This is a post more aimed at Christians but I think atheists will benefit highly from it as well.
Firstly, I am an atheist. But not just an atheist, I’m an ex-Christian. I understand how atheists look to Christians and it’s very fascinating to now be on the other side. For the most part, I viewed atheists as arrogant people who only cared about telling Christians that they’re wrong and had no other purpose. As an atheist, I can say there couldn’t be anything further from the truth.
I’d like to explain to atheists that have never been religious that Christians are not unintelligent or dishonest. In fact, I could name a handful of Christians that are smarter than you or I. some christians view you as arrogant so you need to be respectful when conversing with Christians and give them the courtesy of honestly considering their beliefs as possible truth. Christians are not all these fundamentalist, westboro-type wackadoos and many Christians actually oppose the westboro baptist church and fundamentalism. Atheists like to paint Christians all with the same brush but every Christian is different. Just like you don’t want Christians to assume you’re some God-hating, america-hating arrogant person you can’t assume that all Christians are anti-stem cell, anti-science, creationists. In fact, many Christians do embrace science as truth and reject pseudoscience like astrology, creationism, telepathy, and faith healing. As an atheist, you need to consider that every christian is different and most of them are super awesome people.
To Christians I’d like to explain that, to an atheist, a lot of Christians come off as merely trying to defend their beliefs or trying to assert what they believe as true without giving the same courtesy to the other side, it’s very disheartening to see someone who’s not even willing to consider the possibility that they could be wrong. How can you expect to convince anyone else if you’re not willing to be convinced yourself? many Christians are not closed minded about their beliefs, but, to the outside observer, that’s how it can appear sometimes. So I encourage Christians and Atheists to open your minds and consider the opposing beliefs, if you can’t do this, then you have no right to try and convince other people to believe what you believe. If you’re an Atheist, have a conversation with a Christian, if you’re a Christian, have a conversation with an Atheist. Don’t try and convince the other person of what you believe, just find out what they believe and why they believe it.
To Christians I’d also like to explain that many atheists are very open-minded. However, atheist are very evidence-based believers. An atheist will most likely not believe something just because someone asserts that it is true, and I can’t think of a single atheist who would think that faith is a virtue. In church, you’re probably taught that faith is a virtue, atheists reject this, so when trying to convince an atheist, do not appeal to faith, it won’t work. However, many atheists are very honest and if you provide them with good evidence to believe something, they will most likely believe it. That’s how I am at least.
Basically, I just want people to think about what they believe. If you truly and honestly think about what you believe and come up with a good reason to believe it, I have nothing against you. I am very much against atheists or christians who do not even consider the possibility that they could be wrong and try and sew this arrogance to other people. Every day I wake up and consider the possibility that I could be wrong, It’s one of the great things about having a rational mind. I encourage all atheists, christians and anyone of any religion to do the same. WHY do you or don’t you believe?
I’d like to say, first of all, that I am not one of those atheists who seeks to strip people of their faith. I despise that religion teaches that “faith” is a good thing. Faith is believing something without a good reason. Faith is, by definition, gullibility. If many people had been raised to believe that a magic sandwich created the world, I have no doubt that it would be the dominating belief in our society. Especially when this belief comes with all kinds of benefits for the in-group.
I enjoy debating Christians. I believe there is a benefit to it. Firstly, I enjoy making people think about their beliefs, and if that’s the only benefit, I’d still do it. I’m a fervent believer in standing up for what is right. Usually, after I’ve pointed out the fallacies in Christians’ arguments, they eventually fall back on the argument “You just need faith.” It will always come down to this argument. The only reason that believers believe is faith. I despise that Christians think this is a virtue. What is virtuous about believing something that you can’t be sure is true? Would you really worship a god that finds lack of faith to be the only punishable sin by eternal torture? I was a Christian for 17 years, so I’m well aware of what Christians believe. I believed I was being loving, caring, compassionate, and kind to others. But how can you be caring to someone, and simultaneously believe that they’re worthy of going to hell, simply for the thought-crime of not believing? Personally, I don’t believe thought-crime is a crime at all, but god does.
So what is so wrong with having faith? Why can’t I just let believers believe what they want and I’ll believe what I want and we’ll all just coexist. Firstly, I’d like to state that I have no problem with letting others believe what they want. It’s a human right and one of the things I stand for is freedom of belief. However, many Christians believe that evangelizing is a type of love and I agree. If their beliefs were true, it would be hateful not to share them. However, they are not true, and sharing them is divisive. If I can stop even one person from falling for this trick, If i can rationalize even one person, then this fight for freedom is worth it, because that’s one more person who will be voting for freedom and will be thinking critically for themselves and not dogmatically accepting what a book tells them is truth.
Firstly, faith is harmful. If you believe that having an untrue belief is non-harmful, you are wrong. Everything you believe affects your actions. If you believe you’re going to have an afterlife, It will make you much more careless to the world that we live in today; the only world we have. There are many Christians with the mindset of “Who needs to save the environment? we’re living in the end times anyway!” This is a mindset that I despise. People who understand that this is the only life we have know that protecting our environment is one of the most important things there is. Untrue beliefs will also affect your voting. You have the right to vote however you want, but if you’re voting to restrict the rights of others, you are severely part of the problem we have in America. America is founded on freedom. If you’re voting to restrict those freedoms, you are very much, what I consider, anti-American. If you’re voting to restrict LBGT rights, then you are letting your beliefs affect and harm others, thus these beliefs are not “harmless.” I’m well aware of the reasons that Christians propose for being against LBGT rights. I used to hold them. The only reason I held them is, not because I believed it was right, but because it’s what I dogmatically accepted from the Bible. I believed I was being loving. But I was a bigot, though I never would have admitted it. I would have said “No, no! This is what God wants”. I didn’t ever realize that this the exact same answer for the salem witch trials, or for burning heathens at the steak. It is anti-freedom and thus, I am fervently against it.
