Why Are We Atheists? A Misguided Christian Answers

According to Professor Randal Rauser writing at The Christian Post, you are an atheist for the following reasons:

  • You don’t have to get up on Sundays
  • You don’t have to give to the poor
  • You want a new Samsung LED TV
  • You want to play tennis and ride bikes (apparently Christians do not do that)

If that doesn’t make sense, the rest of the article won’t either.

He goes on to overanalyze Timothy Treadwell, a man who lived among bears because he “could find no objective meaning in his empty southern California life of beaches and parties,” and later was killed by one of them.

There’s no mention of Treadwell’s personality disorders that may have contributed to his death.

For Rauser, if a Holy Book or a faith isn’t giving your life meaning, then you can’t have one. If you give yourself some meaning independently, it’s worthless. Since so many of our values and morals are subjective, he can’t understand why atheists would bother to do anything good. That reeks of ignorance, not understanding. There are plenty of evolutionary explanations for things like altruism.

(Thanks to Walker for the link!)

  • Siamang

    Wow, spot on!

    I *DO* want that tv!

  • Tyro

    Trust a Christian Apologist to not consider whether evidence or reason may influence others. Make sense, it certainly isn’t influencing him.

  • mikespeir

    Nailed it.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    You don’t have to get up on Sundays
    I get up early on Sundays and read to improve my mind

    You don’t have to give to the poor
    I’m fairly generous through various charities and have a voting record in support of some distribution of wealth.

    You want a new Samsung LED TV
    Well, I bought one of those last year. It is supposed to use less energy than a conventional bulb TV

    You want to play tennis and ride bikes (apparently Christians do not do that)
    WTF! Exercise is good no matter what you believe or don’t believe.

  • http://nautblog.blogspot.com Sean the Blogonaut

    I went with the hitachi lcd

  • Todd

    I have to confess. Not getting up early on Sundays is one of the best things about not being a Christian. Sundays are for sleeping a bit, waking up, making a big pot of coffee and just sitting on my ass watching Sunday talk shows or surfing the net. It’s the only time of the week that nothing else is scheduled so I can’t think of a better time to just be lazy.

  • http://www.dangerousintersection.org Hank

    Gah, another idiot … and just after I finished this (as it turns out, pointless) exercise: LINK.

    For the record:

    - I get up early on Sunday and Saturday to make the most of my weekend with my wife

    - I give to the poor and the sick – and I refuse receipts as I don’t require a tax break or any recognition. I also work for the Australian Red Cross, a humanitarian organisation (perhaps you’ve heard of it – they help people by putting their hands to work, not together)

    - I do want a new TV and so do a billion other people, however I fail to see how that relates to their religion or lack of it

    - those poor, put-upon Christians can always play tennis and ride their bikes on any of the other six days of the week if their entire Sundays are booked with feeling simultaneously superior to & persecuted by us nasty atheists.

    What a load of utter cock. It doesn’t seem to matter how often it’s drilled into peoples’ heads that we’re just PEOPLE and not immoral hate-filled robots, they come back to this goddam “moral carte-blanche” mythology. But hey, living by mythology is the stock in trade of such preachers so it should come as no surprise to read this shit again and again.

  • Richard Wade

    Only one thing is more bizarre and absurd than theists’ beliefs about gods, and that is their idiotic beliefs about atheists. The less atheists a theist actually has gotten to know closely, the more theories he has about atheists in general. When it comes to the thoughts, feelings and motives of atheists, Mr. Rauser doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground, since he clearly has never come to know any. Probably doesn’t want to catch something.

  • http://www.anatheist.net James

    A Christian give misguided answers about atheism? I have never seen that before. Okay, there is no way that I could have said that with a straight face.

  • penguinsaur

    He goes on to overanalyze Timothy Treadwell, a man who lived among bears because he “could find no objective meaning in his empty southern California life of beaches and parties,” and later was killed by one of them.

    Everyone knows Christians don’t live among bears, they summon them to maul annoying kids.

  • Jeigh

    HAHAHAHAHAHA…just, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    Um, ahem…sorry.
    (composes self)

    Well, I have to say…um, oh crapHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    (composes self again)

    So sorry I just…um…*grunt* MWAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, sorryHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    (cleans face, dries tears, passes out on bed from exhaustion)

  • stephangoodwin

    Hmm, I do want a Sharp 46″ TV

    …but I do go to the UU church in Columbus on Sundays (some Sundays at least)

    …I never “get up early” though as I work 2nd and 3rd shifts.

