Atheism: explained

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15 responses to “Atheism: explained

  1. Religion: There’s a magic man with whom we can communicate telepathically and who made everything because a really old book says so. 🙂

    Obviously there’s more to both religion and atheism but it’s easy and fun to make things sound silly, ne?

  2. First off, if you actually cared to look, you’ll see I have a number of sophisticated arguments against atheism on this blog.
    However, based upon my experience dealing with athesits, that pretty much sums up atheism, which is a stupid and arrogant worldview mostly held by college drop-outs and potheads and a handful of pseudo-scientists who care more about turning science into ideology than actually studying the wonders of creation.

    1. As a general norm, really old books are always better: they’ve stood the test of time.

    2. God is by definition not a “magic man.” A) Magic implies a sense of control, where prayer is about a relationship, and B) God created everything.

    3. Atheism is stupid because it denies teleology, the foundation of human inquiry and philosophy, the quest to find out purpose. Atheists would rather deny purpose. Indeed, they profess to deny purpose, and they profess to deny absolute moral truth, yet they are the first to insist on it when convenient.

    Consider common atheist tropes:
    1) Religion is evil because so many wars are fought over it (nevermind religion is the only thing that keeps people from having wars, and the only times atheists have had control in history have been the most bloodthirsty regimes on record). If there’s no transcendent moral law, how can an atheist consistently call anything “evil”? If there’s no transcendent moral law, what business do atheists have condemning war? It’s illogical.

    2) “Why would a good God allow [Insert disaster here; recently it’s been the oil leak]?” Gee, I dunno. Why does a good God allow idiots like you not to believe in Him? Maybe because He gave us free will and wants to be freely loved, which carries with it the fact that we can choose not to love Him and not to do the right thing? But, again, more importantly, if evolution is God, and there is no moral law, who’s to judge BP “wrong”? Maybe the oil leak is just a new stage of evolution? I thought environmentalist atheists believe human beings are a plague on the world? Life on earth has survived numerous disasters throughout prehistory: “planet-killling” events like megavolcanoes and huge meteors, earthquakes, continental shifts, floods, etc.

    Why not just accept the given disaster as a form of evolution? Why not just accept AIDS or cancer as a form of evolution? Is it not philosophically inconsistent to speak of evolution, and to speak of not judging people morally, and then make moral pronouncements about issues like these?

  3. “Why not just accept the given disaster as a form of evolution?”

    Because it isn’t. It’s a natural disaster. A species response and adaptation to such disasters could be seen as evolution.

    “Why not just accept AIDS or cancer as a form of evolution?”

    What do you mean ‘accept’? All biology does is tells us how things work. It doesn’t make a statement about whether or not the way things work is good or bad.

    Living things die. That is a key part of evolution. But another key part is that living things, on the whole, really don’t want to die and will fight to hold off death as long as possible. Which is what we do when we research cures for cancer and AIDS and autism, etc.

  4. Yes, it’s part of evolution in the grand scheme: the evolution of the planet.

    Lame cop-out. What’s the point in doing it? What’s the point in surviving?

    In any case, you’re changing the subject. The point is idiots making judgements against God or other people for things like this.

  5. “Yes, it’s part of evolution in the grand scheme: the evolution of the planet.”

    There’s no such thing unless you’re talking in the vaguest, most metaphorical and non-scientific way.

    “Lame cop-out. What’s the point in doing it? What’s the point in surviving?”

    Any number of reasons. Some rational, some not. Most are personal. With animals, it’s usually the simplistic ‘living feels good’.

    If you don’t want to survive, I’ll try to talk you out of it, but I won’t stop you.

    “In any case, you’re changing the subject.”

    I was merely answering your questions.

  6. “First off, if you actually cared to look, you’ll see I have a number of sophisticated arguments against atheism on this blog.”

    My comment wasn’t about your blog, merely about the text in the box which you posted. I was pointing out the oversimplification of it by making an oversimplified statement of my own. You may assume atheism to be “stupid and arrogant” but you shouldn’t assume all atheist commenters on your blog are too.

    You’ve outlined two weak arguments which you perhaps assume are reasons why atheists don’t believe in any of the Gods? I don’t think religion is evil just because lots of people have invoked the name God to start wars, and natural disasters have nothing to do with my non-belief in Mohammed, Thor or any of the others.

    I also don’t have any interest in trying to sway you from your beliefs. I just think the World is better if we all try understanding why we think the way we do rather than judging and making assumptions.

    Have a fab day 🙂
    Non-college drop-out, pothead or pseudo-scientist, Lucy

  7. Lucy, I can’t be entitled to a little humor? Indeed, atheist web sites post nonsense like what you said all the time. Indeed, atheists post things about killing Christians and say “Ha, ha, that’s funny!” But get all indignant if they’re mocked.

