Our First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness revealed their Christian beliefs, and the logical fallacies underpinning them.
Martin McGuinness said of the Earth,
“I believe that something created this beautiful planet; it’s just so extraordinary in the universe that I can come to no other conclusion.”
We’ve heard this one from creationists many times. While not suggesting McGuinness is a science denialist in the same vain, it employs the same appeal to personal incredulity. Just because Mr McGuinness cannot conceive of or doesn’t understand the natural origin of our planet, doesn’t mean it has a supernatural one. The most intellectually honest position is “I don’t know”. And it appears he doesn’t.
The Earth is indeed very special; our presence on it gives us that somewhat anthropocentric view. However, we do know a great deal about planetary and biological formation. We also know that there are other planets out there in astronomical numbers, some of which are Earth sized, in the habitable zone of their stars and for all we know, as abundant or more so with life, either like ours or of other forms. This science is in its infancy but has already greatly expanded our view of the cosmos.
First Minister Arlene Foster fared no better. When asked about reuniting with loved ones in heaven she said,
“It is a hope. When you are sometimes challenged by people who don’t have faith, and who challenge you about what you believe and the fundamentals about what you believe, the answer I have back to them is that I would rather have hope than have no hope.”
We’ve heard this one before, too. There are two problems with it. The first is the appeal to consequences fallacy; just because Mrs Foster finds the thought of heaven desirable is no grounds to believe it exists. It is better known as ‘wishful thinking’.
The second error is the assumption atheists have no hope. This a misrepresentation of non-belief in heaven known as a strawman. It’s true we have no expectation of an afterlife, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have hope – for our family and friends who survive us and the memories they carry on, the legacy of our works, the wellbeing of our own and other species, for our planet.
It isn’t surprising our leaders carry these faulty beliefs – they are common and to those of us in Atheist NI they’re nothing new. I hope this post is a useful introduction into why they are faulty and should be challenged.