    Give to the poor? Well, I donate to many charities including the ACLU, SCA, the Democratic party, and Amnesty International. Guess that doesn’t count though.

    Oh I don’t ride bikes or play tennis…weird that only atheists can do these things…

    I want to see the percentage of Christians that don’t want a new tv, give regularly to charities, don’t exercise and always go to church…I’m sure they are NOT in the majority. Oh, and giving money to your church only counts if my giving money to the Democratic party does by the way.

  • http://innumerableworlds.wordpress.com/ CosmicThespian

    The thing that continuously gets me about the morality argument is that it isn’t actually an argument for the existence of God, it’s an argument for *wanting to believe* there is a God. Basically, they’re scared by the prospect of no master law-giver and therefore cling to the idea that there must be one. It’s a silly argument from undesired consequences. So what if there is no objective standard for morality? If that’s the way the Universe is designed, then we just have to learn to deal with the card we’ve been dealt. I hate the idea of living in a world where people murder, steal, and rape — imagine how terrible that would be! My wishing it weren’t so does nothing to alter the fact that this is how the world operates.

    Aggravating!!

  • Pingback: Variability in human purpose « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  • Cafeeine

    Furthermore, there is the underlying unsubstantiated assumption that an objective, external, overcast moral compass, is inherently better than a subjective, relativistic, situational compass. I cannot see why this would be the case, and nobody is calling them on it.

    That I think is the position that he needs to defend, because I think it derives straight from the Christian position that we are a fallen creation, that we are wretched and only a transcendent, pristine omnibenevolent deity can explain any good in us. Human morality is subjectively suited for humans, and that doesn’t make it objective.

  • lindsey

    So if I don’t play tennis or ride bikes, does that make me not an atheist?

  • Miko

    Ah, but now we turn it around: “You aren’t a Christian based on any specific beliefs or relationship with a deity; you just have a pathological desire to get up early on Sundays.”

  • llewelly

    # You don’t have to get up on Sundays
    # You don’t have to give to the poor
    # You want a new Samsung LED TV
    # You want to play tennis and ride bikes (apparently Christians do not do that)

    I get up between 6am and 7am most days, Sunday or not.

    I am the poor. When I’m gainfully employed again, then I’ll give to the poor again. I try volunteering from time to time, but I keep finding out I’m much too asocial for it; I find it stressful. (I’m sure that last bit is consistent with some tired old atheist stereotype theists love to bash – but I don’t care.)

    I have never owned a TV of any kind.

    I cannot play tennis – or ride a bike.

    The article may not be satire, but definitely qualifies as (unintentional) parody.

  • medussa

    Here is a prime example of some confused Christian thinking….

    Yesterday at work one of the Christians approached me and asked me what Christians thought of Santa Claus. The entire fire crew was in the kitchen with me. I stopped what I was doing and asked whether he thought he might be asking the wrong person, seeing as how I was presumably the only atheist in the room. He answered that after all, I was the one reading “that Christian Atheist Book” out there (I had “The Atheist Universe” on my bag in the comm room). I told him I wasn’t certain that I had ever heard of a Christian Atheist, and that I certainly wasn’t reading about them.
    And then he told me in all earnestness that he believed in Santa Claus, and that I should, too, just like “you have to have faith in god”.
    My only answer was that if I was wrong and if there was a god, he could go ahead and punish me. I left it at that, as it wasn’t a good idea to cause a rift in the crew for the rest of the shift.

    But the logic of the conversation just frustrated me. Again.

  • Cafeeine

    The initial quadrilogy of reasons is not, I think, meant to be taken literally, but is a clumsy attempt to make the claim that atheists are free to live the ‘good life’ each following their own desires, while believers must follow the ‘narrow road’ of whatever their religion considers virtue on pain of suppressing their desires. I think his choices might reflect more on his own personal wants than that of any atheist but you can add whatever enjoyable things you might have a personal affinity to (sunday morning churchbell sex or eating babies by candlelight for example)

    His overall argument is that atheists get the short term benefits but lose out on the deeper meaning of life, which should actually be read backwards (“We theists may have to endure some limitations to our desires but in return we are in touch with the Big Electron who gives us what is true and moral.”)

  • Tom

    Since so many of our values and morals are subjective, he can’t understand why atheists would bother to do anything good. That reeks of ignorance, not understanding.

