Philosophy in the Atheist Community

We experience a number of bad takes on philosophy and philosophical concepts/arguments from our fellow atheists and we thought it would be good to do a stream to discuss these and the reasons why.

We will be having a general chat about the disdain many atheists have for Philosophy and going through 10 “big ticket” items that we notice patterns of seemingly canned responses about.

In case you are not aware, Dave, Phillip and Myself are all Atheists, we believe gods do not exist, so we are speaking from a point of really wanting to improve some of our fellow atheists understanding of these things.

Philip is a philosophy enthusiast with degrees in design, and is very well versed on Philosophy (at least in comparison to me and most people we speak to online).
Dave Has a masters in Philosophy and he’s distinctly good at it
And I am but a mere pleb with an interest in philosophy, trying to learn as much as I can in the few minutes each day between work and family life. I’m really only comfortable with Morality and Epistemology and even then I still have a lot to learn.

Questions about Philosophy

We sent out a list of 10 questions to debate groups and on twitter asking for responses to see if they aligned with either common responses or how these things are understood within the field of philosophy.

All responses are going to be kept anonymous and similar responses will be grouped together, so may not be verbatim. If two answers are essentially the same but worded very differently I will read both out as one may resonate better with some than the other.

Everyone’s participation has been very much appreciated.

We also read out answers from the chat live in the stream (not detailed below) and gave our answers (also not detailed below).

What is Philosophy?

Common Responses:

  1. Just a load of opinions
  2. Old men sitting around reading books and thinking
  3. Speculating about useless abstract concepts that have no grounding in reality
  4. An exercise in futility
  5. Mental masturbation

Received Responses:

  1. Philosophy is thinking, discussing, and writing about the world and the human condition by asking questions and dissecting the answers using observations, experiences, logic, reasoning, and multiple perspectives to determine which answers are the most rational, useful, that have the most explanatory value, or leads to better questions to ask. To me this is philosophy.
  2. Thinking and speculating outside the box
  3. the study of being beyond the physical
  4. The study into the nature of reality
  5. Philosophy is the examination of why we think the things we think. It’s the study of thought, on a personal and societal level
  6. Philosophy is the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge with a focus on questions science cannot answer or has not answered.

Is Philosophy of any use?

Common Responses:

  1. No, it’s just opinions.
  2. Only Science is useful
  3. Philosophy is dead
  4. Philosophy doesn’t give answers to questions about reality.

Received Responses:

  1. Various Yes’s – The most verbose:
    Yes, it is absolutely useful. Philosophy is the foundation of, at the heart of, and running persistently in the background of all other fields of study and human progression. At worst philosophy allows for us to gain new perspectives from others that can inform our perspectives and provides a platform to share our own perspectives in return. From this we all gain new and different perspectives. At best Philosophy allows us to understand each other better and if we are really lucky it will provide us with valuable insight into the world in which we live.
  2. If we don’t understand the ‘why’s then how would we improve? Of course it’s of use. Even this question itself is fundamentally philosophical in nature.
  3. Philosophy is essential to a clear-headed understanding of the world.

What’s the difference between ethics and morality?

(This was a bit of a trick question (sorry))

Common Responses:

  1. Morality is your personal morals and values, ethics is a cultures morals and values

Received Responses:

  1. Many as above
  2. similar: ethics is a code of conduct set by others morality is a code conduct we set within ourselves
  3. Maybe ethics is the actual moral systems, and morals (morality) is the whole thing or special actions
  4. There is no difference between ethics and morality, but people can use these terms to mark out different concepts if they like provided they explain themselves.

Is Philosophy just opinions?

Common Responses:

  1. Yes

Received Responses:

  1. No, Philosophy is not mere opinion and it can help eliminate or Falsify irrational, casual, superfluous, and not well thought out opinions.
  2. A few Yes type answers
  3. Kind of. It isn’t measuring universal demonstrable truths in the same way that elemental physics counts neutrons, protons, and electrons. But it is using an agreed upon framework. So it’s not personal opinion in the sense of pure subjectivity.
  4. 2 No’s
  5. Whether philosophy is just “opinions” depends on what you mean by “opinions”. In my “opinion” the world is flat. That doesn’t entail that my opinion can’t be true or false or capable of justification.

Is the Kalam Cosmological Argument Valid? (Why or why not)

Common Responses:

  1. No because it rests on unjustified assumptions
  2. No, its completely invalid

Received Responses:

  1. Not really, other than speculation
  2. Yes, but I reject the first premise
  3. It’s valid, because the conclusion follows the premises. But it’s not sound, because the premises are, at best, unprovable.
  4. The Kalam Cosmological Argument is not valid. We don’t know whether everything must have a cause or whether an infinite regress of causes is possible.

What is Rationality?

