Theism, Deism and Atheism
To my mind, the choice is essentially between the above. I am a theist; but I am strongly opposed to some other theists – namely Muslims. I'm a theist; and I am opposed to some deists whom I admire – for example, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. As a theist I have to oppose atheists. I like some atheists but some atheists are so antithetical to everything I support in all religious contexts (and incidentally in most others) that they have got to be my opponents.
Perhaps some definitions are in order. A theist believes that the universe is God’s creation and that he sustains it from hour to hour. Muslims believe this and this is what I believe.
A deist believes that God created the universe but that he lost interest thereafter – at least, he ceased to be involved in it.
An atheist believes that the very concept of God is nonsensical. To me, this belief has no justification – which, of course, does not mean that it isn’t true.
We just don’t have a proof to support theism, deism or atheism. Proofs belong to Mathematics. We do have, as David Berlinski says, arguments.
By default, the human race has been theistic. Perhaps this is genetically pre-determined. On the Darwin view our pre-determined theism has nothing whatever to do with Truth. Random Mutation and Natural Selection are not, even remotely, interested in Truth, only in survival and reproduction. But one of our default suppositions is that some things are true, whether or not they suit us. It’s very difficult to have a conversation, let alone an argument, with someone who denies that some things are true and some things are false.
Logical Positivism reigned for years in British academia, declaring that only propositions which had ‘scientific’ support could be regarded as meaningful. It fell apart when this declaration turned out not to be scientifically supportable.
Most of us have lots of default suppositions. We believe that there is a real world outside our minds. To deny this violates all our instincts. Some, I think, do take this position – not me and not, I think, most human beings. By default, we believe that there are minds other than our own. Solipsism says there aren’t. Have you ever met a solipsist? Is it his mind which is unique (and uniquely creative); or did he persuade you that yours is the unique mind? It can’t be both. I think I toyed with solipsism when I was about eleven. I gave it up before I was twelve.
Another supposition we nearly all share is our belief in the past. A philosopher could assert that our belief in the past is merely a construction of our minds. Hardly any of us believes this for a moment.
Our default suppositions won’t go away. One of our default suppositions is that the universe we live in (a life permitting universe) is not an accident. We can’t prove that it isn't. For me, even wanting to do so is perverse. It’s like wanting to prove that free will is an illusion. Even if you managed to prove that it is, you would still have to behave as if it isn't. It’s impossible to believe that there is no such thing as blame or responsibility. Try it when I poke you in the eye.
Am I declaring that our default suppositions are true by default? Not quite. But life is pretty difficult when you deny them.
The argument (not the proof) is that the universe has a cause. So we are theists by default. Deism is an unnecessary epicycle. Atheism doesn’t get a look in. Only Theism comports with our default suppositions.
I know that this is incomplete. Please do me the favour of pointing out any logical gaps that you spot.