Forum Philosophicum

Volume 20, Issue 1, Spring 2015

Francis Jonbäck
Pages 65-72

How to Be a Very Friendly Atheist Indeed

Friendly atheists hold atheism to be true, and believe that theists may be rational when holding theism to be true. Theists may be rational, they claim, either because they lack the evidence for atheism, or because they are mistaken regarding the evidential force of the arguments for theism. Both these reasons can be interpreted as suggesting that theists are making a mistake, and perhaps even that they are blameworthy for having made that mistake. In this paper, I argue that friendly atheists might even say that the most intellectually oriented theists are rational and blameless for holding theism to be true. I give two reasons for this. The first reason is based on the denial of doxastic voluntarism regarding at least some of our beliefs. Theists might not have voluntary control with respect to their belief that God exists. The second reason is based on a meta-epistemological consideration. Often, we choose our epistemology by looking at paradigm examples of knowledge. Growing up in a theistic context might lead one to regard the belief that God exists as a paradigm example of knowledge, and a theist could be considered perfectly rational and blameless for doing so, even though they may be aware of reasonable arguments for atheism. With these odifications, I suggest that Friendly Atheism is very friendly indeed.