Secondly, faith is arrogance. It prevents you from finding the real answers. If you believe something is true, you’ve stopped looking for the real answers. This is one of the main reasons I personally don’t like faith. It prevented me from seeking the real truth of how the world was created. I just assumed “God did it” and quit wondering. Christians always laugh when I say “I don’t know what caused the big bang, if it needed a cause at all.” I suppose this is because, as humans, we are not satisfied with an answer of “I don’t know.” As a Christian, I was arrogant enough to think that I had all the answers. I knew what created the world. I was wrong. So very, very wrong. I had no idea what created the world, and I don’t believe anyone else knows either. So if you don’t know how something happened, it is extremely dishonest to say that you do. Why can’t we just say “I don’t know”? When I realized that this was not a bad thing, that’s when I began to accept my knowledge for what it is, and I began seeking the answers to the things I wasn’t sure about. For weeks after I became an atheist, I did hours and hours of research into the things I didn’t know. Searching for truth, without the presupposition that God did everything, is one of the most intellectually stimulating exercises I ever had. I was free to follow the evidence where it took me and not start with the conclusion of “God exists” and then bending the evidence to fit that conclusion. That is not how a rational mind works. Faith is the excuse people give so that they don’t need to provide evidence. I think this is extremely arrogant. Faith claims absolute knowledge of god’s existence, or of certain historical events that have no evidence in contemporary science. Many Christians think that atheists are arrogant because they claim to have answers. But since I’ve become an atheist, I’ve discovered that I have less answers than I did as a Christian, but I’ve never been more enamored! The realization that the cause for gravity is unknown, or that abiogenesis is still a very ambiguous topic, is a very happy realization. I’ve realized that I can be the one to search for those answers. Curiosity is the greatest thing that I have, but the willingness to say “I don’t know” does not inhibit that belief, but it reinforces it. It encourages me to look for the answers so I don’t have to say “I don’t know”, but I can say that I’m well on my way to figuring it out.
Thirdly, faith is doubtless. Anything that is doubtless is not a good thing. As an atheist, I’m constantly doubting myself and what I already know. I hope I have doubt for the rest of my life. It confirms to me that I’m not just taking science dogmatically the way I took the Bible. But when I read an article in a science journal, I can sit there and say “hmm, okay so how do I know this article is accurate” and I can do research into it and make my own decision. Christianity neccesarily requires you accept the Bible on faith and not to doubt it one bit. If you doubt at all you are to be condemned! The Bible encourages people to research into their faith so that they can defend it, but anyone who doubts is to be condemned. Matthew 21:21 says, “And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.” James 1:6 says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”Romans 14:23 says, “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Clearly, the Bible is fervently against doubts. But let’s stop to ask ourselves why? Why would something that is “true” be so fervently against doubts? It seems to me that if something is true, it would encourage doubts, because they would eventually lead to knowledge. Let’s take science for example. One of the pillars of science is falsifiability. Science encourages anyone to try and falsify the things it presents. Because science is concerned about truth, and if it can be disproven, it is not true. But the Bible seems to be afraid of people doubting. Clearly this fear needs to be reinforced with the extremely scary concept of hell so as to scare people into believing. But if it were really true, the Bible would encourage doubts, clearly it doesn’t.
Fourthly, faith is judgmental. I am truly saddened by people who can be so gullible. To believe something without a clear cause is nothing but gullibility. It truly breaks my heart to see everyone I love be completely duped by this divisive religion. But they think it’s not divisive, they think it’s loving and caring! It truly breaks my heart to know that my mom goes to sleep every night thinking that I’m going to hell and that I deserve to go there. These beliefs have poisoned the minds of those who believe it. It tricks people into thinking all kinds of terrible things about those who don’t believe, and those who actually care about doubting things. I used be a Christian and I know what happens in the heads of Christians. They will never admit it, even to themselves, but they judge atheists. They judge believers of other faiths, they believe that believers of other faiths are all going to hell and that they are the only people who are right. They believe every person who doesn’t believe is going to hell and is deserving of going there. I can’t tell you how absolutely devastating it is to even talk to someone, knowing that they believe in their hearts that I’m evil enough to deserve eternal torture. I can’t think of a single case of anything happening to anyone that would warrant them deserving of being tortured for eternity, Even Hitler. There is a time at some point when I would say “Okay, that’s enough torture, He’s paid his price.” At some point, whether it be 5 years, or 10 years, or 100 years, or even 1,000 years, at some point, Hitler has paid the price. Even if I would set that price at 100 years for every jew he killed, he would still be tortured for 100*7,000,000 = 700,000,000 years. But this is just scratching the surface compared to eternity and God finds me worthy of this punishment. If I had a number that was a 1 followed by a number of zeroes equal to every atom in the universe. (A number known to be about a googolplex = 10^((10)^(100))) and was tortured for that many years, God thinks I’m deserving of being tortured for another googolplex years, and another, and another. Think of the biggest number you can, raise it to the second biggest number you can think of’s power and torture me for that many years. God (and Christians) believe I’m deserving of more torture for my crimes. I can’t be tortured enough for this crime of not believing. This is absolutely the most immoral punishment there is. There is no one deserving of that. It breaks my heart to even converse with people who think I deserve that. There are some things that this God does that are absolutely immoral, even Christians know that some of the things God has done have been immoral. But they rationalize it by saying things like “We just don’t understand his ways.” I think these beliefs are absolute poison, and I will never believe something on faith. But even if this god did exist, and tortured people forever, why would I worship such a sadistic being? A truly just god would, at some finite time, say “Okay, you’ve paid your punishment.” but Yahweh? nope. he just keeps on torturing. This is disgusting to me and it breaks my heart to know that Christians worship this being.