    Er, no… that reeks of “I think all people are monsters held in check only by the threat of eternal damnation because I think I’m a monster held in check only by the threat of eternal damnation and am too narrow minded to imagine anyone could be otherwise.”

    I have a friend whose beliefs are exactly like this, and I’m sad for him that he can’t seem to apply his otherwise sharp intellect to the issue. I suspect he has a strong temper and thinks it means he’s a bad person and thinks he has to have “god” to control it. Somehow he can’t see that he claims that atheists are monsters with no morals who will randomly do horrific things because they have no magical sky bully to stop them, yet at the same time he knows I’m an atheist and he wants me to be “uncle” to his children.

  • zoo

    Herzog doesn’t know animals, or has at least lost touch with something that is personally quite important. You can see that something in young animals at play, at the sheer joy they take in just being alive. You can see it in how a pet expresses that they’re glad you’ve returned. You can see it in how a mother ape mourns her dead baby. You can see it in how a bigger sibling cheetah goes to reassure her smaller sister. Humans have all these things too, but it gets bogged down and lost in dealing with the weight of being part of such a large and complex population. Moreso, it seems, when you’re bound even further by a heavy dogma that teaches you how useless and worthless you are here and now.

    I guess it’s hard to see these things when your idea of objective meaning is abstract, weighty, and for the far future, and you’re encouraged to spend all your extra time inside.

    (For the record, I volunteer both weekend days, I just don’t have money and probably never will, don’t care for TV, and prefer hiking, camping and softball.)

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com Sabio

    * You don’t have to own a suit
    * You don’t have to sit on hard benches
    * You don’t have to pretend to sing (since you can’t)
    * You don’t have to worry about staying out late Saturday
    * You don’t have to worry about your kids hating you for dragging them to church
    * You don’t have to read the same damn book over and over and over again
    * You don’t have to listen to cookie cutter sermons week in and week out
    * You don’t have to squint your eyes and pray out loud to an imaginary friend in front of others who only half believe it
    * You don’t have to lie to your children

    ooooops, sorry, just got in the mood. Thanks !

  • Crux Australis

    Sabio, I like that last one! That’s one of the main reasons the I am an atheist.

  • Crux Australis

    Whoops. …*that* I am …

  • Cafeeine

    Crux, you can correct typos within the first 5 minutes of posting.

  • http://noadi.blogspot.com Noadi

    You don’t have to get up on Sundays
    Okay, you’ve got me there. I never get up early until I absolutely have to. I’m self-employed so that’s every day (okay I don’t get to bed until the wee hours of the morning but that’s beside the point).

    You don’t have to give to the poor
    There are plenty of nice things I don’t *have* to do, but since I’m a nice person I do it because I really *want* to. What’s better, doing it out of obligation or out of real desire to help?

    You want a new Samsung LED TV
    No, not really. I don’t watch a lot of tv.

    You want to play tennis and ride bikes
    And what exactly is wrong with exercise? Don’t care for tennis but I ride my bike whenever I can.

  • http://punkideas.blogspot.com David

    I’d like to note that the comments are more interesting than the post itself. If you want to have some fun, try to count the logical fallacies.

  • llewelly

    Crux, you can correct typos within the first 5 minutes of posting.

    I have found the edit comment feature to be horrifically slow – as in, unlikely to respond within said 5 minutes.

  • Cafeeine

    Could it be an old computer problem? My machine is 4-yrs old and can handle it fine.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Iason Ouabache

    You want a new Samsung LED TV

    Yeah, can everyone knows that it is impossible for Christians to like earthly possessions.

  • http://atheistnexus.org/profile/DeafAtheist DeafAtheist

    You don’t have to get up on Sundays
    You don’t have to give to the poor
    You want a new Samsung LED TV
    You want to play tennis and ride bikes (apparently Christians do not do that)

    -Sundays is true… certainly is a benefit to being an atheist. Weekends are for sleeping in, yo.

    -Christians don’t HAVE to give to the poor either and according to the article they mentioned tithes to the church which about 90% of the money goes to support the church itself with only 5-10% going to genuine charitable organizations which generally are Christian in nature and therefore they tend to evangelize along with feeding and clothing them.

    Besides, I AM the poor. I’m a single father raising my kid alone. Not currently working.

    -I’d rather have a Sony Bravia than a Samsung.

    -Don’t care for tennis but do enjoy riding a bike… which I unfortunately don’t have one right now.

