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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Horsemen 1792-1822



In Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe, Greg Epstein (2007) presented Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud as the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" of their time.  Massimo Pigliucci characterized the Pre-Socratics as a "intellectually wild" bunch in his (2010) book Nonsense on Stilts How to Tell Science from Bunk.

Here are four core arguments against God's existence that have persisted since ancient times. Using these four arguments as an organizing principle, I present for your consideration the Four Horsemen of 1792-1822.

The argument from inconsistent revelations- Sectarian religions are mutually contradictory and internally inconsistent. Thomas Jefferson predicted that Christianity would eventually go the way of all other obsolete religions.


The argument from reasonable nonbelief- If the existence of the gods were self-evident, everyone would believe. The burden of proof is on religion. As James Madison observed, faith is not a virtue.


Lack of empirical evidence- Discovery trumps revelation. This is the skeptical or naturalistic argument. As Arthur Schopenhauer observed, religion cannot survive without the veil of mystery.



The argument from evil- If the gods are real, they have a lot of explaining to do. Percy Bysshe Shelly addressed the argument from evil with a reformulation of the Epicurean trilemma.




Horsemen 1737-1776




In Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe, Greg Epstein (2007) presented Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud as the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" of their time.  Massimo Pigliucci characterized the Pre-Socratics as a "intellectually wild" bunch in his (2010) book Nonsense on Stilts How to Tell Science from Bunk.

Here are four core arguments against God's existence that have persisted since ancient times. Using these four arguments as an organizing principle, I present for your consideration the Four Enlightenment Horsemen of 1737-1776. These years represent the time when all four were alive, but Voltaire was born in 1694 and Paine lived until 1809.

The argument from evil- If the gods are real, they have a lot of explaining to do. Voltaire saw god as a mythical tyrant.




The argument from inconsistent revelations- Sectarian religions are mutually contradictory and internally inconsistent. Benjamin Franklin found Christianity utterly incoherent.



Lack of empirical evidence- Discovery trumps revelation. This is the skeptical or naturalistic argument. As David Hume observed, reliance on miracles is suspect.




The argument from reasonable nonbelief- If the existence of the gods were self-evident, everyone would believe. The burden of proof is on religion. As Thomas Paine observed, special pleading is not evidence.







Horsemen 1833-1856



In Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe, Greg Epstein (2007) presented Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud as the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" of their time.  Massimo Pigliucci characterized the Pre-Socratics as a "intellectually wild" bunch in his (2010) book Nonsense on Stilts How to Tell Science from Bunk.

Here are four core arguments against God's existence that have persisted since ancient times. Using these four arguments as an organizing principle, I present for your consideration the Four Horsemen of 1833-1856.

The argument from reasonable nonbelief- If the existence of the gods were self-evident, everyone would believe. The burden of proof is on religion. As Heinrich Heine observed, faith is not a virtue.



The argument from evil- If the gods are real, they have a lot of explaining to do. Charles Darwin could not imagine a creator with cruel intentions.


Lack of empirical evidence- Discovery trumps revelation. This is the skeptical or naturalistic argument. As Elisabeth Cady Stanton observed, revelation is often in conflict with evidence.


The argument from inconsistent revelations- Sectarian religions are mutually contradictory and internally inconsistent. As Robert G. Ingersoll observed, reconciling religion with reason leaves the former worse for wear.




Horsemen 1934-1988



In Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe, Greg Epstein (2007) presented Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud as the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" of their time.  Massimo Pigliucci characterized the Pre-Socratics as a "intellectually wild" bunch in his (2010) book Nonsense on Stilts How to Tell Science from Bunk.

Here are four core arguments against God's existence that have persisted since ancient times. Using these four arguments as an organizing principle, I present for your consideration the Four Horsemen of 1934-1988. Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) also deserves mention as a contemporary of these authors as well as the Four Horsemen.

The argument from evil- If the gods are real, they have a lot of explaining to do. Richard Feynman addressed the problem of evil with a universe without a unifying purpose.




Lack of empirical evidence- Discovery trumps revelation. This is the skeptical or naturalistic argument. As Madalyn Murray O'Hair observed, religion cannot be reconciled with science.


The argument from inconsistent revelations- Sectarian religions are mutually contradictory and internally inconsistent. Isaac Asimov saw religion as another form of superstition.




The argument from reasonable nonbelief- If the existence of the gods were self-evident, everyone would believe. The burden of proof is on religion. As Carl Sagan observed, obstinate faith is wishful thinking.


The Four Horsemen that we know today are very much a product of their time. They are identified with the attacks of 9-11, but their influence is due in no small part to their recency in history. They represent the ongoing struggle of the Enlightenment at the present moment. Their historical context sets them apart and makes any comparison seem tenuous. 

More important than designating any particular four horsemen of any particular generation is the observation that since the Enlightenment, there has been no shortage of prominent antitheists. At least four can be identified at any moment. The original Four Horsemen have distinguished themselves for their tenacity. Not only do they insist that unreason deserves no refuge--as others have done before--they have consistently refused it hospitality and inspired others to follow suit.

Horsemen 1872-1939




In Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe, Greg Epstein (2007) presented Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud as the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" of their time.  Massimo Pigliucci characterized the Pre-Socratics as a "intellectually wild" bunch in his (2010) book Nonsense on Stilts How to Tell Science from Bunk.

Here are four core arguments against God's existence that have persisted since ancient times. Using these four arguments as an organizing principle, I present for your consideration the Four Horsemen of 1872-1939.

Lack of empirical evidence- Discovery trumps revelation. This is the skeptical or naturalistic argument. As Sigmund Freud observed, religion is inconsistent with objective observation.



The argument from inconsistent revelations- Sectarian religions are mutually contradictory and internally inconsistent. George Bernard Shaw observed that the religious will cherry-pick indefinitely rather than abandon the notion of divine revelation altogether.




The argument from evil- If the gods are real, they have a lot of explaining to do. Emma Goldman rejected the notion of a capricious god with the inclination to force subjects into submission.




The argument from reasonable nonbelief- If the existence of the gods were self-evident, everyone would believe. The burden of proof is on religion. As Bertrand Russell famously observed, there are any number of absurd propositions that we do not take on faith.






Horsemen 1854-1900




In Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe, Greg Epstein (2007) presented Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud as the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" of their time.  Massimo Pigliucci characterized the Pre-Socratics as a "intellectually wild" bunch in his (2010) book Nonsense on Stilts How to Tell Science from Bunk.

Here are four core arguments against God's existence that have persisted since ancient times. Using these four arguments as an organizing principle, I present for your consideration the Four Horsemen of 1854-1900.

The argument from inconsistent revelations- Sectarian religions are mutually contradictory and internally inconsistent. Mark Twain observed that the religious will cherry-pick indefinitely rather than abandon the notion of divine revelation altogether.




Lack of empirical evidence- Discovery trumps revelation. This is the skeptical or naturalistic argument. As Friedrich Nietzche suggested, faith is a form of collective insanity.



The argument from evil- If the gods are real, they have a lot of explaining to do. Helen H. Gardener depicted the God of New Testament Hell more savage than the Old Testament God of mass murder.




The argument from reasonable nonbelief- If the existence of the gods were self-evident, everyone would believe. The burden of proof is on religion. As Oscar Wilde observed, faith is not a virtue.