Damned If You Do

Has anyone else ever noticed that, as far as theists are concerned, atheists just can’t win? Every single thing we do, or don’t do, is interpreted by believers in such a way as to give aid and comfort to their beliefs. Consider:

When theists commit evil or criminal acts, it just goes to show that we’re all sinners and no one’s perfect, and an entire worldview should not be blamed for the actions of a few misguided individuals; but when atheists commit evil or criminal acts, it just goes to show how the entire atheist worldview inevitably leads to evil and immorality.

When atheists debate theists, it’s because we’re obsessed with God even though we claim not to believe in him, but when we don’t debate theists, it’s because we’re afraid of the truth.

When atheists don’t behave morally, it’s because atheism inevitably leads to immoral deeds, but when we do it’s because we’re unknowingly following the law of God written in our hearts.

When theists are happy, it proves that believing in God confers a sense of true inner peace and contentment; but when atheists are happy, it only proves that we’re selfish hedonists.

When an atheist converts to theism, this proves that theism is true; but when a theist converts to atheism, they obviously never really believed in the first place. Also, when a person becomes an atheist, it must be because they are rebelling against something, or because of a secret desire to sin; but a person who converts to theism is always sincere and acting from the best of motives.

If a person had a religious upbringing and is now an atheist, it just goes to show that that person rejected God because of a bad experience with the church, but if a person had no religious upbringing and is now an atheist, it just goes to show that they’ve been brainwashed into atheism.

Theists say that we must be atheists because of blind faith, since reason points to God’s existence, but if we say we are atheists because of reason, theists say it just goes to show that human reason is limited and that we can only approach God through faith.

Theists say that God will reveal his existence to anyone at all who asks, but if we do this and nothing happens, theists say that we weren’t sincere enough and that God won’t reveal himself to just anyone who asks.

Theists say that there is overwhelming evidence of God’s existence, but when a scientific test finds no evidence of God, theists say that of course this will happen, because God purposely withholds overwhelming evidence of his existence so as to allow room for faith.

Are there any others I’ve neglected to mention?

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    There is always the constant double-standards and hypocrisy in the more detailed debates. You know, they always put their belief as the default setting, instead of looking at both sides objectively, and they often hate evolution and every piece of evidence, while they sieze on every mistake or oddity as proof of God.

  • faust

    That was an excellent post. You succinctly summed up many of the most common ridiculous problems we encounter when talking to theists.
    I spent an hour today talking to an evangelical trying to use many of those same “damned if you do” statements to “prove he was right.”

    It’s enlightening to make a list of more than just one. Maybe if I had handed him a printout of your post he would see the pattern. It’s worth a shot. Thank you.

  • Jim Speiser

    You forgot one of the biggest double standards of all…”Everything that exists must have been created.” So that includes God, right? WRONG. “No, God always was and always will be.” So why couldn’t that be true of the universe? “Because it’s only true for God.”

  • http://beepbeepitsme.blogspot.com/ beepbeepitsme

    Theism, thy name is hypocrisy.. Actually, I think it is more than this, believers project THEIR failings and inadequacies upon others. Then the “bad qualities” do not exist in their group, but in the group that does not believe as they do.

  • Interested Atheist

    Just need to vent a little – a series of conversations and debates on a Christian forum is winding down. Bloody hell, they can twist their facts better than a dishcloth. I couldn’t really say it there, so I’ll say it here:

    Your God is a fantasy, an ancient legend, and the arguments you use are a better testimony for your own inventiveness and creativity than the God they try to prove.

    Oh yes – and the best response from a theist when they lose an argument: ignore it.

  • http://robert.thefrenchfamily.org Scrape

    Obviously every worldview ultimately involves some degree of circularity in its argument.

    Assuming God exists, could anyone possibly be objective other than Him?

  • http://franksatheisticramblings.blogspot.com frank

    It’s funny because I posted about this exact same thing in my blog, although I only dealt with the “if a thesit becomes an atheist he/she is rebelling”. One week before you did it. Nice.

    Coincidence? I think so :), but cool.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I recently thought of another one that wasn’t included in my original post:

    If an atheist has had a life of pain and hardship, theists say that they’re rebelling against God; but if an atheist has had a relatively easy and comfortable life, theists say that they’re only an atheist because they’ve had things easy and will turn to God to save them as soon as things turn bad.

  • Jeremy

    If only the circularity of the Xian’s mindset would be more clear to the afflicted…
    It does happen, however. Eventually I could no longer ignore the insularity of my views as a Christian and it kicked off the process of deconversion.

