A legitimate question

And in response to the imprudently optimistic Christian apologist it becomes important to distinguish two argument-strategies for contesting the existence of God, which consist in two ways of contesting the theist's way of posing the question 'Why anything?' These are two ways of being an atheist along the lines which I noted earlier when I distinguished between its 'parasitical' and the 'non-parasitical' forms. The first, represented by Dawkins and, as we shall see, Russell, simply refuses to allow the question itself any sort of legitimacy. The second, represented (as we have seen) by Smart, allows the question but cannot see how any structure of valid argument could possibly get you to the answer 'God'. The first says the question does not make sense. The second admits that the question makes sense but denies that God is the answer to it. Now I shall not in this essay address this second form of atheism at all, for, as I have repeatedly insisted, the question with which this essay is concerned is whether there are grounds for ruling out in principle the possibility of rational proof, whether that ruling out is on the authority of reason or of faith. It is no concern of this essay to consider the validity of any particular arguments for the existence of God, Thomas's or anyone else's -hence, the very specific case mounted against such proofs in Thomas by Kenny,25 or the more general arguments pressed against all forms of proof by the likes of Mackie and Smart, form no part of my agenda. It is with those atheists who contest the legitimacy of the question that we must be concerned.

25 Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969.

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