On the Will Not to Believe and Axiological Atheism: a Reply to Cockayne and Warman
In a recent article in Sophia, Joshua Cockayne and Jack Warman (2019) defend a view they call supra-evidential atheistic fideism. This is the idea that considerations similar to William James’s defence of theistic belief can be used to justify atheistic belief. If an individual evaluates the evidence for atheism and theism as roughly the same (i.e. either can be epistemically rational), then she can rationally believe in atheism if her passions lean in that direction, provided the belief in atheism is forced, live and momentous. After outlining their defence of atheistic fideism, I offer some friendly amendments to their position. Cockayne and Warman claim that when the existential question of God’s existence is undecided for someone, she is rational to let her passions answer the existential question. This is a version of Rowe’s friendly atheism because it can explain the existence of religious disagreement, even in cases where an atheist and theist give the same assessment of the evidence for God’s (non)existence; they disagree at the passional level, not at the evidential level. I argue for a different version of friendly atheism: a mere passion need not settle the existential question about God when the evidence cannot decide it. For one might be rational in preferring that God not exist if God’s existence would make things worse. For certain individuals, this is reason enough to accept and act as if atheism is true, even if it is not epistemically rational to believe that it’s true.
KeywordsJames Will to believe Passional reasons Friendly atheism Axiology of theism
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