Briggs and the Owl: a refutation of atheism
"The owl of Minerva spreads its wings and takes flight when the shades of night are falling." Hegel
Or, as explained by Wikipedia, “[P]hilosophy comes to understand a historical condition just as it passes away. Philosophy cannot be prescriptive because it understands only in hindsight.”
So, poor Briggs, just like the atheists he counters, his owl has flown and he does not even recognize it. You see, Marx closed the epoch of atheism some 170 years ago. Yet Briggs and the atheists fight on, not recognizing that understanding came with the passing away. So the continued fight is pointless, indeed.
According to Marx, in a letter to Engels, “Atheism, as the denial of this unreality, has no longer any meaning, for atheism is a negation of God, and postulates the existence of man through this negation; but socialism as socialism no longer stands in any need of such a mediation. “ [emphasis in the original]
Setting aside for now the reference to socialism, Marx is unequivocally stating that atheism requires God for its own existence. So what is atheism other than a negation God? Nothing. It cannot even explain the genesis of man or his relationship to nature.
As summarized by C.L.R James, the letter to Engels continues:
“To a hypothetical person who asked him [Marx}: ‘Who has produced the first man and nature in general?’ Marx replies: ‘I can only answer. Your question is the product of abstraction. Ask yourself how you arrive at this question. Ask yourself whether your question does not occur from a point of view which I cannot answer because it is an absurd one. Ask yourself whether that series exists as such for reasonable thought. Whenever you ask about the creation of nature and man, you abstract yourself from man and nature. You presuppose that you don’t exist and yet you demand that I prove you exist. I now say to you: Abandon your abstraction and you will give up your question. Or if you hold fast to your abstraction, accept the consequences. Whenever you think of man and nature as non-existent, regard yourself as non-existent, since you are natural and human. Think not, ask me not, for as soon as you think and ask, your abstraction from the existence of nature and man makes no sense.’”
That is the cosmology you are fighting, Briggs. Atheism is so early nineteenth century; quaint, yet atavistic. Like it or not, we are in the epoch of socialism. According to Marx:
“But since for the socialist man the entire so-called history of the world is nothing but the creation of man through human labour, nothing but the emergence of nature for man, so he has the visible, irrefutable proof of his birth through himself, of his genesis. Since the real existence of man and nature has become evident in practice, through sense experience, because man has thus become evident for man as the being of nature, and nature for man as the being of man, the question about an alien being, about a being above nature and man – a question which implies the admission of the unreality of nature and of man – has become impossible in practice.” [emphasis in the original]
So, it’s not turtles all the way down. In our epoch, it is nature and labor all the way down.
As a Christian and believer in an inerrant Bible, I, of course, will have none of this. Atheism is simply one manifestation of rebellion against God: one that assumes God from the beginning and is therefore meaningless.
However, rebellion is rebellion. Really, there is nothing new here. Sure, the lines of attack change over time, but it is also rebellion all the way down.
So, Briggs, take instruction from Marx and recognize the close of the epoch of overt rebellion – atheism. The real battle is concealed rebellion, such as that which Marx outlined above, where rebellion takes the form of a modern Tower of Babel – the appeal to the state to construct a new Eden for the new socialist man.
Atheism, your owl has flown.