Atheism and Theological Truth Claims

This post is going to be unlike many of my other posts. Before posting something, I like to have done a ton of research and made sure everything was fully thought out. For this post… I haven’t really fully developed this idea. But I feel as though I am onto something that could be very useful, and I wanted to run it by the readers of this blog. Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!

I have encountered far too many atheists who refuse to do proper theology because they see theology as useless. Their justification? Well, why study God when God doesn’t exist?

On first glance, I can see where they’re coming from. If something is fictional, there’s no point in studying the details of it. I don’t really see why anyone would want to debate how far a centaur can throw a spear or the maximum temperature of a dragon’s fire breath. Surely no one ever debates whether or not an orc can defeat a troll in battle, or whether Jean-Luc Picard was a better captain of the Starship Enterprise than James T. Kirk. And there’s absolutely no way that we can say that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father, because Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker didn’t exist. And don’t get me started on the absurdity of talking about whether or not Princess Peach really is in another castle or the locations of fairy fountains in Hyrule. Psh! All totally nonsense questions. None of these characters even exist! They have no real properties!

…you might be able to see where I’m going with this.

And no, I’m not suggesting that God is fictional. Silly you. God exists.

My suggestion is rather simple. When we say “Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father” or “The Master Sword is hidden within the Temple of Time,” we are making a statement that is either true or false. But not in the traditional sense of truth and falsity; but in a more qualified sense. This qualification assumes that we accept the fact that Star Wars and Zelda are fictional, but there is still something true about my previous statements. And if I were to say “Yoda is a Sith Lord” or “Link defeats Lord Jabu Jabu,” these statements are false. False, assuming that we’re talking about fictional characters and events.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that the philosophical discussion surrounding how to talk about fictional characters is easily solved. But I would like to make a pragmatic suggestion.

For existent objects, we attach an existential quantifier.

For fictional objects, some have suggested that we use a fictional quantifier. This is so we are able to make statements that are true or false, given the assumption that the object is fictional. Here’s an interesting video on the idea of fictional quantifiers.

For atheists who reject the existence of God, surely there must be a way for you to make true or false statements about God without having to commit you to affirming his existence. Can you attach a Theological Quantifier, perhaps? This would help many atheists to avoid such common mistakes as saying that God requires a creator or that God lives in the sky. These statements are false in reality (because God exists) and false according to the theological quantifier.

My goal is to agree with as much as we can in order to move the conversation forward. And if we cannot move past basic theological truth claims, conversations halt. And no one wants that.

What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea?

Do you think the theological quantifier works? Or perhaps I’ve made an error in my thinking?

Let me know! 🙂


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Elijah Thompson
Comments 1
  1. This is an interesting point. I think that we can talk about Zelda and Yoda and their values or character traits or lessons precisely because we already *agree* they are fiction. We may even use language as though we were actually immersed in their stories and struggles as a way of analyzing, because the story does indeed reveal truths about ourselves and our world that are worthy of analysis. However, we draw a line at thinking that Jedi actually exist and may appear on our planet. We would call that a delusion. It is one thing to believe in the existence of God and to read a Holy Book as a path to seeking truths about ourselves, and an entirely different thing to say that the characters and events–the context–depicted in those books have an immutable concrete reality with exact directions for living our individual lives. Maybe this is a difference between “belief” and “religion.” Is that what we are talking about?

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