31 Questions For Atheists

When I first answered these questions four years ago, I had just begun blogging as Godless Mom and really only just begun exploring the different arguments for god. As such, I go back and read my answers and I find myself cringing. I wanted to revisit these questions, even though half of them sound like they were written by a toddler on mushrooms. It’s a great way to see how much I’ve changed in four years. A lot of my answers were different.

This list of questions came from this survey by Matt Slick. The questions are:

  1. How would you define atheism?
  2. Do you act according to what you believe (there is no God) in or what you don’t believe in (lack belief in God)?
  3. Do you think it is inconsistent for someone who “lacks belief” in God to work against God’s existence by attempting to show that God doesn’t exist?
  4. How sure are you that your atheism properly represents reality?
  5. How sure are you that your atheism is correct?
  6. How would you define what truth is?
  7. Why do you believe your atheism is a justifiable position to hold?
  8. Are you a materialist or a physicalist or what?
  9. Do you affirm or deny that atheism is a worldview?
  10. Not all atheists are antagonistic to Christianity but for those of you who are, why the antagonism?
  11. If you were at one time a believer in the Christian God, what caused you to deny his existence?
  12. Do you believe the world would be better off without religion?
  13. Do you believe the world would be better off without Christianity?
  14. Do you believe that faith in a God or gods is a mental disorder?
  15. Must God be known through the scientific method?
  16. If you answered yes to the previous question, then how do you avoid a category mistake by requiring material evidence for an immaterial God?
  17. Do we have any purpose as human beings?
  18. If we do have purpose, can you as an atheist please explain how that purpose is determined?
  19. Where does morality come from?
  20. Are there moral absolutes?
  21. If there are moral absolutes, could you list a few of them?
  22. Do you believe there is such a thing as evil? If so, what is it?
  23. If you believe that the God of the Old Testament is morally bad, by what standard do you judge that he is bad?
  24. What would it take for you to believe in God?
  25. What would constitute sufficient evidence for God’s existence?
  26. Must this evidence be rationally based, archaeological, testable in a lab, etc., or what?
  27. Do you think that a society that is run by Christians or atheists would be safer? Why?
  28. Do you believe in free will? (free will being the ability to make choices without coercion)
  29. If you believe in free will, do you see any problem with defending the idea that the physical brain, which is limited and subject to the neuro-chemical laws of the brain, can still produce free will choices?
  30. If you affirm evolution and that the universe will continue to expand forever, then do you think it is probable that given enough time, brains would evolve to the point of exceeding mere physical limitations and become free of the physical and temporal and thereby become “deity” and not be restricted by space and time? If not, why not? How does one lead to the other?
  31. If you answered the previous question in the affirmative, then aren’t you saying that it is probable that some sort of God exists?

You can read my old answers here and watch me give my up-to-date answers in my latest video:

I would love to know what your answers are to these questions. If you have the time, feel free to answer them in the comments, or write a blog post or even make a video with your answers and send me the link: mommy@godlessmom.com

Image: Courtney Heard w/ artwork from freepik.com

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  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Wow, this is a monumental pile of stupid.

    Loaded questions all the way…

  • Yes, some of them were complete nonsense.

  • Dave Maier

    My answer to about half of them is “Please kill me.”

  • I’ll be honest, couldn’t imagine any “evidence” that would make me a religious believer. I simply don’t profess religious belief, or belief in the “supernatural,” because those things are just meaningless to me. It’s not like I think God is like a thylacine wolf, and all it would take is a confirmed sighting to make me believe he exists.

    If prayers were answered, and if the innocent didn’t suffer, and so on, in short if the world were completely different than it is, I’d think professing religious belief is justified. That’s how open-minded I’m not, and I’m fine with that.

  • I laughed out loud reading your comment.

  • It takes extraordinary evidence to prove extraordinary claims.

  • Joe Cheff

    1. Denial of the existence of God.
    2. My actions are based upon what I believe.
    3. Yes. You cannot prove a negative.
    4. I am certain.
    5. I am certain.
    6. Truth is the state in which what you think matches reality.
    7. There is no convincing evidence for the existence of God.
    8. I am an Objectivist.
    9. It is not a worldview. A philosophy cannot be based upon a negative.
    10. Christianity, as with all religions, are irrational and thus harmful.
    11. Reason
    12. Yes
    13. Yes
    14. No, it is a mistake.
    15. It’s not my job to determine how God should be known. The one who asserts that the case is so, i.e. God exists, has the burden of proof. Offer your evidence such as it may be.
    16. Not applicable.
    17. Yes.
    18. Individually.
    19. Observations of man’s nature and the nature of reality. See http://www.aynrand.org.
    20. Yes.
    21. The good is that which contributes to a man’s life. Evil is that which destroys a man’s life.
    22. Yes. Evil is that which destroys a man’s life.
    23. I do not engage in such fantasies when discussing philosophy.
    24. Evidence.
    25. It’s not my job to come up with the type of evidence presented for the existence of God. The one who asserts that the case is so, i.e. God exists, has the burden of proof.
    26. See 25 above.
    27. Neither. People deny God for all sorts of reasons, rational and irrational. I would prefer a society committed to being rational.
    28. Yes.
    29. Yes, there is a problem with that defense, but that doesn’t mean free will is evidence for the existence of God.
    30. This question cannot be answered by philosophy, it is a matter of science. I am neither a biologist nor a physicist, therefore I refuse to comment.
    31. Not applicable.

  • Jim Jones

    I’d rather ask my questions:

    1. Name one person who met Jesus, spoke to him, saw him or heard him who wrote about the event, has a name and is documented outside of the bible (or any other gospels).

    2. If a member of a religion other than Christianity prays and their prayer is granted, who granted their prayer?

    3. How do you know all other gods except Yahweh are false?

    4. How do you counter Eric The God-Eating Magic Penguin (Link)?

    5. Is it fair that Jesus died on the cross so that Adolf Hitler could go to heaven and Anne Frank would go to hell? Is it just that Jesus rose from the dead so that Jeffrey Dahmer could go to heaven and Carl Sagan would go to hell?

    6. Why didn’t Paul write a gospel?

    7. Why didn’t Jesus write anything at all?

    8. Why do so few Christians emulate the example of Fred Rogers?

    9. How do you determine if what someone is telling you comes from genuine religious experience or if they are simply delusional? How do you prevent your personal biases from affecting your judgement of this?

    10. What is an example of religion being wrong about something, anything, and religion (and not science) finding this out? What is the proof that religion is correct now?

    11. If the Latter Day Saints are wrong, what is the proof? Why are Joseph Smith’s visions and revelations false but the anonymous ones of the bible are not? And what about Scientology?

    12. What happens when different people pray to different gods for something only one of them can get?

    13. Why didn’t Philo of Alexandria write about Jesus or Christianity?

    14. Why does ‘god’ seem like an abusive partner?

    15. What if there is no heaven?

    16. What if there is no hell?

    17. Why does the concept of heaven and hell match exactly what we expect from conmen, pimps and blackmailers?

    18. Would you still be a Christian if you were born in a predominantly Muslim country to Muslim parents, and were brought up Muslim?

    19. If you don’t take the whole bible literally, how do you decide which parts are to be taken literally? How do you decide which rules must be followed and which not? If some parts are not literal how do you know the ‘god’ part is literal?