Fifthly, and finally, faith is a shield. The average joe schmo might not be willing to go bomb an abortion clinic, or fly a plane into a building, but anyone who says “God exists” to this person, is reinforcing the fundamental belief that causes these people to do these things. Faith allows these people to hide behind other people and let their beliefs be encouraged by other people. I’m not saying any one person is responsible for these people doing the things that they do, but faith as a whole is very much responsible. If there was no belief, there’d be no violent acts in the names of those beliefs. This is not a reason to not have faith. There will always be someone who takes something and twists it for violence. Such is the case with “Eugenics.” However, when the belief is compiled with all these other things, it’s just something the world doesn’t need.
Fortunately, he doesn’t exist. But the point is that Christians honestly believe that he does and nothing makes me feel more heartbroken than the fact that I used to believe it. The God I believed in was a caring, just god. I’ve come to the realization that the God I was raised to believe would not punish me for using the brain, that I was told he gave me, in an honest way. Why would God punish honesty? I’m just honestly accepting that I don’t know if he exists, any just god could not punish me for that, especially when it’s the way I’m programmed. However, I’m so happy that I took an objective look at these things and realized that the nonexistent god of Christianity is nothing worthy of being worshipped even if he DID exist. People often say to me “Why do you hate god?” I don’t hate god, I hate the fact that Christians believe that this god exists and justify the actions that they claim he does. I don’t hate god because I can’t hate something that doesn’t exist.
I want to address “The Teleological Argument” first, in my, hopefully long, series of arguments for God, because it is absolutely the most ridiculous, laughable argument (aside from possibly “Pascal’s Wager”) and I really want theists to understand this. Firstly, I’d like to say right now that I am not a biologist, physicist, or chemist. I am a Computer Science student and so my area of expertise is logic. However, all facts that I will give are well researched and I truly understand that evidence is not evidence unless it is given by a qualified scientist in such field. You can rest assured that the biological facts I provide are true, but if you doubt anything I say, I encourage you to look these things up for yourself. http://www.talkorigins.org/ is a great website for learning about the origins of our universe.
So let’s start with a definition of the argument. There are many forms of the argument but most of them have some things in common. There are 3 premises and 2 conclusions generally attribute to this argument. Premise 1) We appear to observe features in nature that are too complex to have happened by chance. Premise 2) These features exhibit the hallmark appearance of design. Premise 3) Design implies that there must be a designer. Conclusion 1) Therefore, nature must be the result of an intelligent designer. Conclusion 2) That designer is God.
Now let’s break this down and just attack premise 1. Firstly, things that are complex are not evidence of design. In fact, simplicity seems to be more evidence of design than complexity. Snowflakes appear to be complex, but they are not designed. Sand dunes also appear to be quite complex but are clearly not designed either. Secondly, in order to say that something is too complex to have happened by chance, is an argument from ignorance. The argument is that “I can’t possibly see how this could have arisen by chance, thus God did it.” It is also an example of a Begging the Question fallacy. How could we possibly know that something is too complex without a sample of confirmed examples of naturally occurring low-complexity cases versus high-complexity cases. Famous apologist Ray Comfort bypasses this premise altogether by simply calling it “creation” from the outset. This is also a Begging the Question fallacy.
From the get go, this argument isn’t looking too great, but let’s move on to premise 2. “Nature appears to have features that exhibit design.” This is the heart of the “Paley’s Watchmaker” analogy, which I will explain later in this post. A common analogy for this premise is to imagine that you’re walking along a beach and you see a line in the sand. You can disregard this as design because it, obviously, is not. However, If you’re walking along a beach and see “I Love John” written in the sand, you can immediately recognize this as design, because there is information and intent behind it. However, there are a few fallacies here. The way that you can recognize design is by comparing it to things that you already know have been designed. For instance, if you come across “I Love John” in the sand, you can compare it to other memories that you have of similar situations. There are no records of the words “I Love John” occurring naturally, there are no occurrences of “I Love John” coming into existence on their own, thus you can assume by contrast that “I Love John” was not a natural occurrence. But if you did not have those memories to contrast it with, you cannot decide if it is randomly occurring or not. In the case of Ray Comforts famous example, he claims that if you were to stumble across a painting in the woods, you can immediately recognize that it is designed by contrasting it with the world around it. However, again, we’re not contrasting it with the world around it, but our memories of paintings. We have no instances of paintings coming into existence on their own. All paintings that we know of necessarily require a painter. There are no paintings that we know of that can reproduce. Everything about this example is completely ignorant. Additionally, the “I Love John” example claims that it is the intent behind something that can postulate a designer. “I Love John” was designed because it has meaning. However, it is not the designer that attributes meaning to this. Our brains are fantastic at attributing meaning where there is none. It has to do with the way our brains work and the way our brains understand things. There is a function of the brain that helps us shortcut things into our memory by attributing them to things we already know. So when we see something we don’t know, our brains immediately scan our memories for other things similar to it in which to compare. The information that is contained in “I Love John” is not information from an intelligent source, but information that is deduced within our own brains. Everything contains information. Waves contain information (Speed), Rocks contain information (Volume, Mass). All these things that are naturally occurring contain information…not because they were designed, but because our brain attributes information to them.
