I can never find the really good examples of stuff like straw man arguments when I’m looking for them. Since I’ve already spent so much time talking about straw man arguments and the rather aggravating habit of some Christians to try to tell atheists what atheism is, I’d feel like I really left something out if I didn’t post the gem I ran across today (via Atomic Mutant’s takedown).
See, I wanted to talk about about how some Christians actually go so far as to redefine atheism so that atheists can’t even exist! Surely there is no better example to use to prove that there is a problem here. Even most people who make straw atheist arguments accept that some atheists exist. Some people do put forward a narrower definition of atheism that excludes some of the atheists they have a harder time arguing against (e.g. defining atheism as gnostic atheism and ignoring the agnostic atheists). Most of them don’t make that definition so narrow that it couldn’t include anyone. But there are a few people who do. Like this guy:
Logically, it is impossible for a person to be an atheist! Why? Because to say there is no invisible God anywhere is to imply you have looked everywhere in the universe where God could possibly be and examined all possible ways the infinite invisible God could leave evidence behind of his own existence. Since these are both impossibilities for any person, then God might exist after all, even though such a disbelieving person has never seen him.
Let’s see how this argument holds up if we try to apply it to another unlikely being whose existence is contested:
Logically, it is impossible for a person to be a disbeliever in the Loch Ness monster! Why? Because to say there is no Loch Ness monster anywhere is to imply you have looked everywhere in the universe where the Loch Ness monster could possibly be and examined all possible ways the Loch Ness Monster could leave evidence behind of his own existence. Since these are both impossibilities for any person, then the Loch Ness monster might exist after all, even though such a disbelieving person has never seen him.
Except, oh wait, that isn’t what we mean when we say the Loch Ness Monster doesn’t exist! Guess what? That’s not what we mean when we say no gods exist, either!
The rest of their post is, frankly, one of the worst arguments for the existence of God that I have ever seen, and I’ve seen lots of bad arguments for the existence of God. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, though. If their answer to atheism is to argue that atheists don’t exist by redefining atheism, then why should I expect any of their other arguments to be any good?