    20. If god talked to me I would believe it existed (presumably). But god doesn’t talk to me, other people do. What is fair about sending people to hell because they do not believe other people? Many other people have lied to me in the past. None have performed miracles, except via science.

    21. If Christianity wasn’t true, what would be different about it?

    22. When you ask Christians about slavery in the bible they say, ‘It was a different time!’ Asked about homosexuality in the bible they say ‘It’s still evil!’ Why is this?

    23. If it’s a very good thing for someone to leave their sect or religion and join yours, why don’t they have the right to leave yours for something else – or for nothing?

    24 Why do Christians argue about science? They always lose

    – Finally, why do Yahweh’s actions, words, needs and desires differ so little from those of any North Korean dictator?

  • Jim Jones

    Of course if ‘god’ could create a new universe while I watched . . .

  • John Pieret

    Convincing evidence that the universe as a whole gave a damn whether or not I existed.

  • Dr Sarah
  • Dr Sarah

    Matt Slick did actually write a follow-up with a kind of summary of the main answers he’d received, and one of the options he put was ‘Dude, you’re making my head hurt. Go away.’

  • All I meant is that it’s not really about “evidence,” it’s about personality, upbringing, and so on. Like Courtney says in the video, it just makes more sense to her to not believe things until she decides she’s justified in doing so, rather than believe them until she has a reason not to. Some people are just more comfortable making a type II error than making a type I error, and that’s why we’re skeptics.

    But if all we’re doing is raising the bar impossibly high and then telling ourselves that our lack of belief derives from skepticism, then that’s just dealing ourselves a winning hand.

  • Tawreos

    1. Not believing in a god
    2. yes
    3. I don’t do that
    4. It is consistent with reality as I know it.
    5. I see nothing to disprove it.
    6. what matches the facts and reality
    7. It is right for me.
    8. I am me
    9. atheism is a descriptor for me and helps form my worldview but is not a worldview in and of itself.
    10. because hostility tends to invite hostility or do you no longer believe I am going to hell for believing different than you?
    11. I didn’t deny his existence I simply saw that my belief was mistaken
    12. In some ways yes
    13. see #12
    14. It can be if taken to the extreme
    15. the scientific method does not look for god
    16. n/a
    17.only that which we make for ourselves
    18. self explanatory
    19. society and empathy
    20. No
    21. n/a
    22. Evil is a descriptor that we give to things we really do not like
    23. From a purely legal stand point he is bad. The law frowns on genocide.
    24. Evidence
    25. Surely an all powerful god would know what it would take to convince me.
    26. see #25
    27. Until we have seen both we can’t know.
    28. Yes
    29. Yes
    30. no, such a thing has never been witnessed or evidenced so I have no reason to believe it is possible.
    31. n/a

    I really hope they didn’t put to much time into coming up with that stinking load.

  • Michael Rogers

    I’d gladly answer your good list of questions BUT that takes lots of time and If it only will be glanced over and then dumped–why?! If you’re going to publish them or somehow put them to use, good, otherwise so what?
    respond if you’d actually like an answer from a retired Senior engineer from the space shuttle program.

  • Tawreos

    Can I volunteer to be god of the new universe? It would be fun.

  • Raging Bee

    Do you have ANY indication that the people asking these questions are at all likely to respond to whatever answers we give them? I’ve never heard from that lot yet, even though those very same questions have been asked and answered for years already. Why bother answering questions if the questioners aren’t even listening?

  • Mike, from TV

    Great questions.

  • Raging Bee

    Citation please?

  • You spend too much time on News Views channel.

  • John Pieret

    I wasn’t actually commenting on your answer. I was giving mine. Nor was I commenting on the nature of the required evidence, statistical or otherwise. I have described myself as a “philosophical (epistemological) agnostic” and/or “apathetic agnostic,” I take nothing from the lack of evidence, since I don’t expect any either way on the existence or lack thereof of any god(s). The evidence is, however, that the universe is, at best, indifferent to my existence. There are, among the infinite set of possible gods, an infinite number that might be indifferent to my existence, as would be any universe such a god created or supervised. I will just return that indifference until shown otherwise.

  • Priya Lynn

    “I’ll be honest, couldn’t imagine any “evidence” that would make me a religious believer”

    Is that right, eh? I can imagine a nearly endless list of things that would make me a religious believer. Like if mountains and lakes and cities shifted geographical position from one day to they next, if the bible was spelled out in our DNA, if every TV, radio broadcast, every book, and every web site, every form of media suddenly broadcast the identical message that god exists while it was written across the sky for everyone to see in their own language and it all said the same thing and then all those media magically went back to their pre-message state, or if amputees suddenly had their limbs reappear every christmas day and on and on and on.

  • Blue

    From the Urban Dictionary.

    JAQing off
    The act of asking leading questions to influence your audience, then hiding behind the defense that they’re “Just Asking Questions,” even when the underlying assumptions are completely insane.

    Christians asking these questions do not care about the answers in the least. They are playing word games and trying to twist atheists’ responses to make themselves feel superior.

  • Haha, at least he has a sense of humour.

  • Oh, I love your answer to #9! Very well said, thank you!

  • I’m not publishing them, no. I am just curious what others think. If you don’t want to share, you don’t have to. Thanks!

  • Yeah, Matt Slick has used to the information he has compiled and he also seems to be pretty open to engagement with atheists, as he’s debated Dillahunty, etc. This post, however, was more an exercise in seeing how much I, myself, have changed over the four years, as I mentioned.

  • chemical

    1. Atheism is lack of belief in gods.
    2. I act according to what I believe in.
    3. Atheists show that “evidence” of God’s existence is lacking, not verifiable, etc.
    4, 5. Reasonably certain.
    6. What is real, and can be verified independently
    7. I’m an atheist because every religion is unjustified.
    8. Materialist
    9. Atheism is solely a belief about God.
    10. Christians cause misery and suffering based off of their religious beliefs.
    11. When I used to pray, I realized I was just talking to myself.
    12, 13. Yes, but not much.
    14. No. People are religious because they were exposed to religion before they could think.
    15. God can’t be known because he doesn’t exist.
    16. The same way you can be certain immaterial things can exist.
    17, 18. People determine their own purpose.
    19. The human ability to empathize
    20, 21. No.
    22. It’s an abstract idea about how immoral people operate.
    23. By what a decent person would do if they were in the same situation God was in.
    24. Any evidence that he exists
    25. Anything that can be objectively examined
    26. Yes
    27. Doesn’t matter. Depends more on the competence of the leaders than their religion.
    28. Yes
    29. No. reality is a restriction for everything
    30. That’s a ridiculous sci-fi trope.
    31. n/a

  • Tawreos

    Always happy to be of service =)

  • chemical

    Most of the questions aren’t bad, if you didn’t know what atheists think, but 30 and 31 turn the list into a monumental pile of stupid.

  • Joe Cheff

    True, but interesting to see how other atheists answer these questions.

  • I have never heard JAQing off bit that is so appropriate!

  • Same!

  • Mike, from TV

    How would you define atheism?
    Lack of belief in god(s)

    Do you act according to what you believe (there is no God) in or what you don’t believe in (lack belief in God)?
    Atheism doesn’t define me. I mostly act in a way that will cause the most happiness while causing the least suffering.

