Monthly Archives: June 2012

A Few Disclaimers About This Blog

Before I pen any more blogs, I’d like to clarify a few things regarding the assumptions I make in my blogs, and a few other items of note –

  1. I don’t assume that God is a “He.”  Even a lot of atheists refer to God as  “him,” which I consider presumptuous and unfounded.  I believe that religion, in part, attempts to subjugate women; therefore, when the concept of the Christian God was devised, God was made a man (creating man first, then woman from man) as a system of control for men to subjugate women.  Furthermore, simply from a logical perspective, why would God even need a gender?  A God has no need for genitalia, as God is omnipotent.  Although I may slip up from time-to-time out of habit, I try to refer to God as “it,” or just “God.”
  2. I try not to make generalizations about religion, atheists, or anything else.  I’m sure I will from time to time, but I try to use words like “generally,” “usually,” and “often” to indicate that I am not making absolute statements, as they are rarely true.
  3. I try not to state opinions as facts.  That’s a Christian’s job. 🙂
  4. When I refer to God, I generally think of God in the traditional Christian sense – ethereal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, jealous, genocidal, all that jazz.
  5. I have a bias towards arguing against Christianity, because I live in the United States, where most people are Christians.  (Note: This is NOT a “Christian Nation.”)  My knowledge of the world’s other major religions is limited, but I am learning.  I have not read their sacred texts, but I can still argue over the major flaws of theism without having to read a magic book.
  6. This blog is solely about atheism.  Do not make assumptions about my other beliefs.  You may be surprised.  I think most atheists tend to get pigeon-holed into certain other beliefs, and I likely do not fit that mold.  Assume nothing.
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Are Atheists Arrogant and Angry?

Of the many arguments that I’ve heard about peoples’ perceptions about atheists, two of the most intriguing are that some people perceive us to be arrogant or angry.

The first point I’d like to make to anyone – atheist, theist, or otherwise, is to avoid sweeping generalizations.  Sure, some atheists are arrogant, but so are many theists.  And when you say “angry,” angry about what?  Do you think atheists are just grumpy people, or are we angry about something specific?  So again, try to avoid generalizations.  They don’t help healthy debate in any way.

The issue I’d like to most focus on is the perception of arrogance.  Personally, and generally speaking of course, I’d say that atheists are humble, and here’s why:

Atheists generally believe that nothing is to be assumed true, or deemed a fact, unless there is solid evidence to support the assertion.  We aren’t out to disprove God; we just choose not to believe in God without evidence, which is sorely lacking.  We believe in science.  We believe in the scientific method.  We believe that evidence should draw its own conclusion, not finding evidence to support what we already believe.  Hypothesis -> Testing -> Conclusion.  We also appreciate testing that can be replicated and independently peer reviewed by a qualified scientist.  In my opinion, any assertion made, whether it be related to the existence of God or otherwise, should be provable by more than one person.

But most importantly, the reason we are truly humble is that we don’t know all the facts.  Science is what leads us to the facts, but we are humble enough to acknowledge that we don’t have all the facts.  That’s why science is so great.  It allows us to explore, to expand our minds.  Famed astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson once claimed that we only know about four percent of what is to be known about the universe.  Isn’t that exciting?  Do we know what started the universe for a FACT?  No, but there are some interesting ideas (e.g., Big Bang) out there with some pretty solid evidence, that scientists are exploring.  Do we know how life started?  No, but we have some pretty good hypotheses out there, like abiogensis.  But we don’t have all the answers, and we’re OK with that.  That is the source of our humility.

Unfortunately, Christians, as well as many other religions, pretend to have all the answers all the time.  “Just read the Bible.  It’s all there.”  Wow, I’m glad to know that a book written thousands of years ago, when science was but a pipe dream, explains absolutely everything there is to know.  Problem solved.  Now we can close our minds and stop learning.  That’s how the Dark Ages came about…nothing arrogant about claiming to know everything, eh?

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Quote of the Day – 6/24/12

There exists in society a very special class of persons that I have always referred to as the Believers. These are folks who have chosen to accept a certain religion, philosophy, theory, idea or notion and cling to that belief regardless of any evidence that might, for anyone else, bring it into doubt. They are the ones who encourage and support the fanatics and the frauds of any given age. No amount of evidence, no matter how strong, will bring them any enlightenment. They are the sheep who beg to be fleeced and butchered, and who will battle fiercely to preserve their right to be victimized.

-James Randi

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What If You’re Wrong?

I was reading a comment to a question posted on a message board today.  The original question was essentially, “Why do Christians Hate Atheists?”  Granted, this question is presumptuous, by assuming that Christians hate atheists.  Although some likely do, it is nonetheless a sweeping generalization.  Either way, one of the respondents, an obvious Christian, began spouting off all of the typical “I’m right and you’re wrong” kind of arguments.  Clearly, the respondent does not fully understand his arguments, especially evolution.

The argument of his that I would like to address is that of Pascal’s Wager, or the “what if you’re wrong argument.”  This argument was first posited by 17th century French Philosopher Blaise Pascal.  Essentially, the argument goes like this –

Assuming a Christian God, we do not know with complete certainty whether God exists.  Therefore, we must make a “bet,” one way or another.

If we believe in God, and we are correct, we will go to heaven.  If we believe in God, and God does not exist, nothing happens.  Therefore, there is no downside to believing in God.

On the other hand, if we do not believe in God, and God exists, you go to hell.  If we do not believe in God and God does not exist, nothing happens.  Therefore, there is no upside to refuting the existence in God.

So Pascal is suggesting that believing in God is the smart choice, because there is no downside, so why not?

