I tend not to shy away from my atheism. If someone wants to discuss religion or theism, I will happily oblige. This position has lead me to have many interesting conversations over the years with people of many different religions and backgrounds, and this has continued on this blog. I’ve noticed a number of themes, some common strands that tend to run through the conversations I have with those who are religious. There are certain arguments, certain propositions that continually come up. I don’t know if these are points those with religion are instructed to raise, whether there’s a list of points to use in their attempted conversations, or not, but they are common, and searching this blog and others like it you will see them come up time and time again. So with that in mind, I thought I’d list them here and respond to them individually. I’ll add to them if need be and, of course, the comments are always open if you agree / disagree with any points here.
Evolution is a Theory and is not Scientifically Sound
This is an argument that tends to come up less and less as the number of fundamentalist creationists fall. Put simply, they believe that evolution, and by association natural selection, cannot be proven. This perceived absence of scientific proof (not a measure the apply to any other aspects of their religion, clearly) means that the creationist view of our origins must be true.
People who truly believe this are difficult to argue with. The mechanics of evolution have been proven. It’s reproducible in a laboratory situation and therefore there’s no real debate to be had. What is potentially up for debate is whether we, as humans, are evolved from primates. There are some gaps in the evolutionary process, but the evidence is overwhelming. For example, we still have the muscles in our bodies that are used by primates but not us (e.g. the palmaris longus muscle), and as a result the muscle goes undeveloped and an increasing number of humans are born without it with no ill effect. If we were designed, then why would our designer give us an under-developed muscle that we never use that also happens to be present in an animal we share a significant amount of DNA with? Laziness? Lack of understanding? Inefficiency? And that is just one example, there are many more to be found within our bodies and thousands more out in nature.
It Requires More Faith to be an Atheist than not
The malformed logic here goes that the non-existence of a deity can never be proven, ergo, atheists must have “faith” that there is no deity. Of course this argument relies on a foundation of misunderstanding. The default position is to not believe in something for which there is no evidence of. It requires no faith to not believe in the existence of Godzilla, because there is no evidence to support its existence. If there was evidence to support a claim, if there was any logical, sensible, reason to believe in something, then it would require faith to not believe in it.
The Non-Existence of God Cannot be proven, ever.
This leads on from the misguided logic seen in the above statement, that atheists require faith because the non-existence of God cannot be proven, therefore our position can never be confirmed. I’ve already made a pretty good stab at disproving the Christian God, and I’m sure that with a little research many other popular deities could be similarly disproved. Of course, my argument only logically disproves the definition of the Christian God, not the being itself. But if we know the definition is incorrect, then the foundation of the religion must be brought into question.
There are no Atheists in Foxholes
I’ve had this posed to me on a number of occasions and, I’m afraid to say, I can’t see the point of the argument. Whether it is that, really, we all believe in a God but it requires some sort of epiphany to bring it out in us (like a rash, perhaps), or whether they believe that God touches people in their hour of need, I’m not sure. What I am sure of, is that there’s nothing like intense stress and trauma to inhibit people’s critical and logical thinking. I’m also sure that the idea of deities is so prevalent in our culture that saying “God help us” when the bullets are flying is no necessarily always a confirmation of belief in such a being. Yet no doubt, those who utter the words only to survive against the odds will put it down to heavenly intervention (those who don’t make it will be unable to make such a choice).
I have had Prayers Answered
No, I’m afraid you haven’t. You have asked for something to happen, and then it has happened. Whenever you claim to have had a prayer answered, think about the ones that have not been answered. And don’t lie to yourself by believing it’s all part of your deities plan, it’s not, there is no plan, and there is no deity. Always remember that correlation does not always equal causation. Could it be that if you wanted something to happen so much that you dared to pray for it, that your own motivated, driven actions would have helped the cause?
God has Spoken to me
Again, afraid not. If you are hearing voices in your head, you should seek professional help. That is especially true if the voices claim to be a deity of any kind. It is a medical condition called schizophrenia, whether the voice claims to be a deity or not, and regardless of whether you believe it is the vice of a deity, the voice is coming from you, and telling you what you want to hear.
My Holy Book is Accurate, I have Proof
Just because parts of a holy book portray a reasonably accurate representation of a certain period of history, it does not mean that the entire book is accurate. It can be clearly seen in modern literature that fictional works borrow heavily from real world locations and scenarios in order for them to appear more realistic. There is no historical proof of any miracles described in any holy book occurring. Given the number of holy books, and the number of miracles in each one, one would assume that there would be some sort of evidence for at least one of the miracles? But alas there is not, in the same way there is no evidence of Tokyo being destroyed by our old friend Godzilla, despite it being described in numerous forms of media and the city of Tokyo being portrayed quite accurately.
I just want to add a quick note to say that although I am publishing this post now, I intend to keep updating it as I come across other arguments for religion. If you want me to add anything, or address your own personal reason for believing in whichever deity you chose, then please leave a comment and I’ll be happy to oblige. The comments are always open and are integral to this site.