Additionally for premise two, it is a fallacy in the case of “Special Pleading”. The theists are contrasting the “Painting” or the “I Love John” with the things that are naturally occurring, however these naturally occurring things are the very things they are trying to claim were designed! They are comparing design with design. So really, Ray Comfort didn’t find the painting in the woods, he found it in a clump of paintings, sitting in a field of paintings, laying on a world of paintings, and he’s claiming that this painting in particular was designed.
Premise 3 is true, haha. Design does imply a designer. However, as premise 1 and 2 are both false, there’s nothing to suggest that anything is considered “design.”
There is an unstated premise here. It is implicit within this argument that self-design is impossible. However, there are some things that have been confirmed to be self-designing. Evolution being the most obvious case of an algorithmic description of a process of self-design. Also, the human brain is capable of self design. One can think about a problem and solve it without any outside resources or help, thus becoming a more complex system.
Additionally, Richard Dawkins points out that this entire argument is using the fallacy of special pleading. It is appealing to a God which is infinitely complex, and thus by their own argument, infinitely improbable deity. Even if I gave you all the false premises, overlooked the fallacies, and ignored the unstated premise, this argument doesn’t state which God did any of this. Thus, it is just as likely that a magical transcendental ham sandwich created the world and we call it God.
Most apologists, when confronted with these refutations for their argument, will naturally throw a straw man out by saying “Atheists believe that all of this creation came from nothing.” First, it is dishonest to call it “creation” when it is clearly not. Second, this is a clear straw man. Atheists are not claiming that all of this came from nothing. They are simply claiming that we don’t have enough evidence to know what happened before the big bang, thus it is dishonest to make guesses, and assume that those guesses are true. Which is exactly what theists are doing. They don’t know what happened, so they are guessing, and choosing to believe these guesses as true. Which is a clear argument from ignorance. But even if I did believe that, we do have examples of matter coming into existence from non-matter. There are certain virtual particles in Quantum Mechanics that pop into, and out of, existence quite randomly. Additionally, to claim that it is impossible for something to come from nothing is another argument from ignorance, because we don’t have “nothing” to examine. It is quite possible that if a “nothing” were to exist, the only possible outcome is that something spontaneously forms from it. Now, I’m not advocating that this is the case, because I simply don’t know. All I’m saying is that I, nor anyone else, has ever observed “nothing” so we don’t know what would happen.
As I promised, I’ll now, briefly, describe “Paley’s Watchmaker.” William Paley quotes this in Natural Theology c. 1802. ”in crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer that for anything I knew to the contrary it had lain there forever; nor would it, perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that for anything I knew the watch might have always been there.” Basically, this argument is similar to the Ray Comfort painting example. It is claiming to have found something (that we can compare in our memories to existent things that have a designer) that it attributes to be designed by comparing it to the natural world. However, as I have already refuted, you cannot contrast something that is designed with something that you’re claiming to be designed.
I Hope you’re beginning to see why this argument is so ridiculous. It’s just flawed at every turn, yet it’s probably the most common argument I see! Please, please don’t use this argument. However, in case you’re still inclined to do so, There are a couple of counter arguments I think it relevant to mention. If this world was truly designed by an intelligent designer, It’s a truly stupid design. An Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent being would create something with optimal design, however, we can see, just by examination, that the design of organisms (especially humans) is anything but perfect. The laryngeal nerve in a Giraffe runs all the way from the brain all the way down to the base of the neck and all the way back up to the brain when the nerve could serve the same function merely traversing a few centimeters. The nerve is longer, thus there is more surface area, and thus there is a higher probability for damage. This nerve makes sense in animals with shorter necks because the distance is much shorter, However, the long laryngeal nerve in Giraffes does not make sense in light of an intelligent designer, because, surely, an intelligent being would see the potential disadvantages to this. Additionally, I think it’s a pretty stupid design to have one tube that goes down my throat, which I both eat and breath through so I can eat something and choke and die. It seems that, if I was truly designed, an omnipotent being would see the disadvantages to this.
But “how could we possibly understand the inner workings of God’s mind?” This is the argument that I finally get after all these refutations to this argument. It’s a clear last resort and I usually get it when their argument fails. It’s irrelevant to your argument whether or not I could understand the inner workings of God’s mind. I’m not claiming that a God doesn’t exist absolutely, I’m claiming that this is just a ridiculous and stupid, argument for the existence of God. If you use this argument, I seriously encourage you to stop, because not only do I find it absolutely absurd, logically inconsistent, and dishonest, but it is actually laughable. The logic in this argument is nonexistent, just like the God you’re trying to prove most likely is.
