One day, in sunny California, I was speaking to a gentlemen who made it his custom to proclaim atheism on a weekly basis to the kind people of Balboa Park. We were talking about his motives. I was asking him questions like, “What’s the point of being here, for an atheist?” He replied, “Because I want people to know the truth, so that people can free themselves from religion.”
As I was chewing on this statement later on, I asked myself, “How does an atheist apprehend truth?” Atheism’s metaphysical starting point, so to speak, is ultimately randomness with no overarching teleology, or purpose, for existence. How can truth be derived from randomness?
Even if we grant that truth may exist in a random universe, wouldn’t it at least follow that it can’t be known?
Example: Bob is a human being who is the product of random chance. Bob, if the atheist is to be consistent, is matter in motion—randomized motion, by the way. Sure, there are forces at play, like gravity and weather, but nothing that is particularly aimed at showing Bob the truth. External forces just happen to be acting on Bob and his mind. On this basis, how does Bob come to know truth?
If truth is defined as, say—that which comports with reality—how can Bob come to a conclusion about what reality even is so as to make a decision whether or not something is true? Remember, Bob is just matter in motion, experiencing the effect of physical forces which cause him to come to conclusions.
It’s time now to introduce Betty. Betty walks up to Bob and tells him that she believes the sidewalk they are both walking on is a figment of their imagination. Bob respectfully disagrees. How is this conflict to be resolved? Bob and Betty are simply drawing conclusions based on certain reasons. Consider the physical forces at play. According to an atheist, these forces are really what’s causing Bob and Betty to draw their conclusions. After all, for an atheist, there is no providence of God, spiritual reality, etc.
Therefore, if the truth about this sidewalk does exist (i.e. whether or not the sidewalk is actually there), how could Bob or Betty know that truth? There is a disagreement between the two, but that disagreement is only because natural forces have affected their conclusions in two different ways. It could be, for instance, that the sidewalk really does exist, but that wouldn’t mean Bob was justified in believing such a thing. He was right only by accident. He just happened to conclude that the sidewalk existed.
Conversely, if Betty was right—that the sidewalk didn’t really exist but was the product of imagination—she was right only by accident. Being right only by accident doesn’t constitute knowledge of the truth. A person must have sufficient warrant (which surely includes justification) to be able to rationally claim knowledge.
We see, then, in the example of Bob and Betty that, upon atheistic assumptions, truth should not be able to be known. So, if the atheist says something like, “I care about the truth! That’s why I’m an atheist!” it follows that the truth should not be attainable, and therefore their conviction for the truth is irrational. In other words, the atheist is being inconsistent with atheism when they express desire and boldness for the truth.
I contend that if and only if one affirms the God of Christianity, they can be consistent in their pursuit of the truth. Thus, if we consider the example above, if one lacks belief in God, they ought to also lack belief in the ability to know truth.