    Do you think it is inconsistent for someone who “lacks belief” in God to work against God’s existence by attempting to show that God doesn’t exist?
    Debating believers isn’t working against gods’ existence. They’ll exist or not, regardless of belief, unless you want to get into deep metaphysics.

    How sure are you that your atheism properly represents reality?
    Moderately sure. If JHVH of the Bible existed, he’s a twisted mess of contradictions, but I can’t be sure about other, non-omni gods.

    How sure are you that your atheism is correct?
    See above

    How would you define what truth is?
    Accurate descriptions of sensory input

    Why do you believe your atheism is a justifiable position to hold?
    I don’t have to. It’s just as justifiable as any arbitrary position.

    Are you a materialist or a physicalist or what?
    I’m a universal agnostic. I know how untrustworthy my nervous system is, and extrapolate from there.

    Do you affirm or deny that atheism is a worldview?
    Atheism can be part of a world view, but it’s just the lack of one topping on the pizza. Atheism doesn’t have any political or moral imperatives.

    Not all atheists are antagonistic to Christianity but for those of you who are, why the antagonism?
    (not all) Christians

    If you were at one time a believer in the Christian God, what caused you to deny his existence?
    n/a

    Do you believe the world would be better off without religion?
    Yes

    Do you believe the world would be better off without Christianity?
    Yes

    Do you believe that faith in a God or gods is a mental disorder?
    No. Some of my best friends have some unprovable ideas. Insisting that your unprovable ideas are empirically true, though, raises some questions.

    Must God be known through the scientific method?
    Nope

    If you answered yes to the previous question, then how do you avoid a category mistake by requiring material evidence for an immaterial God?
    See above

    Do we have any purpose as human beings?
    Biologically, humans have the same purpose as all life: make more of itself.
    Personally, I enjoy my hobbies, friends, and family, and want to keep that up for as long as possible.

    If we do have purpose, can you as an atheist please explain how that purpose is determined?
    No fate but what we make

    Where does morality come from?
    Empathy

    Are there moral absolutes?
    No, but there are a lot of guidelines.

    If there are moral absolutes, could you list a few of them?
    Don’t intentionally cause nonconsensual pain or distress to a sentient being unless you have a really good reason.
    Make your community a great place to live or visit.
    Don’t needlessly destroy.
    Become smarter, happier, and funnier.

    Do you believe there is such a thing as evil? If so, what is it?
    Not really. Knowingly, repeatedly, and remorselessly being a jerk comes pretty close. See guideline 1 above.

    If you believe that the God of the Old Testament is morally bad, by what standard do you judge that he is bad?
    He created humans with free will and biological drives, created an impossibly high set of standards, and drowned all of the puppies.
    Also, plagues, earth quakes, and other natural disasters.

    What would it take for you to believe in God?
    Answering a prayer by regenerating a limb would be a start. That would certainly be evidence of the supernatural or very advanced technology.
    If JHVH is omni*, he could make me believe in him. He hardened Pharaoh’s heart. He could change mine.

    What would constitute sufficient evidence for God’s existence?
    See above

    Must this evidence be rationally based, archaeological, testable in a lab, etc., or what?
    See above

    Do you think that a society that is run by Christians or atheists would be safer? Why?
    Atheism has no moral implications, so I can’t answer.

    Do you believe in free will? (free will being the ability to make choices without coercion)
    Sometimes.

    If you believe in free will, do you see any problem with defending the idea that the physical brain, which is limited and subject to the neuro-chemical laws of the brain, can still produce free will choices?
    Yes. That is a big problem. The more I learn about quantum, the less deterministic I find the universe to be, but maybe there’s some set of simple equations that describe behavior that we just haven’t discovered yet.

    If you affirm evolution and that the universe will continue to expand forever, then do you think it is probable that given enough time, brains would evolve to the point of exceeding mere physical limitations and become free of the physical and temporal and thereby become “deity” and not be restricted by space and time? If not, why not? How does one lead to the other?
    Sure, why not? I like transhumanism.

    If you answered the previous question in the affirmative, then aren’t you saying that it is probable that some sort of God exists?
    That would be more of a Mormon god than the uncaused cause, supreme arbiter of truth and morality that most Christians claim their God to be.
    It seems heretical to suggest that God is some sort of time traveler, alien, or wizard.

  • Mike, from TV

    This questionnaire makes a useful introspection tool.
    I’m comfortable that my answers are accurate and internally consistent until something better comes along.

  • Mike, from TV

    Given time manipulation and nano technologies, any sufficiently bored time traveler could pull those tricks off.

  • Anthrotheist

    Yeah, sure.
    1. I wouldn’t. Language is a culturally shared phenomenon, no one entity gets to define the terms involved. Should have asked, “How would you describe your atheism?”

    2. Huh? How is, “I don’t believe there are any gods” different from “I believe that there are no gods”? Is one supposed to be better or worse than the other? I don’t believe in leprechauns, therefor I believe that leprechauns don’t exist. Same thing.

    3. If you believe that all available evidence defies the existence of a particular hypothetical entity, it is perfectly consistent to examine and present both that evidence and the proposed conclusion.

    4, 5. I don’t feel any dissonance or perceive any sense of contradiction regarding my atheism; so far, so good.

    6. Again, I don’t get to define culturally-shared terms. Look it up or frame a more meaningful question.

    7. My atheism derives from the same principles that allow microwaves and airplanes to be built (in ways that actually work): drawing the inevitable conclusions from the information that is present in the world around us. Airplanes never fall from the sky because their wings stopped working, and cancer is never miraculously cured because prayers started working.

    8. I don’t believe that there are forces or entities in the universe that are somehow not part of the universe. I reject the existence of the supernatural, categorically. Pick a term for that which works for you, there are several to choose from. I usually use ‘materialist’.

    9. Worldview: “a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world”. Atheism: “lack of belief in a god or gods”. No gods = conception of the world. That wasn’t hard. Next question.

    10. I’m not antagonistic toward Christianity as a rule. I’m antagonistic toward attempts to enact public policies that are oppressive, dehumanizing, and regressive. Where Christianity intersects with those attempts, I oppose it.

    11. I looked for evidence of God’s intervention in the world. For every instance that could support the existence of intervention, I found dozens of examples that defied it. I went with the overwhelming preponderance of evidence.

    12. What part of religion do you mean, the dogma, the institution, the community, the history? Religion, at its core, is nothing more than the use of supernatural agency to explain phenomena that cannot otherwise be understood. It is becoming increasingly obsolete in that sense; its relevance in other areas of society depends on its success at being of service to people.

    13. Counter-question: why would Christianity be in any way different from how I answered the previous question? Apparently it is special in the mind of the person asking the questions, but not to me.

    14. Faith is religion is not a mental disorder, but the fear and guilt-based indoctrination of young children is almost certainly a form of abuse.

    15, 16. If God could be known via the scientific method, I suspect that he wouldn’t be acceptable as God. He would be a superior life form, an immensely powerful alien.

    17. Purpose: “the reason . . . for which something exists”. Objectively, no; we are self-replicating organisms somewhere between inception and extinction. Personally, I exist to love my family and my pets, and to work and interact where I can.

    18. I just answered this for me, it isn’t for me to answer it for anyone else.

    19. Ultimately, morality comes from necessity. As social organisms, we depend upon other people to survive and find enjoyment in our survival. Modernity clouds this reality with social distance and hyper-specialization of labor, but it doesn’t change our essential interdependence. For more on universal forms of human morality, look into reciprocity.