For those of you that don’t already know, I’m a computer science major. I’m in my senior year of undergraduate and the plan is to go to graduate school next year. Basically, it’s a logic-heavy, mathematics-heavy science. it probably involves more logic courses than any other major that I can think of so when it comes to logic, I like to think I know what I’m talking about. I’m going to give a quick overview to the laws of logic and how they work. I’m going to try and not talk over your head and define all my terms so you can understand what I’m talking about but if you don’t understand something or I don’t explain something very well, I urge you to try and understand it before continuing. Also, I’m going to give a quick overview to some of the more popular arguments that I hear for the existence of god. I am not going to give my refutations to these arguments, because my hope is to have a whole post about each of them. There is so much wrong with all of these arguments that I want to dedicate a whole post to addressing them.
Basically, there are three laws of logic from which every other law of logic is derived. there are dozens of logical arguments that can be derived from these three laws. However, before I start defining these laws I want to clarify some things. Firstly, these logic laws are true by definition. They are true largely because of the way we define the terms that are used in them. For instance, 2 + 2 = 4. this is true by definition. If I was to redefine the concept of “2″ I could make this statement false. If i defined 2 to actually be 7, then this statement no longer holds. However, under the definitions that are used in the laws of base 10 mathematics, this statement will always be true. It is similar for the laws of logic. Under the definitions that we provide for logic, these statement will always be true by definition. With that, let’s define some terms.
In logic, there are variables (similar to the way that there are variables in mathematics). Let’s take the variable “A”. now, the first rule of logic is called “The Law of Identity” and it simply states that: If A is true, then it is true. This seems intuitively simple, it means that if A is true, it must, by definition, be true.
Aside from variables, in logic we find certain symbols that can mean certain things when used with variables (similar to the +, and – symbols in mathematics). There’s a symbol that goes in front of a variable that negates that variable. Since the standard QWERTY keyboard does not have this key on it, I will use the Tilde (~) key as a placeholder. So when I type ~A, this simply means NOT A. The second Law of Logic is called “The Law of Noncontradiction”. This law simply states that something cannot simultaneously be A and ~A at the same time. Let’s take an example. Let’s picture that I have a stick in front of me. Between the two options: this stick cannot be both a stick, and not a stick at the same time. Does it make sense at all to say that something both is and is not? That’s what this law is confirming is an impossibility.
The third, and final, Law of Logic is “The Law of Excluded Middle”. It states that something must be either A, or ~A. This law is often confused with the Law of Noncontradiction, but the distinction is that The Law of Noncontradiction is emphasizing that A does not equal ~A. you cannot be both at the same time. The Law of Excluded Middle is a confirmation of a true dichotomy between A and ~A there are no other options. Either a stick is a stick, or it is not a stick. You must pick one or the other, there’s no third option.
These laws are the basis for everything we know about logic (such as modus tonens and all the other derived laws of logic). Theists will often claim that “You cannot apply logic to god”. This is absolutely false. If we can apply these three laws of logic to god, we can apply all logic to god. So let’s try it. Let’s let A = God. The Law of Identity: if God is God, then he is God. Yes, this is true, if God is defined as himself, He must be himself. The Law of Noncontradiction: God cannot be both God and not God. Yes, this law seems to hold too, who would argue that God is not God? The Law of Excluded Middle: God must either be God or not God. Yes, this final law seems to hold as well. All of these laws, when applied to God seem to hold strong, thus, all derived logic can, in fact, be applied to God.
When theists say “You can’t apply logic to God” it is often when I have stumped them with a logical refutation for God. Logic can be applied to everything. It is true by definition. If logic can be applied to god, then if I come across a god that is logically inconsistent, I am well justified in dismissing that god as existent. How can a god that exists be both God and not God? it violates logic and thus cannot exist. Now, most theists will say that God is the most powerful being that is logically possible. This is the definition that I usually go by because the minute anyone says God is illogical, I can immediately dismiss him as existent because nothing can exist that defies logic. It is an impossibility by definition.
A very intelligent man, by the name of David Hume, introduced a heuristic known as the Principle of Empirical Verifiability that is commonly used today for discerning what is possible to exist. The principle states that something can only be true if it meets two or more of these requirements. 1) The truth claim is true by definition. (Such as 2+2=4. or A = A. or triangles have three sides). 2) The truth can be verified empirically by one or more of the five senses. This principle is commonly used for discerning truth.
A lot of very uneducated people have claimed that the law of empirical verifiability is unreliable because it does not prove itself. The principle itself is neither true by definition, nor empirically verifiable. This principle is something known as a “Heuristic”. It is not claiming absolute knowledge about truth like the laws of Logic or Mathematics. It is defining a way to truth based on experience from problem solving, learning, and discoveries we’ve made in the past. An example of a heuristic would be “Common Sense”. Common sense cannot prove itself, but it is generally a reliable pathway to truth. This is not always the case because sometimes things (such as Quantum Mechanics) can defy common sense. It’s possible to postulate that things can violate the Principle of Empirical Verifiability too. But the fact that we have not a single existent thing that defies this heuristic, is a good indicator of it’s reliability. Now, I’m not saying something could never violate this heuristic, because to know that, I would have to know everything. However, the Principle of Empirical Verifiability has proven reliable for discerning what is true in the observable universe, thus, it can be considered a heuristic.
