For the second time in as many days an atheist has tweeted me with the charge that asserting God exists of necessity is “defining God into existence.” Here is the most recent example, the amiable Shane McKee:
So the theist merely defines God into existence? This is sloppy.
— Shane McKee (@shanemuk) October 30, 2017
I replied by asking McKee: “Is it also ‘sloppy’ to believe numbers or Platonic universals exist of necessity? Please advise.”
That was merely a tweet response. It’s now time for a more substantial response in which I subject the claim to a reductio ad absurdum.
First, let’s unpack the theist’s beliefs into a set of two propositions. We can call it Theistic Belief Set 1:
(1) God exists
(2) God’s existence is necessary
According to McKee’s charge, TBS1 constitutes “defining God into existence.”
Now consider another theist who accepts Theistic Belief Set 2:
(1) God exists
(3) God’s existence is contingent
Note that both TBS1 and TBS2 include the belief that (1) God exists.
With that in mind, if assent to TBS1 entails defining God into existence, then so does assent to TBS2. The only difference is the modal nature of that existence. To wit, TBS1 would entail defining God into necessary existence while TBS2 would entail defining God into contingent existence.
And if this is true of God — that is, if it is true that belief in God is subject to the charge of defining God into existence — then presumably other existential beliefs likewise entail defining those things into existence.
Consider, for example McKee’s mountain bike. By believing his bike exists, it follows that McKee is defining his bike into (contingent) existence.
Needless to say, this is absurd. And the lesson is that we should abandon the confused claim that belief in entities would entail “defining those things into existence.”