    20, 21. Reciprocity is a human universal, but it is not strictly a moral consideration.

    22. Evil (1): “something that is harmful or undesirable”. Yeah, of course I believe such things exist. Evil (2): “profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity, especially when regarded as a supernatural force”. Not as a supernatural force, no.

    23. I wouldn’t want Yahweh to move in next door. He seems like a hot-headed, arrogant, and entitled prick.

    24. All god has to do is show up, and I’ll believe he exists, same as any entity that claims to exist. Maybe, after he has answered lots of questions and complaints, I might even follow him.

    25, 26. Literally any evidence at all for god would be a start. Again, all he has to do is show up.

    27. Safer for whom, in what way, from what threat? Super vague. Also, societies are by necessity as safe as they have to be to remain stable. Too unsafe and people will restructure society (usually a very unsafe process itself, thus why it is generally reserved for desperate times). Also, what would the difference be? If a Christian society’s police policy was to pray really hard instead of intervening , then my life-long experience with the efficacy of prayer would indicate that it would be less safe.

    28. I take issue with the given definition of free will. Based on that, though, no I don’t believe in the ability to make decisions without coercion. We are all influenced by coercive forces, from biological drives like hunger and fatigue, to external forces like social structures and modern economic constraints.

    29. You defined free will very poorly, then asked whether that form of free will wasn’t compatible with things completely unrelated to your defined version. As for the neurological side, the evidence appears to be growing that our sense of self-determinism is largely illusory.

    30. This question demonstrates a profoundly ignorant understanding of evolution. Humans might evolve to be dumber than dogs if it benefits the survival of our genetic line. So go study some biology and try again.

    31. If you are willing to accept that super-intelligent aliens are in fact gods, then why would we worship aliens that don’t ever show themselves? Also, in terms of super-advanced aliens, see the Fermi Paradox.

  • Priya Lynn

    Yeah, I don’t believe that, or in time travel. The past and future do not exist as real things, there is only an everchanging present – you can never leave the present.

  • Melody

    It’s so clear how informed these questions are by religion, Christianity in particular. Like the 2nd question, where the idea that Christianity is one of the most important things in a Christian’s life, leads to the idea that, therefore, atheism should play a huge role in someone’s life and life decisions too. But for me, that’s not the case. When I was a Christian, being a Christian informed my every decision, but my atheism does not. I simply no longer believe. I can think of only two ways where it really matters: 1. because I now believe this life is the only one I’ll have, I’ve been more aware of that while making deciscions and it forces me to no longer stall or put off living fully and enjoying myself, and 2. I feel more responsible for my own life, other people, the future, the planet and so on, because there is no God that forgives at the drop of a hat, nor a God that will fix things for us in the end. The responsibility lies on us, the people, and we should carry it. In other words, I feel that I’ve become more mature by losing my religion. More aware of the outside world and more responsible.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    9) Do you affirm or deny that atheism is a worldview?

    Deny. Atheism is simply a lack of belief in God(s). It is compatible with many widely varying worldviews, including nihilism, hedonism, humanism.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    30) If you affirm evolution and that the universe will continue to expand
    forever, then do you think it is probable that given enough time, brains
    would evolve to the point of exceeding mere physical limitations and
    become free of the physical and temporal and thereby become “deity” and
    not be restricted by space and time? If not, why not? How does one lead
    to the other?

    What a bizarrely specific question.
    Evolution: Hell yes.
    Universe will expand forever: Not sure, but that’s the trend for the next few billion years. Forever is a long time. What preceded teh Big Bang? Will anything follow the eventual heat death of the universe? These are very big questions which you may not even understand are relevant.

    Brains are physical things. If you had said “minds”, there might be a legitimate argument that the mind might one day transcend the brain. But you didn’t. Brains are brains. They are tied to the rest of the body and function by biochemistry. Also, that anything could be or become “deity” implies the existence of magick. Neither brains nor anything else can become magick, because magick does not exist in the real world, it is fantasy. I add the ‘k’ on the end because it makes the silliness of the concept just a wee bit more apparent.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    2) Do you act according to what you believe (there is no God) in or what you don’t believe in (lack belief in God)?

    You are right, that’s obviously a Christian turning the question around, not something that would really matter to an atheist. I have no idea what behavourial differences one might conceivably attribute to the distinction he makes. It’s like when a believer says that an atheist “thinks she is God” because she rejects the Christian God. It just doesn’t make sense.

  • Kevin Colquitt

    Denial seems to me to imply that there’s evidence for something which one doesn’t accept. Since there’s no evidence (not counting convoluted arguments as such) for any deities, we aren’t in denial.

    My opinion is that there’s no such thing as atheism, there’s just us atheists

  • ThaneOfDrones

    16) If you answered yes to the previous question, then how do you avoid a
    category mistake by requiring material evidence for an immaterial God?

    Note the hidden assumption: that it would be a category mistake. Most theists claim that God is immaterial, or “outside space and time” or such bullshit, but they also insist that He interacts with the material world: through its creation, through continuing intervention. Such interaction would leave evidence.

  • Melody

    ^^^This. Just because Christianity is a worldview doesn’t mean that atheism is too. Most of the questions are like this, built on what Christianity is like for Christians and then the question gets flipped over and written towards atheism instead, but half of the time that doesn’t actually work….

    Edit: I really like your name by the way 🙂

  • ThaneOfDrones

    19) Where does morality come from?

    Maybe you should read up on the Euthyphro dilemma before you go around asking such a poorly grounded question. It predates Christianity by several hundred years.

  • Melody

    That got to me too that word denial in there all the time. Why do we deny God’s existence, why do we deny this, why that… We don’t actually do that, but he can’t see it that way.

  • Anthrotheist

    It seems to me that people often conflate belief in God and worship of God. Most atheist deconversion stories I have heard involved a significant amount of time worshiping a god they no longer believed in (prior to their final abandonment of their religion), and many people who claim to believe in God spend almost no time worshiping him.

    Christians, particularly ones who would write questions like the ones presented here, have a tendency to ask “why don’t you believe in God” and never consider questions such as, “why don’t you think the god of the Bible is worthy of worship?” Question 23 hints at this discrepancy, but it seems more like a lampshade trope than a conversation-starter.

  • G.Shelley

    1) pack of belief in gods
    2)neither
    3) no
    4) I am very sure I am an atheist
    5) I do t see how this is different to 4)
    6) that which comports with reality
    7) because there isn’t sufficient evidence to hold a theistic position

    8) yes
    10) dent
    11) the actions of Christians
    11) never was
    12) yes
    13) see 12
    14) no
    15)?not sure what the question means. If it is asking” is the scientific method the o Lu way to ascertain if god exists?” Then yes
    16) because to accept immaterial evidence is nonsensical
    17) only that we give ourselves
    18) we decide if
    19) by setting a standard, such as fairness or human well being and determining what actions promote them
    20) what is a moral absolute
    21) only if you explain what you mean
    22) no
    23) yes. By the standard we judge if anything else is bad
    24) Sufficient evidence
    25) good question. I can’t imagine what evidence would be that “it was a god” plus be the best explanation
    26) if it isn’t testable or observable, why would you consider it evidence?
    At which I reached my limits

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Why do you deny Bigfoot?