Now I want to get into some of the common arguments made for god. Before I do I want to define two terms: Inductive Reasoning, and Deductive Reasoning. Inductive Reasoning is the reasoning we use to form a premise, Deducting Reasoning is the logical steps we take to get from a premise, to a conclusion. For instance, Let’s say I walk into a room and discover a puddle of milk on the floor and cereal scattered everywhere. Now, I’m using Inductive Reasoning when I observe the milk and cereal and discover the premise that “there is milk and cereal on the floor”. I’m using Deductive reasoning when I say “there is milk and cereal on the floor, thus, someone spilled their breakfast” A lot of these arguments have flawless deductive reasoning, however, it is the inductive reasoning that is in question. But again, I’m not going to say what I think is wrong with them because I want to make an entire post about each one. I might throw in some of my thoughts quickly, but for the most part, these will only be descriptive definitions of the arguments.
The Cosmological Argument (Also known as First Cause) typically argues for the existence of God based on the premise that everything must have a cause. According to this line of reasoning, a first cause is logically necessary, since an infinite chain of causes leaves everything without a cause. This first cause is assumed to be God. 1) Everything that exists must have a cause 2) If you follow the chain of events backwards through time, it cannot go back infinitely, so eventually you arrive at the first cause. 3) This cause must, itself, be uncaused. 4) But nothing can exist without a cause, except for God. 5) therefore, God exists.
The Teleological Argument (Anthropic Principle) (Argument from Fine-Tuning) is an attempt to prove God based on the natural order of the universe. This is probably the most common and laughable arguments for the existence of God. I urge you, If you are a theist, do not use this argument. It ranges in complexity from variations of “Paley’s Watchmaker” to the laughable plea of “Just look at the trees!” The argument is deeply flawed on almost every level. If you want to prove the existence of god, the Anthropic Principle is not the argument to choose.
The Christological Argument: A Christological argument is one which makes the case that Christianity is the “one true religion” based on the Biblical Record of Jesus. Some of these arguments attempt to build an empirical case to demonstrate the accuracy of the Bible’s account of the life of Jesus, while other arguments simply assume the historicity of Jesus and the accuracy of the Bible, and build an argument based on the words and actions attributed to Jesus.
The Transcendental Argument for God (TAG): This argument attempts to show that logic, science, ethics, and generally every fact of human experience and knowledge are all not meaningful a part from a preconditioning belief in god. The standard requirement to the argument is that there are transcendental things such as science, logic, morality, and mathematics which are not physically in existence which are also part of reality. Since these systems exist, God exists. It is important to note that this argument presupposes Platonic epistemology, that the knowledge of abstract ideas is innate and that knowledge of these abstract ideas is absolute. While this view is sometimes defended on the basis that the knowledge of abstract propositions, like the Laws of Logic and Geometry, can be located through an a priori investigation.
The Moral Argument: This one isn’t quite as common but it’s still worth mentioning. The argument is as follows. 1) Morality cannot exist without god. 2) Morality exists. 3) Thus God exists. This is not the greatest argument either. But I’ll get into why in another post.
Pascal’s Wager: This is by far the most ridiculous argument for god and yet I hear it all the time. Basically, It states that if atheism and theism are the only options, theism is infinitely more desirable than atheism. It does this by the following logic. Atheism gains a finite life with the sacrifice of an infinite afterlife. Theism is the sacrifice of a finite life with the gain of an infinite afterlife. Theism is infinitely more desirable because it has potentially an infinity to gain. It basically states that you should believe in god even if there is a strong chance that he might not be real, because the penalty for not believing, namely going to hell, is so undesirable that it is more prudent to take our chances with belief. I can’t even begin to describe how amazingly stupid this argument is, It’s almost as bad as the teleological argument. Again, if you’re a theist, do not use this argument.
These are the major arguments I see for the existence of god. Now I want to quickly go into some of the common fallacies I see among theists. Firstly, I want to note that an argument can be fallacious and still be correct. For instance, 1) All fish live in water, 2) all trout live in water, 3) thus all trout are fish. similarly an argument can be logically valid but still wrong. 1) All bugs are insects. 2) all spiders are bugs. 3) thus all spiders are insects.
Argument from Ignorance: This is by far the most common fallacy I have seen. I personally see the entirety of religion as a gigantic argument from ignorance. The fallacy is basically that, because something is not well understood, it is justified in making up an answer and assuming it’s truth. Here’s an example, 1) we live in a complicated world 2) I don’t see how it could have come into existence without an intelligence behind it. 3) thus god exists.
Ad Hominem: Ad Hominem fallacies involve attacking the person rather than the argument, e.g., by casting aspersions on that person’s character, or associating the person with a distasteful ideology. This is a logical fallacy because the fact that a person is repugnant does not mean that they are wrong. Here is an example, 1) Sarah claims that John murdered Ashley. 2) Sarah is a convicted drug user. 3) thus, Sarah’s claims aren’t trustworthy
Appeal to Popularity: The fallacy basically goes like this. “Look at how many people believe X, X must be true!”. Here are some examples, Somebody trying to convince their friend to try smoking by asserting that all the cool kids do it. Advertisements that make the claim that: Everybody’s doing/using/eating [insert product name here]. “2.1 Billion Christians can’t be wrong.”
Appeal to Emotion: This argument tactic is very similar to an appeal to popularity which attempts to circumvent rational thought in the hopes of “supporting” a conclusion with an emotional response in the place of real evidence. Many times, this fallacy is committed in concert with other fallacies as well, e.g. ad hominem. An example would be “Aren’t you afraid of going to hell when you die?”. Or “Hitler was a vegetarian. do you want to be like Hitler?”