Unfortunately, there are two major fallacies with Pascal’s wager, especially in the view of a Christian God.

The first fallacy is in your belief system.  There are literally thousands of sects within Christianity, each of which has a different view of entrance into heaven.  Not only that, but there are thousands of other religions in the world, and some of those religions don’t even believe in heaven.  Some religions don’t even have Gods, such as Buddhism, and Deists believe that God has taken a “hands off” approach, and wouldn’t care what you do, anyway.  So the bottom line is this: There are thousands of different world views on entrance in to heaven, so the likelihood that your specific belief system is correct (in a world with thousands of belief systems), is so incredibly remote, that the upside of believing in God is almost zero.  In fact, it may be possible that the true criteria for entrance into heaven are believed by no existing religion.

The second, and most compelling argument in my opinion, is the omniscience of the Christian God.  The Christian Bible asserts that God is all-knowing (omniscient, Psalm 147:5).  If that is true, and your belief in God is based upon a “wager,” then your belief in God is insincere.  God would know this (he is omniscient, remember?), and would not grant you entrance into heaven as a false believer.

A third argument could also be made that Pascal was presumptuous in assuming that the Christian God is the correct God, and that heaven and hell actually exist.  Of course, none of these assertions have been proven, so you can argue that Pascal’s wager is a moot argument.

My final argument relates to the effects your belief system has on the world we live in.  When someone believes in God, there are generally tenets to their faith that go along with it (although this does not apply to deism).  People act upon those tenets in life, so your belief in God affects people in this world, and can have an adverse effect.  For me, two people have chosen to leave my life because of my atheism, so there are consequences in this life, in believing in God.  And there are much more dire consequences in religion, such as faith-based wars, forced circumcision, and subjugation of women and homosexuals.  So just think about your beliefs, and not only how they affect your perceived entrance into heaven, but how it affects others in this world.

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Argument from Personal Experience

Have you “felt” God?  Have you “experienced” God?  Have you “seen” God?  Have you had a personal experience that caused you to believe in God?  If your answer is “yes,” this blog is for you.

What was the experience?  Was it shared by others?  Can it be explained by natural phenomena?

The reason I ask is because some people out there believe in God for one of these reasons.  This concerns me.  I don’t believe that the existence of God can be proven by a personal experience, because, well, it’s personal.

If the existence of God is to be unquestionably proven, it must be proven irrefutable to everyone, not just a single person.  If you “felt” God, saw him in a piece of toast, or were otherwise “moved” by God, how does that support the existence of God to anyone but you?  As an analogy, let’s say that I tell you that I feel the ghost of Elvis living inside my body.  Does my personal experience make it true to everyone?  Would you automatically believe in ghosts from that day forward, without question?  My guess would be no.

Let’s also consider the thousands of sightings of UFOs, Big Foot, Chupacabra, and the Loch Ness monster.  Society in general considers these sightings to be unsubstantiated, and there are reasons for that.  First, these are extraordinary claims.  They don’t fall within the norms of society.  No one expects to see a giant Plesiosaurus creature emerge from a lake.  It’s not considered a reasonable belief.  Second, first-hand accounts of supposed “evidence” have been debunked repeatedly.  Third, and most importantly, there is no evidence to support these beliefs.  How could a hundred-foot tall creature living in a lake be overlooked?  But remember, people claim they’ve seen it.  That doesn’t make it true.

If you want to prove that any claim is true, whether it be the Loch Ness monster, Big Foot, Chupacabra, ghosts, vampires, or God, there must be irrefutable evidence, such that any reasonable person would conclude that the claim is true, absent any predispositions.  And that evidence should be replicable, under similar circumstances, by any competent individual testing the evidence.  And because personal experiences cannot be replicated and tested by other individuals, the claim can never be validated.

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Quote of the Day – 6/22/12

“When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” – Stephen F Roberts

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Ten Questions for a Christian

For those of you who are Christians, I have ten questions to ask.  OK, it’s really more than ten, but I think these are pretty valid questions.  You see, I don’t really understand why people cling to religion, when it is based on faith, not facts.  These questions apply to all religions.  Just insert your “God” or your “text” in place of God or the Bible.

 

  1. Are you the same religion as your parents?  How has that influenced your choice of religions?
  2. When did you first become religious?  At what age?  Have you, at any age, taken it upon yourself to question what you have been taught and seek the truth for yourself?  If so, what were your conclusions?
  3. Have you explored other religions (e.g., Islam, Judaism, eastern religions, dead religions)?  Have you read the Talmud, Qu’uran, Book of Mormon, or other religious texts?  If so, what drew you to your religion?
  4. Have you independently read the Old and New Testaments, cover to cover?
  5. Do you represent your religion as fact or belief?  If you believe your religion is a fact, how do you define fact?
  6. What evidence do you have that the Bible is correct?  What evidence do you have to prove the existence of God?
  7. Why do you believe that your idea of God is the correct one?  Why isn’t Yahweh, Allah, Zeus, or others your God?  (Granted, the Christian God, Yahweh, and Allah are all technically the same God, but each religion sees God a little differently)
  8. Why do you believe that Christianity is the correct religion, and how do you dismiss that others are incorrect?
  9. How do you reconcile the discrepancies within the Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT), the atrocities contained therein, and the fact that scientific evidence does not support any of the stories within these texts (e.g., no scientific/archaeological evidence supporting a great flood)?
  10. Have you studied science?  Do you understand the scientific method?  Have you studied evolution and abiogenesis? Do you dismiss these theories in favor of the Bible?  If so, why?

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