Note: So as to not type “some” all of the time, I’m speaking in generalities here. So take it as a given that yes, I know there are Christians and atheists who don’t do these things, and if you don’t, I know you don’t.
On Facebook, I commented on a friend’s post about how atheism isn’t a religion. That’s up for debate, and if it is, it certainly isn’t in all cases. That’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about atheists being atheists for a minute. Just their simple disbelief.
Having argued with quite a few atheists, I can say a couple things. One is, it’s often as tedious as arguing with fundamentalist Christians. The other is that, much like fundamentalist Christians, many atheists seem to take any disagreement as an attack. So I figured what the hell, I’d state my position. Disbelieve all you like. You don’t believe in a god or gods or the “supernatural’ or whatever. Good for you.
I mean that, I’m not being sarcastic at all. I am totally down with your lack of belief. You have every right to have it, and anybody who challenges you or claims you’re an immoral devourer of babies or whatever is an idiot. So OK, if I’m content, why am I arguing with you? Because, again much like fundamentalist Christians, you want to convert people. You think those of us with a religion are stupid, and by the gods, you’re going to show us how damn clever you are!
So you start making statements, religion comes from a fear of death! You start making arguments and claiming science tells us things, like, if we don’t need a god to explain the universe then a god doesn’t exist! Or you start making dumb arguments that you think apply to every religion but not only don’t, but they don’t even prove what you’re trying to demonstrate, like this one here. If you don’t feel like reading it, it basically boils down to, “I shit, therefore there is no God”. But read it anyway, it’s hilarious.
Now see, the thing is, you’re not just saying with these things, here’s why I personally don’t believe in a god. If you did, again, I’d be fine with that. You’re arguing because you think you’re right, and people should believe like you. I’ve heard every single one of these arguments, and a lot more but I only have so much time, so let’s tackle them.
Somebody once insisted that religion comes from a fear of death. The origin of religion, so they claimed, was to offer comfort about what happens after death. OK, fine, how do we tackle this? Well, like any good scientist, we go examine the data. Here’s some data.
In Hebrew mythology, i.e. the Bible, everybody went to Sheol, a sort of dark shadowy place. You were just sort of there, you didn’t do anything. There’s a tablet, I believe it’s Akkadian, where the dead are described as fluttering around like birds and eating clay and drinking sewer water. Both Hinduism and Buddhism have reincarnation, but of course, you can just as easily be punished as rewarded, as in Christianity. Most Chinese religion doesn’t even speculate on the afterlife. There are some hints of reincarnation in the Zhuangzi, but it’s difficult to tell if he’s being serious or just using it to make a point about change. Confucius specifically says you don’t even understand this life, why worry if there’s another one?
The point being, either we get little to no speculation on death, or things that wouldn’t be comforting whatsoever. Seriously, if you find being a powerless shade and/or eating clay and drinking sewer water comforting, go get the help you so obviously need. Of course there are religions that offer a comforting afterlife, I don’t deny that at all. But you’d think if this is the origin of religion, you’d have a lot more happy afterlife scenarios.
Moving on to the second argument, we don’t need a god to explain the universe. Thus, the reasoning goes, there is no such a thing as a god, it’s totally unnecessary. In the first place, this is a philosophical preference, not some sort of fact science tells us. In the second, it assumes that the only way things can be is if they have a necessity. Nicely Medieval, philosophically speaking, but hardly scientific.
In the third, it doesn’t really work as an argument. Suppose I said I was married, but you’ve never seen my wife. I tell you this is because she has a medical condition and remains at home. But I say, she wants me to buy her ice cream. You insist that I just wanted ice cream, or that i’m buying ice cream for my fictive wife to maintain my delusion of being married, Etc. You say there is no evidence of my wife, you’ve tried to find her family and such.
The point in this hypothetical is obvious, there is a wife, and the fact that you can’t determine her existence matters not one little bit as to whether that’s true or not. The fact that a wife isn’t necessary to explain my actions, Etc. has no baring on whether I’m married or not. Now sure, this isn’t the best analogy, clearly for some Christians their god does explain features of the universe. But again, the fact that their god isn’t a necessary explanation seems to me to have no baring on whether or not it actually exists.
Which brings us to our final argument, which I’ll call physical horrors. The author basically argues that since “God” is perfect, and we’re designed imperfectly with shit and snot and blood and all, “God” is imperfect. If “God” is imperfect, “God” can’t exist, since “God” is defined as perfect. Remember how I said this doesn’t prove what it purports to argue? I’m assuming you’ll see the two obvious flaws in this argument, but here they are.
1. This only applies to Christianity. He keeps saying “the theistic god”, and maybe “theistic” is his synonym for Christianity. But really, can you think of a “non-theistic god”? That’s kind of a contradiction in terms, so I doubt it.
2. Even if we accept that he’s only disproving the Christian god, all he’s done is proven that said god’s attribute of perfection doesn’t make sense. OK, so the Christian god could exist as an imperfect being. All this really demonstrates is that Christian theology might have to drop perfection as an attribute their god possesses. Shocking shocking stuff.
So to sum up, and pay attention because this is important, here’s what I’m saying.
1. If you’re going to step out of the realm of personal belief and start telling me why I’m wrong to believe something, i.e. try to convert me, I get to argue back at you. That’s sort of how debate works.
2. Atheist arguments about religion are generally problematic and aren’t nearly as clever as atheists seem to think they are. No, these are not devastating shots against “religion”, particularly since most of them deal with Christianity. That means they don’t apply to most of the world’s religions right out of the gate. Please, if you’re going to do this, take the time to be the good scientist/devotee of rationality you so often claim that you are, and go examine the actual data from the actual religions of the world. Or at least be honest and say you’re only talking about whatever version of Christianity you’re most familiar with, and nothing else. And by all the dancing Jesuses, please, quit stating your philosophical positions as some sort of fact proven by science, would you?
Here is what I am DEFINITELY NOT SAYING.
3. It follows from one and two that since I think you’re wrong, I think religion is right and you should totally believe in one right away. Let’s illustrate with a small example.
Suppose you claim baking soda is the only cleaning product that actually cleans. I demonstrate that, nope, you’re wrong, other cleaning products clean as well. Does that mean I’m saying, therefore, you should stop using baking soda and use these other cleaning products? Nope. As long as baking soda gets done what you need it to get done, have a blast with your baking soda. Also, quit preaching at me about how stupid I must be to be using bleach.