Cherry Picking: Cherry Picking is the practice of choosing quotes and research which supports ones views while ignoring credible quotes and research, in the same branch of study, which undermines or contradicts ones views. It’s very common amongst people that refer to the bible (esp. The Old Testament)
Special Pleading: Special pleading is when you claim that standards of evidence should be modified or reversed for a particular claim or type of claim. An Example would be, “Everything has a cause, except God”
Petito Principii (Begging the Question): Is a common fallacy I see in which the conclusion is inserted into the premise. an example would be 1) God has done amazing things in my life, 2) Thus, God exists
Straw Man: A straw man fallacy is when one side of the argument deliberately misrepresents the other side. This misrepresentation is then undermined as if it is the actual position. Someone not paying close attention might think that the original argument has been refuted, when in reality, it has not. An example is “Atheists say that the Bible isn’t true. But archeologists have found many of the cities mentioned in the Bible, so clearly the atheists are wrong.” Atheists never claim that everything in the bible isn’t true. Additionally, even if a book contains historical evidence, that does not mean that every single thing in that book is true.
Shifting of the Burden of Proof: This is another extremely common fallacy that I have encountered. When you are making a claim, you have a burden of proof. If you make a claim, and cannot prove it, It is justifiable in dismissing it. For instance, If i claim Santa Clause exists, it is my responsibility to prove it, if I can’t, you are justified in saying “I don’t believe you”. Theists make the claim that “A God exists”. Thus the burden of proof is on them. If they have not met their burden of proof, I am justified in saying “I don’t believe you”. Shifting of the burden of proof is a logical fallacy when one attempts to shift the burden of proof to the person not making the claim. An example would be, “You can’t prove God doesn’t exist, thus God exists”. But if you take a Shifting of the Burden of Proof fallacy and insert “Santa Clause” you can see how this is nonsense. “You can’t prove Santa Clause doesn’t exist, thus Santa Clause exists”. If you can, avoid this fallacy at all costs when debating. It just makes you look dumb.
There are more fallacies and arguments for the existence of god but this post is long enough already and there are just too many things to get too. I will post more arguments and fallacies another time. But for now, just understand that I used to use every one of these arguments (and even some fallacies). It wasn’t until I actually looked up the responses to the arguments that I realized how fallacious they were. Logic always wins out in the end.
As I mentioned in my first blog post. This video is the the video that really got me thinking critically about my faith. it’s very objective, it gives arguments from one of the best Christian apologists and atheists respond to those arguments.
I would like to begin by saying that, although I am now an atheist, I never intended for things to end up the way that they have. That’s not to say that I’m not happier than I ever have been, I simply mean that at the beginning of this endeavor my goal was not to become an atheist. I originally set out as a protestant baptist to reinforce my faith with reason and logic. As is plainly obvious, it didn’t work out too well. I just ask that anyone who reads this (especially believers) keep in mind that every argument you probably know are the very same arguments I used to use in favour of my beliefs. It’s very rarely that I hear an argument that I’ve never heard before, although it has occurred. This is not to say that I don’t want to hear your arguments because I do! I’m just simply saying that I know most of the common ones because I’ve been using them my whole life.
So I was raised protestant baptist. If you’re not familiar with the baptist denomination, they hold believes that the Bible is the true word of God and, though it was written by man, it is infallible. They reject the authority and holiness of the pope, they reject the idea of priests and confession, they believe that all believers should have equal access to God’s authority, and they are generally in favour of the separation of church and state. They have two major offices within the church, one being the pastor and the other being the deacon. They believe that baptism plays no role in salvation it is just an outward expression of an inward change. Many conservative baptists oppose gambling, alcohol, tobacco, and some even oppose certain styles of dancing (though I personally don’t know any). They believe in salvation by faith alone. The biggest difference among many baptist churches are in the areas of Calvinism (disbelief in the existence of free will) vs Arminianism (belief in free will), the ordination of women, homosexuality, and the end times. They generally reject a lot of the supernatural claims of the individual such as the supernatural spiritual gifts.
I have been going to church for as long as I can remember. Church is all I’ve ever known and it’s all I’ve ever been taught. I’ll talk about indoctrination in another post. The point is that, at an age before I knew what truth was, I was taught by the church that God was the truth. As I grow up, I naturally want to please the god that I believe to be true by following his commandments TO THE LETTER. I do everything this god tells me, simply because it’s all I’ve ever known. Disobeying God’s commandments is something I considered to be absolutely abhorrent and I would’ve rather died than done so. Skip ahead to college. I get to college and immediately start searching for a church. I happen to land in a nondenominational church. The only church services I had heard up until this point had been baptist ones, and the sermons I heard at this nondenominational church seemed to fit in line with what I already thought to be true, so I kept going. eventually, I made friends there and began to go on a regular basis.
After a few months, I started to notice some things that this church believed in that I had never even heard of before! They believed in this (what I thought to be) crazy claims! They believed people actually had the power to HEAL other people. They believed that speaking in tongues was an actual interpretable language, and not just someone moving their mouth and making random sounds. I, as a scientist, naturally dismissed these ridiculous claims because 1) i had never been even heard of these before and 2) these just seemed absolutely ludicrous to me. It doesn’t make sense that a person can physically heal another person. I had always believed that God did the healing. Why would God need an intermediary? It made no sense to me.
