Briggs And The Owl: A Refutation Of Atheism

Note this is not your usual author.

“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 simple 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.


Jim Fedako (send him email) is a business analyst and homeschooling father of seven who lives in Lewis Center, OH.


  1. Ken

    I just don’t “get it” — if you happen to believe in God, and the other person doesn’t…so what? It’s not your problem.

    The vast majority of atheists, to my experience, comport themselves in what a Christian would consider to be a morally upright manner (except for a belief located between their ears).

    The vast majority of atheists I know are churchgoers! It’s not at all uncommon, but probably not reflective of the majority of those with that viewpoint.

    But what’s really really annoying is how common–almost an everyday experience–it is to encounter hypocritical Christians. They’re everywhere.

    Too many Christians are–hypocrites*; that’s something atheists cannot be (at least with respect to religion).

    * Recall, a guy named “Jesus” said it’s better to be ice cold than luke warm where one’s views about He & his Father were concerned. The former, the “luke warmers” drew special disdain and were were what that guy said he’d ‘vomit from his mouth! (presumably that was a figurative, not literal, remark). So essentially by default, atheists — “ice colders” — are held in higher esteem with that guy than a LOT of Christians**

    ** Elsewhere in the same reference we’re told we’re not supposed to judge, or, do so at our own risk…depending on the translation & how one chooses [and one’s do choose] how to interpret it.

    As for the hypocritical [a group that includes “judgmental”] Christians–a valid translation would be to refer to them as “Jesus vomit.”

    Anyone encounter/read any such judgmental, and/or, hypocritical behavior/works from Jesus Vomit lately?

  2. Ken

    How atheists don’t believe is typical of how believers go about believing–by choice, for example:

    “Don’t tell me God works in mysterious ways,” Yossarian continued, hurtling on over her objection. “There’s nothing so mysterious about it. He’s not working at all. He’s playing. Or else He’s forgotten all about us. That’s the kind of God you people talk about – a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?”
    “What a colossal, immortal blunderer! When you consider the opportunity and power He had to really do a job, and then look at the stupid, ugly little mess He made of it instead, His sheer incompetence is almost staggering. It’s obvious He never met a payroll. Why, no self-respecting businessman would hire a bungler like Him as even a shipping clerk!”
    “Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife had turned ashen in disbelief and was ogling him with alarm. “You’d better not talk that way about Him, honey,” she warned him reprovingly in a low and hostile voice. “He might punish you.”
    ““Isn’t He punishing me enough?” Yossarian snorted resentfully. “You know, we certainly mustn’t let Him get away with it. Oh, no, we certainly mustn’t let Him get away scot free for all the sorrow He’s caused us. Someday I’m going to make him pay. I know when. On the Judgement Day. Yes, that’s the day I’ll be close enough to reach out and grab that little yokel by His neck and –”
    ““Stop it! Stop it!” Leiutenant Scheisskopf’s wife screamed suddenly, and began beating him ineffectually about the head with both fists. “Stop it!”
    ““What the hell are you getting so upset about?” he asked her bewilderedly in a tone of contrite amusement. “I thought you didn’t believe in God.”
    “”I don’t. But the God I don’t believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He’s not the mean and stupid God you make Him out to be.””
    Yossarian laughed and turned her arms loose. “Let’s have a little more religious freedom between us,” he proposed obligingly. “You don’t believe in the God you want to, and I won’t believe in the God I want to. Is that a deal?”

    Yossarian and Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife on God from CATCH-22, by Joseph Heller, Chapter 18, page 190.

  3. Ken

    Seriously is all the anti-atheism fuss worth the bother, how bad can atheists (unbelievers) really be given a believer MUST NOT choose to divorce them:

    1 Corinthians 7:
    12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.
    13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.
    14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
    15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.
    16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

  4. “Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
    “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

  5. Ye Olde Statisician

    As to the why, you will note that the atheists most invoked are the shallow Dawkins and Hitchens types and the noodniks who show up in places like this to make drive-by comments. That is, the commentary is in the nature of a counter-attack. You will seldom find these comments directed at people like Kenney or Oppy, respectable atheists with serious arguments, save in more academic fora.

    The idea that an atheist may piggy-back on moral theology is an ancient one among Christians, starting with Paul. It is harder to find in people like Voltaire, Rorty, Sartre, and is mercilessly ridiculed by Nietzsche.

  6. andyd

    It certainly is an ancient one YOS. The Christians are perhaps the supreme example of moral piggy-backing.

  7. Ye Olde Statisician

    Ah, “tu quoque” is a fine tradition, aina? We are all suitably astonished to realize that Christianity grew out of the Judaic tradition and derives much of its substance therefrom.

    But the question remains whether one may derive a moral theology (even discounting the “theo” business) from the first principles of one’s philosophy. Christianity has a doctrine by which atheists may do so; but folks like Rorty, Nietzsche, et al. disagree, as even the like of Stanley Fish acknowledges:

  8. andyd

    “As a … believer in an inerrant Bible, …”

    I am therefore excused of rational thought.