  • Alex Weaver

    Obviously every worldview ultimately involves some degree of circularity in its argument.

    Not in the technical sense of assuming its conclusions among its premises. Every world view is ultimately founded on assertions that cannot be “proven,” such as “there is a world external to my mind,” “my senses, while imperfect, tell me something useful about it,” “patterns that have held true in the past are likely to continue to unless something changes” and other aspects of cause-and-effect, etc. These propositions cannot be proven the way mathematical theorems can, and their truth cannot be established by evidence because the utility of evidence depends on their truth (I guess you could call this “circular” informally), however 1) the odds of them being false without being obviously false seem to be amazingly low and 2) if they’re false, we really can’t do anything useful about it. Excessive handwringing on this and similar points of epistemology within the philosophical community is widely, and with some justice, derided as “intellectual masturbation” (IE, it’s perhaps gratifying, but not productive).

  • Arch

    You forgot one of the biggest double standards of all…”Everything that exists must have been created.” So that includes God, right? WRONG. “No, God always was and always will be.” So why couldn’t that be true of the universe? “Because it’s only true for God.”

    Without an eternal God, how would anything come to be? Why is there something rather than nothing? What can create itself?

  • OMGF

    Arch,
    How do you know that all was created? Answer: you don’t. Inserting god into your knowledge gaps is just as fallacious as always.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Arch,

    What can create itself?

    Nothing that I know of.

    Why is there something rather than nothing?

    I don’t know; is this the part where you say god?

    Without an eternal God, how would anything come to be?

    By always existing in and of itself is an option.

    I do find it kind of ironic (though not really, because I fully expected the question to be answered as such) the way you answered the question with another question, basically saying exactly what you were trying to answer to.

    Q: Why is god the only thing that can exist without having a cause?
    A: Because you say so?

    Here are some questions for you :

    Q: If god existed eternally, it must have existed somewhere. How can an all powerful, intelligent being exist in nothingness? And if you’re going to play the “god is made of spirit or is immaterial” card, then I would have to ask exactly how immaterial (made of nothing) qualifies as existing seperate from nothing.

    Q: If god exists as you envision it to exist, presumably this comes along with a personal quality in it that wants me to go to heaven (correct me if I’m wrong there), or at very least wants me to acknowledge it’s existance, why would it’s holy book be so consistently wrong? Why wouldn’t this knowledge be self-appearant to anyone who examined the evidence? Dinosaurs not being mentioned in the bible? Earth’s age being misrepresented? Planet being flat? Sun revolving around the earth? Bats not being birds? No evidence of a world-wide flood? Christians not being able to drink poison and survive? And that’s just a quick list I could rattle off the top of my head. It doesn’t speak well of a supreme being to fuck up so many no trivial details concerning the universe it created. So why the inconsistency?

  • Mrnaglfar

    I should have phrased that first question better; tack this on the end of the first sentence and go from there:

    “If god existed before anything else, what was god made of? Something can’t exist without actually being made of something, and if this being happened to exist in nothingness, where did it come from (most especially something with self-awareness, creativity, and power to summon existance from non-existance, yet I’ll assume you’ll also think life is too complex to have appeared with a designer, right)? If everything requires a creator as you seem to think, something showing up in nothingness would require that same explaination.”

    and to the end of this question:

    “if god can exist without having been caused, why couldn’t the universe have always of existed, especially since the universe seems substantially less complex than god on the occam’s razor scale?”

  • Robin

    Here is another one that you’ve forgotten. Theists like to say “there are no atheists in foxholes” and yet show the same behavior in life-threatening situations: doing anything they can to survive. You’d think they would resort to lobbying their god to save them; technically speaking, they’ll only die if God really wants them to.

    It’s always annoyed me that they say that quote in a smarmy way while completely ignoring their own behavior in the same situation.

    I like to say “if there are no atheists in foxholes, then three are no believers in sinking ships.” After all, they’re running for the lifeboats just as hard as any atheist.

    (Only recently discovered this site and am reading the posts in chronological order. I realize I’m commenting on an old thread.)

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Steve Bowen

    Only recently discovered this site and am reading the posts in chronological order

    Wow! Enjoy :)

  • http://www.facepunch.com/member.php?u=298989 Jeep-Eep

    Real outbreak of thread necromancy going here, these last few weeks, eh? (No insult intended robin. I’ve been half tempted to indulge in it myself.)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Thread resurrection is fine with me! Enjoy the archives.


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