Enter my skepticism! I started to realize how many different things there really are that Christians believe. If certain Christians believe that another person can heal someone and I don’t believe that. which one of us is right? for 2 or 3 months I just shelved the idea…justifying it to myself by saying things like “Oh, it doesn’t matter! We’re both going to the same place in the end.” But the rational side of me couldn’t help thinking about it. So one day last year I decided to actually do some research, just to appease my curiosity. I found myself swept up in finding out what other Christians believe, why they believe it, and, if i don’t share those beliefs, who is right. I researched many different topics over many weeks and found myself more and more invigorated with the most fundamental question “Why don’t others believe?”
I bought books on the subject of creationism and what science has to say. I had already known that science didn’t get everything right. It had just always been a fact that evolution was wrong and creationism was right. I went to an “Atheist vs. Christian” debate, fully expecting the atheists to get blown out of the water. However, much to my chagrin, the atheist were well founded in fact and demonstrable evidence, and the Christians only made appeals to the Bible (which I knew from my logic courses to be something known as “Circular Logic”. It’s basically exactly how it sounds. “God exists because the bible says so, the bible exists because God created it”). I had left disappointed because, I truly wanted to hear factual evidence for the existence of God. Thus begins my search for such evidence.
throughout my search I found an apologist by the name of “Ray Comfort.” He had what I believed to be a wonderful, hands-on ministry called “The Way of the Master.” I began watching his stuff a lot, he would go out on the streets and have theological debates with people. I truly enjoyed his stuff. One day when I was browsing on YouTube, I stumbled upon a video entitled “The Atheist Experience: Ray Comfort Interview.” I clicked the link, again, fully expecting the atheists to be blown out of the water by someone, who I believe, to have clearly superior arguments for the existence of God. I couldn’t have been more disappointed. Every single point that I had ever heard Ray make on the streets, were easily debunked by the atheists. In a way that I could not even deny. I was literally watching it and saying things like “…Oh, yeah…But what about?….no….wow, yeah I guess they’re right.” by the end of the video even Ray Comfort seemed to be calling for a euthanasia of sorts. He began saying things like “Just be tolerant of religion! we’re not hurting anyone.” In my head I knew this to be last resort for any apologist.
Enter atheism. This was the scariest time for me. I began being absolutely overwhelmed by these doubts. Every argument I had ever known for the existence of God had been thoroughly debunked by “The Atheist Experience”. I kept watching their show very often because they are VERY logical and VERY keen on what EVIDENCE has to say and I knew in my head that I wanted to believe something based on evidence. That is the main reason I embarked on this journey in the first place. However, very afraid that my doubts would soon overwhelm me, I desperately read every book I could get my hands on about the “failure of evolution” or the “failure of atheism”. I read books suggested to me by all my friends, such as “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist”, “The Case for Christ”, “The Creation Answer Book”, and anything else I could get my hands on. I desperately cried out to god to help me through this time of doubt, to help me see what I’m not seeing. I cried to God to give me any sign that would help me believe. to just show me why it’s so easy to doubt and so hard to believe! however, despite sincere and honest appeals to god, Time after time I’d watch every argument I ever read be debunked by “The Atheist Experience”. despite sincere and honest appeals to god, no answers came. I can’t tell you how scared I was now when I came to grips with the fact that what I believe may not, in fact, be the truth.
after about a month of research, reading, praying and thoroughly pondering…I decided to see what it would be like to just say that I didn’t believe for just one hour. So I said, out loud, “I don’t believe in God.” I waited around for about 10 minutes and then decided what it would be like to say that I was an atheist, so I said, out loud “I’m an atheist.” At the moment I said, “I’m an atheist” I let the doubt flow through me. I let go of all this stress I kept inside that my beliefs weren’t true and I felt the most overwhelming sense of freedom. I didn’t have to justify these irrational beliefs any more. I accepted the fact that they were most likely not true and I felt so incredibly happy. No longer did I have to believe that many of the people I love are going to hell. No longer did I have to believe that God doesn’t want homosexuals to get married, or that God created the world in six days. I realized that accepting my doubt was a healthy thing, and free from doubt, I can believe what I actually believe is true, instead of trying to justify to myself that my beliefs are true, instead of LYING to myself for 2 or more months I can finally accept that evolution is true. I can finally accept that the big bang is the most likely scenario based on the evidence.
Since the day I was deconverted, I’ve never been happier. There is truly a different perspective between having a conversation…and having a conversation with God watching. It’s truly a new life I’ve been living and it has been nothing but wonderful so far. In this blog, I hope to address some of the reasons I don’t believe, I hope to address some of the reasons other people DO believe and why I think they’re nonsense. I hope to address some of the things that I disagree with about, not only the religion I was raised in, but many other religions. I hope to address some of the things I agree AND disagree with about atheism, as well as to clarify common misconceptions. But if you’ve gotten to the end of this blog, that says a lot about you. It says either 1) you care enough about me to care what I believe and give me courtesy of examining your own beliefs and objectively justifying them. or 2) you care enough about truth to examine the beliefs objectively for yourself.
Since I’ve become an atheist, I’ve been happier than I ever was in religion. I’ve come to see that religion is, not only pure fiction, but extremely divisive, and hurtful to those around it. I’ll address some of these issues in a later post. But in short, atheism is one of the most important and, as of now, best decisions I’ve ever made. there is nothing better than having an open mind. A mind to objectively look at the evidence without a predisposition. Instead of guiding the evidence where I want it to go, I follow the evidence and see where it leads. That is the nature of a rational mind who is concerned with truth. Truth is not something to be put second hand to anything. Truth is the only thing that matters, and it’s the only thing I believe in.