What to Expect if the Suppression Thesis Were True or False

Having spoken, in the last few days, about the Suppression Thesis, I thought that I might focus on it in the next few posts in order to muse about this idea in greater detail.

If one is to have an intelligent discussion about the possible truth or falsity of the so-called Suppression Thesis–the  idea, inspired by Romans 1, that atheists suppress the truth about God’s existence for moral and/or emotional reasons–then one must, by necessity, discuss what one would expect to see given either the truth or falsity of that thesis, and to that end, I propose that if the Suppression Thesis were true, then we should expect that a detailed and thorough investigation of the matter would discover either some or all of the following points to be the case, whereas if the Suppression Thesis were false, then we should expect none or few of the soon-to-be-mentioned points to be true, and these specific points are the following:

a. If the Suppression Thesis were true, then, once we drilled down to their psychological core, we would expect atheists to be more “anti-theists” (believers in God but haters / dis-likers of Him) rather than just mere atheists (for given that denial of a problem is easier than constant opposition to it (think of the alcoholic who denies he has an alcohol problem because denying it is easier than facing his problem), then a suppression and denial of God would be easier than constantly battling against the God you dislike, but that dislike would nevertheless come to the forefront if your motivations and emotions were strongly pressed);

b. If the Suppression Thesis were true, we would expect that atheists would have a desire (possibly a strong desire) that a theistic-type God does not exist and that the universe not be theistic in orientation (a la Thomas Nagel and his famous quote) rather than just being indifferent to this idea or even in favor of it (though they don’t believe it);

c. If the Suppression Thesis were true, we would expect that atheists, if pressed, would admit that they would not worship a theistic God even if, hypothetically, they were given personally-sufficient proof of His existence;

d. If the Suppression Thesis were true, we would expect that atheists would have little problem with a deistic-type God while having a major problem with a theistic-type God given that the main difference between these to ‘God positions’ concerns God’s moral involvement in human affairs;

e. If the Suppression Thesis were true, we would expect that atheists would be, to a statistically significant degree in comparison to the rest of the human population, much more morally permissive in both thought and behaviour when compared against a traditional Christian ethic (although here we must be concerned about which way the correlation runs (whether the atheism caused the moral liberalism or the moral liberalism caused the atheism (or neither)));

f. In relation to Point E, if the Suppression Thesis were true, we would also expect that morally “conservative” atheists would show much less hostility and more openness to the idea of God and religion than morally liberal atheists (for if denial of God is borne out of moral issues, then we would expect that atheists already morally in line with a traditional Christian ethic would be more likely to be less hostile to the idea that God exists);

g. If the Suppression Thesis were true, we would expect that atheists might have father-related psychological issues (this is the Paul Vitz ‘Faith of the Fatherless’ thesis);

h. If the Suppression Thesis were true, we would expect that for converts to atheism, their conversion to atheism would be correlated (again, perhaps strongly correlated) with a moral and/or emotional negative episode in their life of some significance;

I. In relation to the last point, if the Suppression Thesis were true, we would expect that atheists, when pressed, would also admit that they had a major moral / emotional issue with God, which is what caused them to start looking at atheism;

j. If the Suppression Thesis were true, we would expect that atheists would employ motivated reasoning and confirmation bias (essentially, hypocritical double-standards and selective hyper-skepticism) when arguing for their atheism and against theism, but not in other areas of their life (essentially, they would live a life of intellectual inconsistency);

k. If the Suppression Thesis were true, we would expect that atheists would admit that they would embrace any explanation for some phenomena over the explanation that the phenomena in question was caused by a theistic deity;

l. Also in relation to Points J and K, if the Suppression Thesis were true, we would expect that that atheists would be prone to misrepresenting theistic arguments and/or tackling the weakest versions of those arguments rather than their strongest versions (this would be expected as atheists would be potentially and even subconsciously defending their psychological “denialism” by claiming to have considered the arguments for God’s existence while not really dealing with the real and/or best arguments for the theistic hypothesis);

m. If the Suppression Thesis were true, we would expect that atheists would be more prone to the use of psychological “denialism” as a defensive mechanism in other areas of life as well (this point is questionable, but I include it for the sake of consideration and in the spirit of full inquiry);

n. If the Suppression Thesis were true, we would expect that atheists would also be more prone to deny other facts that seem plainly obvious to the vast majority of humanity, such as, for example, the fact that we are conscious or that we have free will (but again, we need to be cautious here about which way the causation goes);

o. If the Suppression Thesis were true, we would expect that atheists, if pressed, and if denying all the aforementioned points, would show behavioural indicators of deception both in there non-verbal cues and through the linguistics that they use to describe themselves, their atheism, and their conversions to atheism;

p. And finally, if the Suppression Thesis were true, we would expect that if none or few of the above points applied to a specific atheist, then we would expect that specific atheist to be neurologically a-typical in comparison to the rest of the human population (and neurological a-typicality might be expected from all atheists as well);

…and now the key concerns become whether or not these expectations can actually be tested in a rigorous / objective fashion and then what the results of such tests would be.

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