    As for what you’re claiming are straw men, my point is: on what authority do you base these judgements? I don’t see any logical reason to say, ‘There’s no morality,” and then say, “This action that I don’t like is immoral.” Again, NotAScientist, “tradition” and “convention” are cop-outs. You reject other traditional or conventional morals but pick and choose which ones you want? Illogical.

    I don’t understand why an *atheist* wants to live. Yes, if I lost my faith, I’d kill myself. I see no reason why Stephen Hawking or Christopher Hitchens just doesn’t off themselves if they don’t believe. What’s the point of living at all if there’s no Telos to our existence? It’s futile. And it’s definitely futile to live with a debilitating health condition. However, I know that in reality, my suffering is part of a greater plan, and I can embrace my suffering as a form of self-sacrifice.

    Atheism is unscientific. It is unphilosophical. Those are the reasons I call it “stupid.” Dawkins, Hitchens, Myers, etc., stop at Darwin, and they say all their questions are answered. I guess they didn’t have too many questions!

    Atheists also claim “God can’t be tested!” (That’s true–it’s a sin to test God. Ask your next door neighbor to perform a “magic trick” for you to prove his existence, and see how he reacts!) However, prayers *are* answered, and there is plenty of evidence for it, but atheists prefer–unscientifically–to ignore such evidence. I may sometimes doubt the Catholic Church, but I can never doubt God–I’ve experienced far too much, too many direct miracles, too many events that others would chalk up to coincidence. The very fact that I’m alive is testimony to God’s Providence. The very fact that my family is not living on the streets is testimony to God’s Providence.

  8. “Lucy, I can’t be entitled to a little humor?”

    Absolutely you can. I responded with a little humour of my own, but what I might consider an issue is your assertion that the text in the box “pretty much sums up atheism, which is a stupid and arrogant worldview”.

    “I don’t understand why an *atheist* wants to live…I see no reason why Stephen Hawking or Christopher Hitchens just doesn’t off themselves if they don’t believe.”

    And yet millions of atheists do live lovely, happy enjoyable lives. Stephen Hawking and Christopher Hitchens haven’t killed themselves. I’m not mention this because I’m trying to persuade you that atheism is somehow better than having a God, I’d just like you to try to consider an important point: Why do atheists keep on living? How do they enjoy their lives?

    I think it’s a lot easier to live with someone if you understand them, or at least try to understand them and as we’re all stuck on Earth together a little bit of understanding can’t really hurt.

    One last point: You mention Darwin. You may already know but Evolution in no way invalidates the idea of a God. It definately isn’t an either/or thing. Personally I’m an atheist but millions of people accept Evolution whilst still believing in their God/Gods.

    Again, have a lovely day, Lucy 🙂

  9. Exactly my point about Darwin: I *do* accept Evolution. Indeed, I don’t understand what the big deal is about Darwin, because Aristotle describes evolution.

    My point is that the average atheist, whether Joe Schmoe or Christopher Hitchens, says, “I discovered Darwin, and I no longer needed God.” That’s why I say they’re stupid: they take an easy answer, then they accuse theists of looking for easy answers.

    And I don’t believe in tolerance. I don’t believe in living together. I believe atheism is a dangerous worldview, whose only fulfillment is found in Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, and every day in your neighborhood abortuary.

    I’m open to any logical argument why atheism should not result in suicide, but I’ve never heard an atheist who could present one. Usually, the best they can muster is something emotional.

  10. “My point is that the average atheist…says, “I discovered Darwin, and I no longer needed God.” That’s why I say they’re stupid…”

    My non-belief in any of the Gods has nothing to do with Charles Darwin or Evolution so either I’m not average or you might perhaps have to consider one of the following:
    *Try to understand why people think differently to you without judging them, or
    *Try to stop yourself from making assumptions about people and thinking them fact when they are simply assumptions.

    I wonder why you liken atheism to Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot when there are millions of atheists going about their lives without murdering and destroying. May I ask why you think this way? And what difference do you see between you equating atheism with Pol Pot and me equating Christianity with the Spanish Inquision? (I find both ideas equally silly).

    “I’m open to any logical argument why atheism should not result in suicide, but I’ve never heard an atheist who could present one.”

    How about the fact that millions of atheists don’t commit suicide? Isn’t that proof that atheism doesn’t have to result in suicide? I find it hard to believe why some people live their lives the way they do but that’s because we’re all different.

    I find this hard to believe too: If it was somehow it was proved: No God exists that you would not want to live. I’d be really interested to know why you think that way.