  • Cozmo the Magician

    My answer to all of them is piss off until you can ask intelligent questions. They are all almost along the lines of’ have you stopped beating your dog?”

  • ThaneOfDrones

    23) If you believe that the God of the Old Testament is morally bad, by what standard do you judge that he is bad?

    Yes I do, and

    a) How about judging Him by His own standards?
    He says killing is wrong, and yet in the book you mention, He kills hundreds of thousands of people.
    He coveting is wrong, and yet He obviously coverts the attention that people paid to other gods.
    He says stealing is wrong, and yet He steals lots of stuff. Look at everything He took from Job for instance, or leading His people to steal Jericho from the previous inhabitants.

    b) Even though I don’t believe in absolute evil* (note that in question 22, you leave off the adjective) and moral absolutes, I think that most people can agree on many moral standards. For example: punishing one person because another person did something wrong: that’s fucked up. Punishing the descendants of a wrong-doer for several generations? That’s fucked up. Punishing the livestock that belonged to someone you consider to be a wrong-doer (just for existing) is fucked up. The Old Testament tells us that YHWH did all those things, in spades.

    * To elaborate further, just because most or all human beings share a moral value does not mean it is “absolute.” There are some very good reasons why we might share values with other animals with whom we share over 90% of our DNA and billions of years of evolutionary history.
    Is killing the offspring of your mate so that she will become sexually receptive wrong? Most humans would agree, but lions do it. Is biting the head off your mate after mating wrong? Most humans would agree, but mantids sometimes do it.

  • Anat

    I think my answer to 30 is that if somehow a brain became non-physical it would lose ability to interact with matter.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    28) Do you believe in free will?

    No I do not. I know that some atheist/materialists do believe in free will, and I think they are wrong. Even philosophers claim to believe in free will, but they usually have to redefine it first, because by the obvious definition it obviously can’t exist (I’m looking at you, Daniel Dennett). The brain is obviously a physical thing, dependent on the genetics, development, sensory inputs, etc. of the organism of which it is a part. It makes choices, but since the brain is a part of the material world, those choices are not “free” of physical influence.

    Meanwhile, “free will” is a frequent theistic defense tactic for the problem of evil, and yet “free will” is so important to Christian theology that the term appears precisely zero times in the Bible (KJV) and YHWH, the tribal god of the Jews frequently violated free will, such as when he “hardened the heart” of Pharaoh in order that He could show off by killing more people and animals (Exodus, many many verses).

  • Anat

    You know, I’m not sure Yahweh says killing is wrong. He says it is forbidden to people, except when commanded, when it is required. And coveting is only forbidden to the people with whom he makes his covenant. Some things he calls ‘abomination’, some things are ‘evil in the eye of YHWH’, but I’m not sure we can conclude merely from the fact that he forbids something that he considers it wrong. He just doesn’t want certain people, (and in a few cases all people) to do it.

    Totally agree with you about absolutes. Even being shared among all human societies (that we know about) does not mean it is absolute for humans. It means so far humans have agreed with it (or at least, those humans in power did). Future societies might disagree on some things.

  • Priya Lynn

    My position is that technically there is no free will for the reasons you post but in practical terms there is, in that there is such a huge number of factors influencing us and reacting with us and possible behaviors that this is virtually indistinguishable from free will. Sort of analogous to the idea that technically speaking if you go to a beach you don’t have an unlimited number of choices as to which grain of sand you might pick up but in practical terms you do.

    The story of the hardening of Pharoah’s heart is one I love to bring up to the god botherers and have them try to justify their god’s doing this.

  • Well, right. Like I said, if the universe were completely different from the way it is now. Isn’t raising the bar impossibly high a sign that we’ve got our minds made up? I’m fine with admitting that I’m not wired for religious belief and that I don’t consider it an evidential matter like a science experiment or a jury trial.

  • Priya Lynn

    “Isn’t raising the bar impossibly high a sign that we’ve got our minds made up?”

    Nothing is impossible for an all powerful god, so if a god did exist he/she could do any of those things and if he/she did that would certainly convince me he/she exists.

    People assert all the time that such a god exists, if that’s the case then none of what I posted is too much to ask for as evidence for that god’s existence.

  • Yeah, the list of questions didn’t seem like the most sympathetic bunch of queries.

    I remember reading Karen Armstrong’s book on religion, and she blew my neo-atheist mind by pointing out that most religious people throughout history would be perplexed by our insistence that religion involves professing literal belief in a set of literal claims about the literal world. It could indeed be one of the most abiding myths of the modern era.

  • Oh, okay.

    It’s just that when creationists claim they’d believe in evolution if they could witness it happening from the original biomolecules to present-day species, I assume they’re not serious about understanding why we believe that species evolve.

    That’s not relevant to this discussion at all, I know.

  • Priya Lynn

    A lot of the stuff about the world is very complex and hard to understand. It takes a lot of thought to imagine how an eye could evolve and people have laid out how that may have happened. Some religionists say things like “I don’t have enough faith to believe in evolution”. I take them at their word, I think they find this complex stuff difficult to understand and it is sooo much easier to believe “Hey, its magic!” than it is to follow exactly all the details of what we know about evolution and what we theorize about it. For example, ask an uneducated person how a computer converts french to english and they won’t have a clue, its so much easier to think “Hey, its magic” than it is to come up with theories and step by step explanations for how its actually done. Add to that that religionists don’t want to believe evolution can happen and there’s pretty much an insurmountable barrier to them accepting all the ideas and evidence that make it feasible/probable/a virtual certainty.

  • josephPa

    The past is real and fixed. The future may be preordained and also unchangeable

  • Priya Lynn

    The past is fixed but I don’t believe it is a real thing, it is a thing that used to exist. The past exists only in our minds and records, it is not a place you can go to and visit your younger self. I see no reason to believe the future is preordained and unchangeable.

  • Raging Bee

    There’s no “free will” in the Bible at all — God created everything and everyone according to his Divine Plan, everything is going to happen according to prophecy (we have no clue how to interpret prophecy, but it’s divinely ordained and unstoppable), and none of it is subject to change, ever. Anyone who says we have free will in a universe with God, but not in a universe without God, is just being a tool.

  • Raging Bee

    That would explain why I’ve never heard any Christians responding to any of our answers.

  • Anthrotheist

    My Anthropology of Religion course was an eye-opener for me. Do you recall which of her books left such an impact? I’m always looking for more additions to my reading list.

  • Illithid

    Your prior answers weren’t bad at all. I don’t know how you found out about the Mt. Everest weather-dragons, though.

  • It’s been a while, but I’m pretty sure it was A History of God. I would never read theology, but, as you say, the anthropology of religion is a fascinating subject.

  • Retrikaethan

    >How would you define atheism?

    atheism is nothing more or less than not believing any gods exist.

    >Do you act according to what you believe (there is no Nicolas Cage) in or what you don’t believe in (lack belief in Nicolas Cage)?

    this one is nonsensical.

    >Do you think it is inconsistent for someone who “lacks belief” in Nicolas Cage to work against Nicolas Cage’s existence by attempting to show that Nicolas Cage doesn’t exist?

    …the fuck is this bullshit?

    >How sure are you that your atheism properly represents reality?

    *my* atheism? the fuck? no, i’m not basing my decisions on millennia old mythology so i’d say atheism represents reality as accurately as reality can be represented.

