proposition. Still, even in these cases, it isn’t my second-order belief that “I believe that I believe that P” that makes “I believe that P” true, but the existence of the first order belief “I believe that P” itself. So even in this case, it is the FACT of the first belief that makes ANOTHER belief, the second belief that you believe the first belief, true—and not the second belief, that makes the first one true, by the very act of believing it.]

Excluding the interesting-but-probably-not-important self-referential cases of my beliefs about my beliefs, the propositional attitudes of belief, suspension of judgment, lack of belief, and disbelief have no bearing on the truth value of the propositions towards which they are attitudes—and this because, taken in themselves, they are merely factual psychological properties of the person who holds the propositional attitude in question. My being related to a proposition in the way of assuming a propositional attitude toward it does not, in any way, affect the truth value of the proposition, nor the epistemic likelihood of the proposition’s truth value being one way or the other, nor the correctness of my belief.  It would be very strange indeed if my beliefs were either made correct or made more likely to be correct just on the basis of my act of believing.

I would have thought than any atheist, especially an Amazing one, would not want to hold that the mere fact of my belief in the truth of Christianity is evidence that Christianity is true.

Hence my amazement.  At 16:36 into T. J.’s video we find him yelling “Moron! Moron! Moron! Moron!” at Andrew Stratelotes exactly for holding this view.

So we seem to get the following argument:

  1. Anyone who holds that “believing that P is not evidence that P” is a Moron⁴.
  2. Either T.J. holds this, or T.J. does not.
  3. If T.J. does hold this, then T.J. is a Moron! Moron! Moron! Moron!
  4. If T.J. does not hold this, then T.J. either holds that “believing that P is evidence that P” or  T.J. suspends judgment whether “believing that P is evidence that P.”
  5. If  T.J suspends judgment whether “believing that P is evidence that P,” then he is being highly intellectually dishonest in espousing atheism, because he has not investigated whether a highly relevant thing does or does not constitute evidence for the existence of God.
  6. If T.J. does hold that “believing that P is evidence that P”, then he is being highly intellectual dishonest in espousing atheism, since the existence of ~2.5 billion persons who believe that Christianity is true surely constitutes a lot of evidence that Christianity is true.

In other words, T.J. seems to be acting in a highly irrational way if he discounts the beliefs of billions of Christians as evidence of the truth of Christianity, if he either believes that belief is evidence of truth, or he isn’t sure it isn’t. My suspicion is that T.J. holds neither “believing that P is evidence that P” nor does he suspend judgment on the matter.

I suspect that T.J. holds that “believing that P is not evidence that P,” and the belief of billions of Christians that Christianity is true is not evidence that Christianity is true.

But if so, that would seem to make him, in his own words and for his own reasons, a “Moron! Moron! Moron! Moron!”

The only other options I can think of are that T.J. has catastrophically misunderstood Stratelotes’ point—or else he has deliberately misrepresented it.

What do you think?

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5 comments on “Belief is Evidence? Amazingly, the Amazing Atheist Seems to Think So.

  1. tryanmax says:

    Given T.J.’s usual rigor in investigating sources he aims to “debunk,” my money is on catastrophic misunderstanding.

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  2. landzek says:

    I think the assumption on your Clary here is that there is a unilateral and common humanity.

    I think before we even investigate your logical consequences, we would first have to ask if your analyses have any basis toward a consistent meaning.

    For the question you’re asking has to do with a particular type or way of thinking that you and this other person seem to agree upon, and so you may argue about whether any propositions might answer to particular criteria in which you are assuming is given.

    Because I would say the idea of belief itself is a faulty proposition. In reading your post here I read the initial quote of your friend to mean kind of the opposite way that you took it. It is not so much whether or not the believing of p confers that p, but more if the believing of P has any bearing upon a condition P. If you were only dealing with propositions, and I think you are saying that we can only deal with propositions, then I would say that you were dealing with a situation of a common humanity, A ubiquitous plane of existence that all rational or thinking or just human beings in general exist within. The question would be is this something you believe or is this something that’s true?

    If you were taking this method as a basis of truth then it has nothing to do with what you believe because you’re functioning up on that level regardless of what argument you might make as to whether or not it might be really true or whether you believe it’s true or whether you believe it’s not true, because you are functioning, you’re replacing the ability for you to use this particular type of logic upon a given plane a given arena that is unquestioned. And in fact even if you were to address this plane and question it you would be addressing it up on the very plain that you were questioning, and would be involved in a self-contradictory situation.

    So I think your querry about believe is a little bit miss guided, because if you keep your particular question to atheism bracketed within a particular ability to apprehend or address or view, then you have already created an argument you have already allowed for the condition that makes your line of questioning faulty.

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  3. landzek says:

    .. ah. I think that is your point. That believe is insufficient for the truth of something. I’m a dork 😜

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  4. TKDB says:

    Definitely seems to be a catastrophic misunderstanding to me. It appears that he’s taken Andrew’s claim that “Psychological properties are uninteresting for philosophical discussion” to mean something like, “It’s uninteresting to philosophically discuss propositions underlying psychological properties, such as belief or lack of belief in God”, rather than the intended meaning of, “The mere fact of a psychological property, such as a belief or a lack of belief, has no bearing on whether said belief is true or justified or whether said lack of belief is justified.”

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  5. Eve Keneinan says:

    I think I lean to the catastrophic misunderstanding theory myself. The thing that made me hesitate was that it just seems so obvious what Stratelotes was saying—but then, I’m familiar with the point, having made it many times myself and seen it made by a variety of philosophers, from Bill Vallicella to William Lane Craig. It is more or less an old chestnut in the philosophy of religion—and I keep having an (apparently) unrealistic expectation that people who talk about atheism and religion (semi-) professionally will have at least familiarized themselves with the discourse.

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