    Finally my own sort of philosophy I take from Marcus Aurelius, which might help you understand a little better where I’m coming from:

    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

    Lucy 🙂

  11. 1. I already said: you must unusual, since it’s what Dawkins, Hitchens and Myers all say, and it’s what the average atheist I’ve argued with online has said. It’s not an assumption; it’s what they say. Atheists ignore teleogy . By their own claims, Wittgenstein is the pinnacle of philosophy, and teleology is unnecessary.
    2. You need to study the Spanish Inquisition, since it is mostly maligned by anti-Catholic literature. There is plenty of historical evidence ignored in popular culture and education that the Spanish Inquisition was quite advanced for its day: for example, the Inquisition was so known for just investigations and better prison conditions that criminals would commit heresy so they’d go under the Inquisition’s jurisdiction. There were more Catholics executed by Elizabeth I than the total executions in the 300 year history of the Spanish Inquisition.

    By contrast, give me one example of an atheist regime, from the French Revolution to present, that has *not* engaged in genocide.
    Or, as my wife points out, people like to say “religion starts wars,” but if you look at world history, Christianity is one of the only forces that has stopped the perpetual war of all against all for all. And where do you see Catholicism teaching in favor of weapons of mass destruction? It is science that causes wars: scientists are the ones who invent new weapons and say they are entitled to do so for the pursuit of science.

    3. I already said: because life stinks. I live every day in constant pain. If evolution is it, then I’m evolution’s factory reject.

    And you still haven’t offered a logical argument for it. Again, you’re appealing to preference and convention. You’re not making an argument for the worth of human existence if we’re nothing more than advanced primates.

    As C. S. Lewis said, if your brain boils down to nothing more than random chemical bonds of neurotransmitters, then how can you even trust your reason? If the universe is random, and it’s all evolution, then who’s to say who’s more evolved? Indeed, the basic principles of evolution would indicate that Christians are more evolved, since a) we’re contributing to the survival of the species and b) we’re more adapted to our environment.

    4. Again, how do you define “noble”? How do you define “just”? If there are no gods to make these rules, how do you have anything but the philosophy of Thrasymachus and Gorgias, that justice is only defined by those in power?

    As C. S. Lewis said to “Can you be a good person and not be a Christian?” Of course not, because the definition of “a good person” is different. At least a Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim *has* an extrinsic definition of goodness, even if it disagrees with the Christian definition. Yet an atheist has no objective standards by which to define “justice” or “goodness” or “nobility” or “virtue.” Instead, it’s all personal preference. “I choose *not* to follow this traditional moral teaching, but I *will* follow this one because I like it, so I can call myself a just person by picking and choosing.”

    Again, give me a logical argument for your definition of “virtue.”

  12. “And you still haven’t offered a logical argument for it. Again, you’re appealing to preference and convention. You’re not making an argument for the worth of human existence if we’re nothing more than advanced primates.”

    I’m not sure what exactly you want me to offer a logical argument for. A point to life if there is no God? My own personal view on that is this: There is no point to life, no grand mission for us to fulfill. The best ‘meaning of life’ idea I’ve ever come across is an idea of Douglas Adams. “People are DNA’s way of making more DNA.”

    I suspect you might find this idea depressing, in the same way as your last comment struck me as slightly gloomy. I can only say that for myself, an uncaring Universe and a life without a universal goal is in no way an unhappy thought. It’s up to every individual to invest their life with meanig by themselves.

    The worth of human existence? I would have to quote Kurt Vonnegut: “To love whoever is around to be loved.”

    To some of your other points: I have no interest in defending awful regimes and I certainly would have no desire to live in a Country where religion was banned. I would only point out that atheism was hardly a factor in driving hideous men like Stalin and Mao to do the things they did.

    I’ll take your advice and find out more about the Spanish Inquisition. My original point still stands though. There are religious people who have done terrible things through history but it would be ridiculous to attack religion as a whole for these acts just as it would be nonsense to label all atheists as potential Pol Pots.

    “Yet an atheist has no objective standards by which to define “justice” or “goodness” or “nobility” or “virtue.” Instead, it’s all personal preference.”

    I would argue it’s absolutely all personal preference for everyone. Every person has a huge number of different religions to choose from. Within each of those religions there are lots and lots of ways to interprete that religion.

    Take Christianity: Huge numbers of people can read the Bible and take from it very different morality, a good example for current times being homosexuality. Whatever your opinion on gay people there are lots of people calling themselves true Christians who believe the exact opposite to you and they can quote the Bible too. Which person is “right”?

    Every person, to some extent, decides what they believe to be good, it’s just some use books to back up their decisions.

    I don’t believe in moral absolutes. Terrible, hideous things are done by people who justify their actions to themselves and believe what they’re doing is right. I believe with certainty that the Rwandan genocide was vicious, abhorrent and wrong. I assume you would think the same, as would any normal, sensible person, in my opinion. The awful thing: Those responsible for the genocide thought what they did was absolutely right.

    ” if your brain boils down to nothing more than random chemical bonds of neurotransmitters, then how can you even trust your reason?”