  • llewelly

    Well, I donate to many charities including the ACLU, SCA, the Democratic party, and Amnesty International. Guess that doesn’t count though.

    Next time you find an article about a study claiming to find that ‘liberals don’t donate as much as conservatives’ or ‘non-religious don’t donate as much as religious’ try to find out if the ‘study’ included the ACLU or Amnesty International as charities.

  • http://atheistnexus.org/profile/DeafAtheist DeafAtheist

    Any poor atheists want a dinner out on Ray Comfort’s dime?

    http://raycomfortfood.blogspot.com/2009/05/im-going-to-get-hate-mail.html

  • weaves

    So I’m an atheist because I ride a bike, not because I don’t believe in god.

    Thank you for enlightening me, Randal.

    although, I do wonder if my early sunday mornings and donations balance me out as an agnostic?

  • Matto the Hun

    Oh I don’t ride bikes or play tennis…weird that only atheists can do these things…

    It’s true!

    Agnostics can either ride a bike or play tennis but not both.

    Interestingly, pantheists can’t ride bikes or play tennis but they CAN ride unicycles and play ping pong.

    Crazy world we live in.

  • Rest

    I’d rather hang out with bears than attend church.

  • gmcfly

    The implication is that, since Christians are making all these sacrifices, there must be a huge payoff at the end to balance it out. It’s a classic example of people responding to cognitive dissonance — it is unthinkable that anything that requires so much sacrifice, that so many people are doing, could be a waste.

    And, naturally, it follows that atheists must miss out on the big reward because they seem to be enjoying their lives more.

  • http://punkideas.blogspot.com David

    He posted a response article to all the commenters. I’m already working on a response to that.

  • Zar

    My favorite benefit:

    -You don’t have to apologize for being female

  • http://nutsandreasonsblogspot.com quedula

    Wow! they seem good enough reasons to me.

  • Douw

    The point he manages to get across the best is that he feels being a christian means having to do a lot of things he doesn’t like. He doesn’t really want to go to church, but he has to, because he’s a christian. He doesn’t want to give to the poor, but he has to, because he’s a christian. etc. etc ad nauseum.

    Sounds to me like someone who would rather not be a christian, but for some reason thinks he has to.

  • Richard Wade

    I signed in on the Christian Post Blog (man, they want all sorts of personal info) So I could speak directly to Mr. Rauser’s remarks. I have copied my comment here:

    There is clearly an inverse relationship between the number of atheists whom an apologist knows closely, and the amount of amateur psychoanalysis that the apologist will spew forth about the thoughts, feelings, motives and actions of atheists in general. I can understand speculating out of thin air all sorts of assertions about the nature of gods since there isn’t much evidence go to around, but there is no excuse for doing the same thing about the nature of atheists. You have a ready supply of real, living atheists all around you whom you could get to know and learn about directly. Yes, yes I understand that the prospect of talking to atheists at length is an icky one, but if you were willing to try, you would be pleasantly surprised. They are lovely, interesting people for the most part, especially when you are not busy slandering them with bigoted nonsense that you have heard and are repeating without question.

    Mr. Rauser, please go out into the real world and meet at least 12 atheists from different age groups, different walks of life, different levels of education and different parts of the country. Get to know them closely, as a respectful friend. Ask them many questions about their thoughts, feelings, motives and actions. Learn their stories and watch them living their daily lives. Then after at least three years of that research, come back to your Seminary and write a new article about what you learned, free from spin, free from selecting only the findings that fit your prejudice, just an honest and honorable report. I promise you that your new article will be so radically different from this calumnious tripe that you will have to preface it with an apology and a repudiation of this present article. You will be better for it. You will be a better Christian, clean of the disingenuous conceit and willingness to repeat falsehoods that weigh you down now. And, you may even have made some new and wonderful friends.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Richard, well said. You should be commended for taking the effort to educate those on that other forum that need educating.

  • http://www.myspace.com/youreundoingmybeltwronghun Tim D.

    Lody lody lody they got me, the atheist conspiracy has finally been revealed!

    [/throw up in mouth]

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    OK, this Sunday I’m getting up at 6am to contribute to a school fund charity. There’s a sponsored tennis match and bike race and the prize is a Samsung LED TV.

    Phew.

    No, I’m lying. I’m getting up and doing some work in my garden. If it’s raining I’m goingn to bake with the kids.
    Cheese scone anyone?

    Actually what is it with the getting up early on Sunday. Don’t church services run at 11:30 or something? That’s practically lunch time.

