Atheism and the Benefits of Theistic Belief

In Jonathan Kvanvig (ed.), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. Oxford University Press. pp. 97-125 (2012)

Authors
Christian Miller
Wake Forest University
Abstract
Most atheists are error theorists about theists; they claim that theists have genuine beliefs about the existence and nature of a divine being, but as a matter of fact no such divine being exists. Thus on their view the relevant theistic beliefs are mistaken. As error theorists, then, atheists need to arrive at some answer to the question of what practical course of action the atheist should adopt towards the theistic beliefs held by committed theists. The most natural answer and the one that we see being implemented by many prominent atheists today, can be stated roughly as follows: (1) Theistic Eliminativism: Atheists should marshal the best arguments at their disposal and present them to theists in the hopes that theists will come to appreciate that their religious beliefs are systemically erroneous. Furthermore, on coming to this realization, a theist should abandon not just his specific religious beliefs, but also more generally his religious practices and theistic framework for viewing the world, and adopt a secular point of view instead. One of the main goals of this paper is to show that, despite its popularity, eliminativism is not the only option for the atheist to adopt. In order to do so, I draw on recent work in meta-ethics on moral error theories, work which has helped to outline a number of alterative courses of action that someone might take towards a group which is said to have widespread erroneous beliefs.
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