    I’m not sure we always can trust our reason as we’re generally irrational beings but that might be wandering into a whole other topic… 🙂

    Enjoy your day 🙂
    Lucy

    • OK, you’re a consistent post-modernist, if that isn’t itself a contradiction in terms. I’ll buy that.

      As for the slightly gloomy thing, just to be clear: I have a genetic disorder called Marfan syndrome. At present, I have a 3.7 cm aneurysm in my thoracic descending aorta that causes constant pain in my upper back. I have 2 brain aneurysms (technically an aneurysm and venal ectasia, but most people don’t know what the latter is), and a twisted carotid artery. I have 4 leaky heart valves, including the artificial aortic valve and root that were installed in 1996 when the aortic root aneurysm I grew up with hit 5.5 cm right around the time I turned 19. My lenses sit at the bottoms of my eyes. My kneecaps and shoulders sublux like nothing. Just about everything in life is extremely painful. The very fact that I’m alive today is a testimony to Providence. I’m not some Goth depressive here. I’m actually quite happy with life, overall. But anyone who understands chronic pain and disability knows that they weigh down hard, and sometimes the only thing keeping me from downing a whole bottle of pills when the pain’s too bad is the fear of even the remote possibility of going to Hell. That life is meaningless is a nightmarish thought to me.

      However, you’ve just proven my point that atheists reject Teleology as a necessary field of inquiry. A question that is crucially important to 90%+ of the population, “What is the meaning of life”, has no significance to atheists, who are content with meaninglessness. I find that to be an inadequate approach to the question that lies at the basis of philosophy and indeed *all* intellectual inquiry. Our quests to understand all the natural sciences, the social sciences, the humanities, and the divine sciences all boil down to the quest to find out the meaning of our existence. Thus, if atheists reject the question that underlies intellectual inquiry, the logical conclusion is that atheists are in some way or another anti-intellectual: whether willfully ignorant or incapable of understanding the question.

      But narrowing down to your Kurt Vonnegut quote: “To love whoever is around to be loved,” that seems to presume that a) “whoevers” exist, which is at the heart of our discussion; and b) that people are interchangeable. I can’t just love “whoever.” I have to love specific people, whom I choose to love. If I can love “whomever,” then am I not just objectifying them?

  13. Hi again,

    I’m genuinely sorry to hear about your physical problems and can understand how the pain and stress involved must be a constant struggle. Just to reiterate: I have no intention of trying to convert you to atheism through these posts, (a waste of both our time, I’m sure :). I’d just like you to think, “atheists: Completely wrong but I see where they’re coming from”.

    “A question that is crucially important to 90%+ of the population, “What is the meaning of life”, has no significance to atheists, who are content with meaninglessness.”

    I would query whether 90% is an accurate figure. Around 85% of the population live in the developing World where most people are more focused on feeding and clothing their families and don’t have the luxury of time for philosophical thought.

    I’d also question whether the average atheist is content with meaningless. I think the question is exceptionally significant, the difference being that I look more inward for the answer. The sense and meaning of my own life is something I’ve derived for myself in the face of an uncaring, meaningless Universe. I assume – though who knows – that most atheists would say the same.

    As to the Kurt Vonnegut quote. The “whoever” implies to me “any individual I come into contact with”. I assume that’s what Mr Vonnegut meant but it’s at least the meaning I’ve taken from it. To try to treat everyone with whom I come into contact with kindness and respect.

    I don’t choose who to treat with kindness and respect, I just try to treat everyone the same and hope they don’t feel objectified by my doing so 🙂

    Hope your day is fab,
    Lucy 🙂

  14. That’s the point of dialogue, and I applaud your willingness to actually dialogue, which is rare.

    I’d say that your two premises–“the Universe is cruel” and “I will be happy and loving anyway” are incompatible without a lot of development in between. To that, I reference Thomas Hobbes.

    However, one of the problems here, as you’ve framed the discussion, is something GK Chesterton talks about: the false dichotomy between “The Universe is well ordered” (Greco-Roman view) and “the Universe is Chaos” (Modern/postmodern view).

    The Christian view is that the world is a work of art. Modern art is chaotic; Greco Roman art (and the various eras that harken back to it, such as Neo-Classical and Renaissance) is very ordered to the point of being mechanical. Christian art, as represented in the Medieval, Baroque and Romantic eras, is fluid. It has an underlying order but represents the peaks and troughs of life. It is unafraid to point to the bad things of this life because it points to a higher ideal. The classic example, which I read in an article on Flannery O’Connor, is a medieval painting in which St. Joseph is cleaning diapers while the Magi honor Jesus and Mary.

    A Roman temple has pillars and arches. A modern building has angles. A gothic cathedral has pillars and arches and angles. It puts gargoyles on the outside and angels on the inside.

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