    >How sure are you that your atheism is correct?

    again with the possessive. there’s no doubt or conviction, i simply don’t believe any gods exist.

    >How would you define what truth is?

    not answering this one because nobody can fucking agree on it.

    >Why do you believe your atheism is a justifiable position to hold?

    it’s impossible for a loving god to exist and without that there’s no reason to worship and without that you can view reality with clarity.

    >Are you a materialist or a physicalist or what?

    idk what the fuck kind of question this is meant to be. i’m a satanist.

    >Do you affirm or deny that atheism is a worldview?

    see first question’s answer.

    >Not all atheists are antagonistic to Christianity but for those of you who are, why the antagonism?

    cuz the religious want to decree what i can or can’t do based on their myths.

    >If you were at one time a believer in the Christian Nicolas Cage, what caused you to deny his existence?

    i took a moment to think about it.

    >Do you believe the world would be better off without religion?

    >Do you believe the world would be better off without Christianity?

    indisputably.

    >Do you believe that faith in a Nicolas Cage or gods is a mental disorder?

    it literally is.

    >Must Nicolas Cage be known through the scientific method?

    the scientific method can figure out literally anything in reality. if any gods existed, we could find evidence of their actions. all we have are some stories and people who get really angry when you ask them questions.

    >If you answered yes to the previous question, then how do you avoid a category mistake by requiring material evidence for an immaterial Nicolas Cage?

    saying something is immaterial is the same as saying it doesn’t exist.

    >Do we have any purpose as human beings?

    >If we do have purpose, can you as an atheist please explain how that purpose is determined?

    only what we make for ourselves.

    >Where does morality come from?

    certainly not from gods. i mean, fuck, yahweh commanded the death of dozens of children by bears for their calling an old bald man bald. no, we get morality from our evolution (ie, most of us have a sense of right and wrong which is ingrained in us) and from what we learn as we grow up from infant to 20somethings.

    >Are there moral absolutes?

    >~~If there are moral absolutes, could you list a few of them?~~

    no.

    >Do you believe there is such a thing as evil? If so, what is it?

    good and evil are subjective concepts and as such don’t actually exist.

    >If you believe that the Nicolas Cage of the Old Testament is morally bad, by what standard do you judge that he is bad?

    it’s the same god as the one in the new testament, and by any standard available via humanity. again, remember the bears and dozens of children.

    >What would it take for you to believe in Nicolas Cage?

    even if you could prove your god existed, there’s no way in hell i would ever worship it. if anything, i’d fucking murder it.

    >What would constitute sufficient evidence for Nicolas Cage’s existence?

    nothing short of the god itself.

    >Must this evidence be rationally based, archaeological, testable in a lab, etc., or what?

    scientifically sound would suffice.

    >Do you think that a society that is run by Christians or atheists would be safer? Why?

    atheists, mostly cuz they don’t believe that when you die you get eternal bliss and so would have a much much much ***much*** stronger inclination towards protecting people’s lives.

    >Do you believe in free will? (free will being the ability to make choices without coercion)

    >If you believe in free will, do you see any problem with defending the idea that the physical brain, which is limited and subject to the neuro-chemical laws of the brain, can still produce free will choices?

    free will is a fucky concept that i don’t care enough to get into with these shitty questions.

    >If you affirm evolution and that the universe will continue to expand forever, then do you think it is probable that given enough time, brains would evolve to the point of exceeding mere physical limitations and become free of the physical and temporal and thereby become “deity” and not be restricted by space and time? If not, why not? How does one lead to the other?

    >If you answered the previous question in the affirmative, then aren’t you saying that it is probable that some sort of Nicolas Cage exists?

    who in the great blue fuck of life is affirming this shit? that’s not how evolution works and the universe isn’t going to keep expanding forever. again, don’t care enough to get into those topics seriously cuz damn these questions are bad.

  • KonZill

    1. lack of belief in any gods
    2. repeat of question 1
    3. the question makes no sense
    4. that depends on what god concept you are talking about. I am 100% certain that no gods mess in human affairs, answer prayers or influence sporting events, elections or natural disasters. This leaves the possibility of some kind of diest god who only observes the universe.
    5. repeat of question 4
    6. truth is what can be objectively proven
    7. it best fits the available evidence
    8. empirical naturalist
    9. deny. Atheism is a consequence of my worldview but it is not a worldview in and of itself, people can be atheists while disagreeing with me about many other things.
    10. Becuase Christianity is frequently used as a justification for discrimination and bigotry.
    11. I was never a believer
    12. Better off.
    13. repeat of question 12
    14. No, being mistaken about something is not a mental illness.
    15. Yes, if it exists then it can be studied scientifically.
    16. There are no immaterial beings.
    17. At a biological level to reproduce and make more humans, more philosophically no, we have to invent our own purpose.
    18. pass, as I essentially said no to 17
    19. Morality is based on empathy, which we have as a result of being a social species,
    20. No. but there are behaviours that are or are not conducive to the survival of the species, and these are objective.
    21. Don’t murder members of your comunity, is an example what I talked about in question 20.
    22. Evil is subjective. as we can see every time some people celebrate the deeds of a suicide bomber,
    23. I judge him by my modern western ethical standards.
    24. Any being that can grant my secret test wish might as well be a god.
    25. No, I could not rule out sufficiently advanced technology,.
    26. It depends, different standards of evidence are valid in different circumstances.
    27. Atheism is not a world view, so I can make no conclusions about an atheist government. From what I’ve seen a Christian government that actually takes their religion seriously is not one I would want to live under, as they are quite repressive of personal freedoms.
    28. No, I don’t believe in classical free will. It has been shown that a properly calibrated brain activity scanner can detect my decisions before I am consciously aware of making them.
    29. pass, as I rejected free will in 28.
    30. No, evolution is bound by the laws of physics.
    31. I answered question 30 in the negative.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    8) Are you a materialist or a physicalist or what?

    Total WTF? Is he trying to show off that he knows words? Is this some sort of ‘gotcha’ dumbfuckery? I am probably better educated on philosophical matters than most people, and I would have to look up those terms to figure out what the question is about. Does this question matter in the least to a typical atheist? Not at all. Do the answers of atheists matter at all to Matt Slick? I’d like to hear him explain why.

    Here’s a bit from Wikipedia:

    Materialism is closely related to physicalism, the view that all that exists is ultimately physical. Philosophical physicalism has evolved from materialism with the discoveries of the physical sciences to incorporate more sophisticated notions of physicality than mere ordinary matter, such as: spacetime, physical energies and forces, dark matter, and so on. Thus the term “physicalism” is preferred over “materialism” by some, while others use the terms as if they are synonymous.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Finally, why do Yahweh’s actions, words, needs and desires differ so little from those of any North Korean dictator?

    YHWH never had nukes.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    I’m not sure Yahweh says killing is wrong. He says it is forbidden to people, except when commanded, when it is required.

    Sorry, those disclaimers are not in the text. I am not sure where you are pulling them from.

    Exodus 20:13: Thou shalt not kill.

    Deuteronomy 5:17 Thou shalt not kill.

    but I’m not sure we can conclude merely from the fact that he forbids something that he considers it wrong.

    There is a word for people who do not meet the standards they place upon other people. This word is used in the Bible and is clearly intended as an insult.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    I’ll be honest, couldn’t imagine any “evidence” that would make me a religious believer.

