JAMES ROBERT PIERCE Knowledge/Athesim 04-29-91 Knowledge of God Countless Christians

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JAMES ROBERT PIERCE Knowledge/Athesim 04-29-91 Knowledge of God Countless Christians have offered me what they consider to be a cogent demonstration of the folly of atheism. In particular, they have argued that atheism involves what they call a fallcy from a universal negative. This so-called fallacy entails the idea that it is fallacious to affirm the truth of some universal negative proposition like "there is no god." Specifically, the fallacy occurs when one affirms the truth of a proposition which would appear to require that one be omniscient and omnipresent in order to know its truth value. The above reasoning stems from articles like those found in Christian Research Institute's publications on how to witness to atheists. I should advise theists that as a reasoning person and as an atheist, the above argument does not hold water. Why? The argument in support of the universal negative fallacy goes something like this: 1) there are aspects of reality not known to finite beings; 2) atheists are finite beings; 3) therefore, there are aspects of reality not known to atheists. 4) In order to have all knowledge one would need to be omniscient and omnipresent; 5) finite beings are neither omniscient or omnipresent; 6) therefore, finite beings are incapable of having all knowledge. I think the above fairly represents arguments in support of the "universal negative fallacy." However, the arguments are problematic. For instance, if there are aspects of reality not known to us, then we are faced with the task of answering the skeptic who claims there are no aspects of reality that can be known. Also, if the Christian wants to hold the atheist to the above arguments, then the christian is faced with a similar problem; that is, if the proposition "there is a god" is included in the set of all true propositions which are to be part of the universe, then it follows that the proposition "there is a god" is a contingent truth, i.e. it is possible that we do not know that it is a true proposition, since there are aspects of reality not known to us. In fact, to know the truth of the given proposition a finite being would need to be omniscient and omnipresent. Thus, to hold the atheist to the aforementioned arguments would mean the demise of theism, since it would not be possible to have knowledge of a god. However, I think the "universal negative fallacy" invented by theists is just a false assertion. The atheist is not required to search the voids of knowledge in order to provide an affirmative explanation as to why there is no god. The proposition "there is no god" is a conclusion drawn from arguments which support it. The arguments are derived from the pool of knowledge that all finite beings have. It is not intelligible to assert that atheists cannot conclude there is no god since they don't know everything: this is like claiming that one can't conclude squares have four sides if they don't know geometry exhaustively. By using the aforementioned arguments against atheism, the christian creates more problems than solutions. Furthermore, the so-called "universal negative fallacy" is not intelligible. I hope this article can save the theist from venturing into the problems I have briefly outlined. Remember, the affirmative position of any position must shoulder the burden of proof: if anyone is to prove the existence of god it will be the theist's burden; not the atheist's.

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