Ex 3.1 Answers

In Exercise 3, the form of the argument can be laid out as follows:

Claim: God is an atheist.
Premise 1: God is a being who knows everything.
Premise 2: A being who knows everything has no existential dilemmas.
Premise 3: A being who has no existential dilemmas has no need of faith.
Premise 4: An atheist is someone who has no faith.

To say that ‘God is an atheist’ has a prima facie ring of blasphemy about it, but in fact there is nothing in the argument or claim that a devout Christian would object to. What gives it a false impression of controversy is the dual use of the word ‘atheist’, which can be understood in both the sense of ‘not a believer in God’ and also ‘not a believer in a higher being’.

In the case of every being except God, this amounts to the same thing; however, in the case of God himself, we end up with an equivocation. The claim would only be controversial if the author tried to establish that God does not believe in his own existence, but since that would amount to a contradiction, we can assume it is not in this sense that the author claims God is an atheist. Rather, the author must understand ‘atheist’ in the second sense.

However, understood this way, nothing controversial follows; it merely draws out the implication that religion and its associated concepts have no application to a being that knows everything. Another way to parse premise 2 is to say ‘God has no beliefs, since everything is known. Hence, God does not believe in anything’. As a result, the dual claims that ‘God is an Atheist’ and ‘Atheism (for human beings) is false’ are not inconsistent. ‘God is an Atheist’ amounts to little more than a semantic claim about the meaning of the term ‘God’.

From this discussion it should be clear that the conclusion does follow logically from the premises, but that it has no relevance to whether human beings should be atheists or not.

Even so, one can well imagine that proclaiming ‘God is an atheist’ at the local church might still cause something of a stir!

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