Common Responses:

  1. Rationality is when you believe to be rational and are willing to be quoted on it
  2. Rationality is being logical and being logical is being rational
  3. Rationality is the opposite of being emotional

Received Responses:

  1. Rationality is thinking and acting based on sufficiently justified beliefs which are consistent with each other, they are not logically unsound, and which has some utility or explanatory value.
  2. The ability to draw a conclusion that logically fits the present information. One can make a rational conclusion that is wrong, by not having enough information to reach the correct answer.
  3. The state of being rational, using reason and logic in a proper way
  4. coming to a logical conclusion based on the evidence you are provided with
  5. having beliefs that are congruent with reality
  6. Rationality involves the use of logic and evidence. It is a faculty that relies on our recognition of some inherently plausible or “self-evident” truths. These do not have or require further confirmation or evidence in support. The Law of Noncontradiction provides an example. The challenge comes in agreeing about such things. Even some philosophers question the law of noncontradiction. It seems that people can question anything.

What is knowledge?

Common Responses:

  1. When you are sure of things
  2. Things you know
  3. facts

Received Responses:

  1. “knowledge is power” a collective understanding of a certain fact making it collective truth
  2. a collection of justified true beliefs
  3. Justified true belief or the closest we can get to that, notwithstanding the Gettier problem
  4. This is a big question in which an entire branch of philosophy is dedicated and has not fully answered.
    1. JTB Justified True Belief
    2. JB Justified Belief
    3. RTB Reliably- produced True Beliefs
    4. TB True Beliefs
  5. Knowledge is justified belief. Assuming it’s possible, it’s hard to come by.

What does atheism have to do with philosophy?

Common Responses:

  1. It has about as much to do with philosophy as studying spider man has <insert meme>
  2. Nothing. It is just lack of belief, you cannot study the lack of something

Received Responses:

  1. the nature being is a heavily debated philosophical question which atheism fits into
  2. the question of god (or no god) is a major question in understanding the nature of reality
  3. It is a psychological stance towards the proposition God exists which holds implications in various other topics and thoughts.
  4. Well, any speculation and outside thinking that you need to discuss atheism would apply
  5. Theology is a section of philosophy, so any discussion that is framed around belief, non belief, or disbelief, falls under that umbrella.

    Not all philosophy is theology, but all theology is philosophy.
    Like the ‘all labradors are dogs, but not all dogs are labradors’ example.
  6. Atheism involves an assessment of the likelihood of a god’s existence and this requires the use of reason and evidence which are the fundamental tools of philosophy, just as they are for science.

Why do you discuss religion online?

Common Responses:

  1. To deconvert theists
  2. Because theists are dumb and need to be shown
  3. Because I need to let off steam and mocking theists is a great way to do it
  4. To normalise Atheism

Received Responses:

  1. I don’t, anymore. / I don’t
  2. To gain as many perspectives as possible on ideas and thoughts concerning Gods and religions and share my own perspectives in hopes of having the errors in my thinking pointed out or cause a reevaluation of stagnated Beliefs, and I try to do the same for others.
  3. To get different viewpoints, to articulate my viewpoints and perhaps revise them
  4. because I see gaps in the discussions around atheism specifically regarding the implications people face if god does not exist
  5. I discuss religion online because I used to be religious and I know people who are cleverer than me who are still religious. I find that surprising, puzzling and therefore interesting.

What is special pleading?

Common Responses:

  1. The Kalam!
  2. When you make an unjustified case for something
  3. When you only accept data that backs up your claim

Received Responses:

  1. I don’t know
  2. Essentially Double Standards
  3. To say something applies to other things, but not your thing
  4. Arguing for an exception to a general rule or aspect without justification for there being such an exception. It can also be making a certain exception for one side of an argument while disallowing the same type of exception on the opposing side of the argument.
  5. Special pleading is an argument that says if A then B, but not when it undermines my position.

Philosophy in The Atheist Community – The Video

If you prefer to watch, then check out the recording of the live stream here:

Philosophy in the Atheist Community - SciPhi

Or, if you’re looking for a specific segment, check these:

If you have any questions, want us to go into more detail about something, corrections, critique etc. feel free to leave us a message either under the article/video/podcast on the site, on YouTube, or feel free to DM us on one of our social media accounts.

Want to Watch us Live?

You can watch us live on:

SciPhi Show

The Published SciPhi Show can be found in the following YouTube playlist:

SciPhi Shortz!

We’ve just started a new project called SciPhi Shortz! Essentially 5-15 minute videos going over the basics of a topic in a way that might be more digestible to people that would like to watch the streams, but don’t have 2 hours, so they can dip in and out to the bits that interest them!

SciPhi Highlights

Don’t have time for the longer streams? We’ve got you covered. We created a playlist of various clips and highlights from the stream. These are a combination of interesting segments, jokes and funny bits, questions from the audience and times when we stack it and think you deserve a laugh at our expense.

Fresh AiR Podcast

The Fresh AiR Podcast is still going strong and can be heard in a number of outlets.

For the full experience, we suggest the website: as we provide a number of links to various resources discussed in the article, however, can be seen on a number of podcast outlets such as:  iTunes | Stitcher | Google Play | Spotify | Podplayer – and we are not limited to these either, just search for Answers in Reason or Fresh AiR in your favourite podcast syndication.

Fresh AiR Videos!

Whilst the SciPhi show is quick live videos discussing relevant and current topics, with Season 3 we tried a few different things with Fresh AiR, inclusive of videos taking people through concepts.

These can be found both on the site, and in this YouTube playlist:


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Josh wearing an AiR T-Shirt (Answers in Reason)
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