    I can, but that “evidence” continues to fail to exist, so people consider certain matters to be settled and when the question comes up they consider only new instances of evidence.

  • My point is that religious belief isn’t the same sort of matter as a jury trial or a science experiment, where evidence is crucial. I’m just not wired for a religious mindset, that’s all. I couldn’t change my entire conception of reality, and the very basis of how I interpret my experience of phenomena, simply to accommodate a data point.

    If it sounds like I consider all this talk of “evidence” and the “burden of proof” as it relates to religious belief completely irrelevant, well, guilty as charged.

  • Jack Rawlinson

    Ah yes, I remember these questions. Very clumsy leading ones, most of them.

  • Atrus

    1. A lack of belief in a deity.

    2. This is a nonsense question. I act without considering whether or not god exists. I just do as I do without concern about the existence of god.

    3. No inconsistency at all. Say everyone in your community believed in Godzilla and gave up 10% of their income to a group with no accountability to appease Godzilla and keep it from destroying your town. At best you are given dirty looks for not believing in Godzilla and at worst fired from jobs and physically assaulted for “threatening the safety of the town” with your disbelief. Would you not want to try to convince people that there is no danger, they don’t need to put themselves in a worse position by giving up 10% of their income, and that you’re not a danger to society?

    4 & 5. I’m not certain at all. Put simply, there very well could be a deity, but it/they do not interact with the world in such a way that leaves evidence or is testable as far as anyone can find. It could very well be there, but if it does not leave evidence, then it’s no different to it not being there at all.

    6. I define truth by what is evidenced and testable.

    7. Because we lack evidence to point to another conclusion. If you want me to believe in god(s), then you must provide evidence of their existence. Simply pointing out something we do not know the cause of does not qualify as evidence of the existence of deities, just that we have yet to gather enough data to make any conclusion, let alone a supernatural one.

    8. I have no familiarity with these terms. I believe in what can be interacted with or observed or, to a lesser extent, calculated. Everything else may or may not exist, but without any way to prove them, they make no difference to me. I won’t say supernatural things don’t exist for certain, but I won’t believe they do exist without proof.

    9. Atheism is only a worldview in respect to a single question of life: “Is there a god?”

    10. I’m of the opinion of letting people do as they like as long as doing so doesn’t interfere with others. If you want to believe in a god, more power to you, so long as you don’t try to push it on to me or others who don’t want to be involved. However I also see religions like Christianity as a potential burden on society. It slows progress by convincing a large portion that bronze age teachings are the truth preventing easily adding new evidence to one’s view of reality. It also gives excuses to irrationally hate others for traits they don’t like. For example, it’s much harder to rationalize why gay people are bad without a religious text backing it up. There wouldn’t be so much climate change denialism if people didn’t think god would prevent the world from ending.

    11. A lack of evidence of a god’s existence and specifically the Christian God, contradictions in what he supposedly is like. There is a lack of evidence pointing to the existence of any god, but the Christian god in particular is supposed to be this loving, all forgiving, all powerful deity, yet he needs a blood sacrifice of himself before forgiving all of humanity… and then supposedly still won’t forgive if you don’t believe. Then you see all the suffering in the world. It just doesn’t line up with the existence of a loving god that supposedly interacts with the world it created.

    12 & 13. Yes. Dogma, commanding belief without evidence, and going by outdated information about the world ultimately holds humanity back from achieving its full potential.

    14. Not necessarily. I see it more as ignorance and sunk cost fallacy than actual mental disorder… however if you believe you are hearing the voice of god commanding you to do specific things, you might want to get checked by a psychologist just in case.

    15. If you want atheists like me to believe, yes. It doesn’t need to be known through the scientific method to exist, but you can’t expect someone must believe that without doing so.

    16. if god is immaterial than they’re as good as not being there at all. As stated before, you cannot expect someone to believe that something is there without proof of it being there nor can you expect someone to change their behavior to please something that cannot be known.

    17 & 18. Nope. We create our own purpose to fulfill ourselves, but there is no ultimate purpose.

    19. From the collective ideas of society.

    20 & 21. No.

    22. Evil is just another term we give to actions or events we see as being incredibly negative. Some may describe a hurricane as evil, but it has no consciousness that makes it want to be destructive it just is. Some people do bad things for a variety of reasons and people can call it evil. It’s just another term, no more.

    23. By the morality we determine by ourselves and society.

    24 & 25 & 26. Hard to give an example since what god is and what it can do varies so wildly even between sects of the same religion. It would have to be something that cannot happen naturally without interference by something supernatural, and should be repeatable to confirm it. But without any agreement of capabilities and what state god exists in, I cannot give any specific kind of example.

    27. Neither would be inherently safer. It depends on the individual rather than what they believed in. In addition it would also depend on sect since some christian sects are nicer and more forgiving than others. I feel that leaders being Christian can make them more prone to take actions that would endanger others based on the bible than atheists, but that doesn’t mean atheists never can take actions to endanger others or from falling prey to irrational beliefs.

    28 & 29. I don’t know. I don’t have sufficient data to make a conclusion. It is something that must continue to be studied to find out how much neuro-chemical laws and outside influences our decisions to say if we truly have free will or not.

    30 & 31. Maybe. There is still much of our universe that we don’t know. If the natural laws of our universe allow something like that to happen, then its possible, but we lack that information. We could create computers with simulations so advanced that the simulation is indistinguishable from reality from within. In that sense we could be considered gods to those within our simulated universe. It’s possible we can find a way outside the bonds of our reality and travel to others if they exist, but maybe such things are impossible. We just don’t know. We cannot jump to conclusions without sufficient data. However, if it were possible to put our minds outside this reality, its not going to be through natural evolution. That’s not how natural evolution works. If such a thing is possible, which we do not know, it’s going to be something we do to ourselves, not something that happened naturally.

  • Syzygy

    Sub the Tooth Fairy for god, then work on it.

  • My question for the last 40 years is, “How many rings were on the trees in the Garden of Eden?” To me, this one question says it all!

  • Raging Bee

    No one cut any of the trees down to find out back then. Adam was NOT a lumberjack!

  • Your argument sounds like that of a believer. Get serious.

  • Raging Bee

    I was as serious as the situation demanded.

  • Plenty of religious people write and talk about religions they don’t believe in. I love talking about religion. I just happen to talk about it from a different perspective than you do.

  • Andrej Đeneš

    Replace every instance of “atheism” with a “lack of belief in god” to make the questions sound even dumber. For example:
    5. How sure are you that your lack of belief in god is correct?
    7. Why do you believe your lack of belief in god is a justifiable position to hold?
    9. Do you affirm or deny that a lack of belief in god is a worldview?
    etc.

  • Yep. Just like I said.

  • It’s the same thing.

  • #15 – haha, perfect!

  • Yes, they were weird, weren’t they? Essentially asking if the brain might eventually evolve into a god. I think Matt Slick has fallen into the trap many find themselves in: thinking that evolution is the process of things getting better over time.

  • I agree. As someone who has never had a religion, I always find the experiences of ex-theists very interesting.

  • That’s a great definition of truth. Loved your answers, thank you!

  • Yes, it’s very similar to how many Christians seem to think we “follow” popular atheist thinkers, like Richard Dawkins. Because they have leaders, we must, too, right?