  • Beth

    “…atheists cannot admit that there is no meaning to life, and so they engage in the futile and self-deceptive attempt to project meaning onto the universe.”

    POT CALLING KETTLE BLACK! Excuse the caps, but seriously…

    IMO, there is no singular meaning of life (except reproducing ;D) but we make our own. What’s wrong with that? Does living life to the fullest with my friends and family really sound that bad? Maybe I should just off myself right now. >_> This shouldn’t be that hard for religious people to grasp…

    What an ignorant article, I feel dumber just for reading it.

  • http://universalheretic.wordpress.com/ Vic

    The thought behind Rauser’s list, is that Rauser cannot imagine that we actually believe there is no god; that our stance cannot possibly be the result of any sort of intellectual reasoning, therefore it must be for selfish short sighted goals.

    His reasoning is not just silly, and it tell tale of how much reasoning he has put into his choice of religions: none.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    You don’t have to give to the poor

    You also don’t have to worry about your money going to support the opulent and decadent lifestyle of a televangenist, or going to support witch-hunting in Africa.

  • http://robomeeks.com Meekerson

    “He goes on to overanalyze Timothy Treadwell, a man who lived among bears because he ‘could find no objective meaning in his empty southern California life of beaches and parties,’ and later was killed by one of them.”

    Killed by one of the parties, beaches, or bears?

  • Alan E.

    In the comments, RD Rauser presents this anology of a rock and a hammer:

    So what am I arguing? Well consider a simple analogy. You come across a rock in the woods. It ended up there randomly. Nobody put it there. Nobody designed it. Since the rock was not designed with any purpose or intention in mind, it is by definition impossible to misuse it (for for doing so would constitute a deviation from an intended use).

    Now imagine that you find a hammer in the woods. While you cannot, by definition, misuse a rock, you can indeed misuse a hammer because it was created with a particular intention or purpose.

    Now to close the loop of the analogy. While atheists believe human beings are more like the rock, Christians believe they are more like the hammer. That is, atheists deny that human beings were created for anything, with any purpose in mind. By contrast, Christians believe human beings were created with a purpose or meaning.

    We humans are the rock. It is society and sociological perspectives that are the hammer. Society as we know it was created and designed by humans. People take advantage of differences in society, and the various stratifications within, for their own gain every day. Most of the time, this is in the name of a god.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    So what am I arguing? Well consider a simple analogy. You come across a rock in the woods. It ended up there randomly. Nobody put it there. Nobody designed it.

    Blasphemy! Heresy! Surely Rauser knows that God designed that rock and put it in that very spot for Rauser to find.

    Own goal.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Take this, Randal Rauser:

    Why Atheists Have Better Sex
    by Greta Christina

  • absent sway

    The Bible says not to envy the wicked. Sinner!

    “Everyone knows Christians don’t live among bears, they summon them to maul annoying kids.” <—–Brilliant

  • http://www.eloquentbooks.com/AnaMarkovic.html David Murdoch

    I have met more than one atheist who has claimed that atheism offers people freedom from the idea that they are committing sins or offending some kind of divine entity… I don’t know if that is the reason they are atheists or not, but it is not so different from the reasons that are cited above.

    I think atheists are misguided people who have failed to recognize the irrationality of their position (and I say this as a former agnostic).

    Here’s an example of what I’m referring to:
    ‘For Rauser, if a Holy Book or a faith isn’t giving your life meaning, then you can’t have one. If you give yourself some meaning independently, it’s worthless. Since so many of our values and morals are subjective, he can’t understand why atheists would bother to do anything good. That reeks of ignorance, not understanding. There are plenty of evolutionary explanations for things like altruism.’

    How does explaining that altruism can have evolutionary causes have anything to do with answering the above problem?… the burden is on the atheist to show why it is that they are able to rationalize the belief that such a thing as good and evil actually objectively exists. If they say that we believe in good and evil, because of some evolved trait, that does nothing to show that good and evil are objectively real.

    For example, if a person claimed that killing people was morally good, how could he be objectively wrong? If we all make up our own purposes and meanings, then he evidently couldn’t be wrong, because that was his own meaning to create.

    God Bless,

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    So David, are you saying that we should worship this guy?

  • Cafeeine

    I don’t know if this was in any way related, but the recent exchange between some atheists and Randal was expunged from the blog, and the CP account I created in order to post there has also been deleted.

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