  9. I like what Jim Fedako had to say,
    and I also like George Gordon Byron:

    “Believe: — if ‘t is improbable you must,
    And if it is impossible, you shall:
    ‘T is always best to take things upon trust.
    I do not speak profanely, to recall
    Those holier mysteries which the wise and just
    Receive as gospel, and which grow more rooted,
    As all truths must, the more they are disputed:

    I merely mean to say what Johnson said,
    That in the course of some six thousand years,
    All nations have believed that from the dead
    A visitant at intervals appears;
    And what is strangest upon this strange head,
    Is, that whatever bar the reason rears
    ‘Gainst such belief, there’s something stronger still
    In its behalf, let those deny who will.”

    Don Juan (Byron)/Sixteenth Canto

  10. Chinahand

    @Ken, you seem to be citing some biblical passages concerning Jesus’ attitudes towards those without, and those with weak, faith. I do not know of the verses you cite and a search for vomit in both the King James and NIV versions of the Bible did not seem to yield nothing particularly close to what you have written. Could you provide some more details.

  11. Chinahand

    Anyone else notice parallels between what Marx has written and various Daoist ideas found in the Daodejing and the Zhuangzi?

    Personally I am fascinated by how Bayesianism fits into a Zhuangzi-inspired Philosophical Daoism.

    Chad Hansen’s Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought is where I first learned of these ancient philosophical ideas which take what is basically an orthogonal approach to Prof Briggs’ Thomist inspirations.

    I’ve found Daoist approaches to the fact knowledge requires presumption far more convincing than the Thomist approach – Daoism confronts the fact that our presumptions may be wrong and asks how to deal with the world given that uncertainty.

    The high Catholic Thomism often on display here seems rather over confident from my point of view, but well … the biblical fundamentalists seem to enjoy it.

    Ah – uncertainty is rebellion from God hey! Wow! I wonder what the Reverend Bayes would say about that?!

  12. Ken

    @ Chinahand: “biblical passages concerning Jesus’ attitudes towards those without, and those with weak, faith…Could you provide some more details”

    REFERENCE: Book of Revelation 3:16.

    (not all translations apply the word “vomit” but many do; I applied the most crass term to help emphasize a point…).

    For any “Christian” who truly takes their faith seriously one thing they should consider is a basic element of the faith’s early history–where the emphasis was on what really mattered. Going beyond even “first principles” consider the context: In the first decades & beyond the vast majority of the population was illiterate, and much of the early Christian population was poor–so the early Christians were likely more illiterate than the estimated 95% of the overall population. Being illiterate (and starvation was a literal real threat], they could not read and they could not engage in highly refined nuanced philosophical debates such as presented in this blog. Except to the extent a word-of-mouth (oral) presentation could allow. So, they stuck to the basics:

    Matt 22:35-40
    Mark 12:28-34
    Matt 7:1-5
    John 8:1-11
    Matt 25:14-30

    Those present a very clear pattern (& there’s more to be found with the same story in other books) — Take care of & improve yourself BEFORE you go about telling others what they should & should not do.

    Further, Matt 10:14 & Luke 9:5 also make clear one is to leave/depart from those that won’t accept the message.

    The Christian NT pattern is very clear, fix oneself first try & help others…but there’s really nothing there about imposing the religious values on anyone (that, however, is an oft-practiced aspect of Islam, where conversion or death are sometimes the only options). Becoming a Christian and practicing the faith is left as a choice, not a mandate imposed externally (unlike Islam).

    Given that, when I see/read people saying–from a “Christian” value system–that this or that behavior/activity must be prohibited by law & legal enforcement by the state when that has no effect on others (there are no “externalities” from an economist’s jargon) I see a conflict with the “Christian” values they espouse.

    Sure, the behavior may be wrong/sinful…but…where in the early Christian record are the examples where the imposition of forced behavioral compliance to Christian ethics? There are none (again, Islam is different). Christianity is a choice.

    Or, as famed economist Milton Friedman remarked (one can find this in a YouTube presentation, though I’ve long forgotten which one): ‘In a free society the freedom to sin is a fundamental right [provided the “sin” is not adversely impacting others (i.e. there are no externalities)].

    That is a hotly debatable perspective, of course.

    However, consider — does preventing a person from sinning make that person better?



    Luke 23: 43(etc.; thief on the cross is saved)
    Matt 5:28 (But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart)

    In both those oft-used examples we see that one’s goodness [or wickedness] originates inside oneself. Setting up situations so one cannot behave sinfully does not alter a person’s internal nature–who & what they really are. If that were true, the most holy among us would be those in maximum security prisons/those incapable of engaging in sin…right?

  13. Ye Olde Statisician

    The high Catholic Thomism often on display here seems rather over confident from my point of view,

    Yes, one of the markers of the collapse of the Modern Ages is the loss of confidence. The West has a horror now of being sure. YMMV.

  14. john

    Lets see what we have. Some ancient people years and years ago decided that the world was created by ‘a God’, a superhuman person who ‘runs’ the world and all person’s lives and when we die some of us get to live with him in ‘heaven‘, a place that does not have all the ills of our world. This theory has been modified over the years and finally cemented in a book.
    Another group of people say that that theory is wrong, there is no such being and we do not know how it all began or who or what runs the system.
    The majority of course believe the theory and look down on the ones who do not believe the theory.
    Some of course just say who knows and go about their lives saying they do not know but still accept some of the moral teachings in the book and try to live by the moral code and do not try to punish the ones who don’t believe.

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