  • Exactly.

  • Love it with the ‘k’. It was a strange question – will brains become gods? No. No, I do not believe in gods.

  • It only makes sense to the asker, you’re right. They are projecting how they feel about things onto us.

  • Excellent point! Than you!

  • Another way to explain it is to suggest that theism is not a worldview, though different religions that theists live by are. Similarly, atheism is not a worldview. Atheism and theism are just opposite answers to the same question and nothing more.

  • Loved your answer to #26. Well said.

  • “Even though I don’t believe in absolute evil* (note that in question 22, you leave off the adjective) and moral absolutes, I think that most people can agree on many moral standards.”

    Perfect.

  • Joan Frances DaVanzo

    Since fairness has been discovered to be an evolutionary bias of the brain, it now is possible to see the relationship between god and man as an internal process of the brain. The brain favours fairness but the self is free to be fair or unfair. I believe all “natural morality” which even small children understand are manifestations of the evolutionary biases of the brain, whereas “man/woman made morality” such as restrictions on birth control are social values that can/and in many cases must change.

  • Haha, thank you!

  • “Atheism is a consequence of my worldview but it is not a worldview in and of itself,” – perfectly said!

  • #10 – yes, exactly. I have often said I don’t care what other people believe, so long as that belief has no effect on the lives of people who don’t share it.

  • Haha, yes!

  • Haha, perfect!

  • Ruth Lafler

    Most of those questions make me want to tear my hair out — the author thinks he is so clever and is putting together what he thinks are “gotcha” questions which instead reveal his complete lack of understanding not only of atheism, but evolution, physics, the scientific method, and many other things! But I think that the wording of #2 is interesting. It captures what I feel is the difference between people who never believed in god and people who once did but now do not. Because saying that there is no god means having a concept of what that means and then going through the intellectual process of deciding that it’s not true, whereas not believing in god(s) is the absence of any concept of god. I’m not sure that any person who once believed in god is an atheist in the same sense that I (a third generation nonbeliever) am an atheist. Also, question #30 — WTF?

  • C_Alan_Nault

    Unless the person asking the questions first clearly defines what they mean by the word god ( they capitalize the word, I don’t), all the questions are moot, since the person who hears the question may be using a different definition for the word god.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “If you affirm evolution and that the universe will continue to expand forever”

    Nothing to do with atheism.

    “then do you think it is probable that given enough time, brains would evolve to the point of exceeding mere physical limitations”

    Since no one is able to present evidence for any consciousness that does not require a physical brain, that ( and the rest of the question) is meaningless.

  • David Heath

    Broadly, I take exception to the entire line of questioning. I refuse to be labelled ‘atheist’ as that is still an attempt to define me in religious terms – ‘atheist’ == ‘not theist’ which broadly translates to something like ‘the opposite of religious.’

    I’m still struggling to find a better word…

  • Brilliant! My own humble contributions to your list:

    26. Suppose Jesus came back today. How could you tell him from an impostor?

    27. Why does science have an excellent (though admittedly not perfect) record of teaching us new things about reality, while religion hasn’t taught us anything?

    28. What sense does it make to ask for things in prayer when (1) God already knows about whatever you want, and (2) God already knows what’s best for you?

    29. It must be tempting to use the Bible as a sock puppet. There are so many verses with subtlely different meanings (and grossly different meanings), that you can make it say just about whatever you want. How do you avoid this and stay honest to the Bible’s (or God’s) message? I’m looking for a simple algorithm that anyone can use.

  • Very true. Thanks for reading!

  • Jim X

    Thank you for your articulate, thoughtful responses to the questions posed by the delusional religious majority. Here’s one more: Where do you think humanity and the world would be NOW if religion hadn’t taken ahold 4000+ years ago?

  • Jim Jones

    Thanks!

    As for 28, try Google Translate on Japanese or Chinese. Holy crap it’s hard to understand.

  • Jim X

    One more: What do you “believe” happens to a human when he/she dies? Is this different than what happens when an ant, or a plant dies?

  • Which reminds me of the translation of the Jesus story from Jewish/Aramaic culture into Roman/Greek culture, where it was documented. Rarely is that enormous translation (and the resulting confusion of the message) ever acknowledged.

  • Jim Jones

    I’m convinced that it was all written in Greek. Paul was a Greek (not a Jew) and the gospel authors were all Greeks as well. The gospels show a limited knowledge of Jewish life.

    http://pocm.info/

  • Jim Jones

    The only valid definition of god is my own, IMO. All others I have seen are contradictory.

    “God is the ego projection of the self styled believer in the supposed being — with added super powers”.

    It’s impossible to attribute any effect from such a ‘god’ outside of its effect on the self described follower so it is irrelevant to everyone else.

  • Infinite Automaton

    1. The null hypothesis with respect to the existence of god(s).
    2. I think this is intended to be some clever trap, but my actions are based way more on my personal history and my system of ethics than my stance on god.
    3. Cute, but a pretty obvious attempt to silence nonbelievers. We’ve got just as much right to advocate for our views on the subject as you do to proselytize for yours.
    4. Considering the lack of evident miracles or divine communication, I’m pretty comfortable with it.
    5. Uh, most of us define ‘correct’ as ‘being in accord with reality’ so I’m not sure what’s up with this one.
    6. I’ll let Philip K. Dick handle this one – “Reality [truth] is that which continues to exist, even after you stop believing in it.”
    7. Cosmology, biology, geology, history, anthropology, and modern medical science paint a picture of the world that’s awfully hard to reconcile with the truth claims of major religions. Added to the fact that there’s not much hard evidence for these supposed deities and you’re basically left with atheism or atheist-lite deism.
    8. This also feels trap-y, but I’d probably identify most with a soft empiricism, in the sense that I prefer not to believe in anything which is contradicted by the available evidence (e.g. Young Earth Creationism)
    9. Atheism is a null hypothesis about deity. We’ve been over this.
    10. I’m antagonistic to the extremist flavors of Christianity that have a proven track record of hurting people – the Crusades, Inquisitions, the Southern Baptist support of slavery and then later opposition to integration, opposition to equal rights for racial, gender, and sexual minorities, etc. I think it’s justified considering how hostile they are to these groups.
    11. Wow, that’s a loaded question. I don’t ‘deny’ the existence of the Christian god, I just no longer believe he exists at all. It’s an important semantic difference and you damn well know it. The specific trigger was deeper contemplation of the myth of Noah’s ark, but that was just the tip of a whole iceberg of confronting evidence I’d been hiding from because it contradicted my faith.
    12. I think the world would be better off without toxic religion, but that toxicity is tied up with some pretty negative human impulses, so I don’t think it’s solely a religious vs. nonreligious issue.
    13. Again, toxic Christianity can go sit and spin, but I don’t have a problem with the decent members of the religion. I have some very dear friends who are still believers and I don’t really care if they deconvert so long as they don’t start hurting people.
    14. This is starting to come off as self-loathing, you know. I think that belief in god isn’t well supported by the evidence we have available now, and that it’s often put in place through indoctrination or emotional appeals, but that doesn’t make it any more of a mental disorder than shilling for Amway.
    15. Pretty sure this is angling for a bait-and-switch “but it’s a relationshiiiiiip” argument. I’d like the same amount of evidence before believing in god as I would for believing in other people – if they don’t return my calls and only interact with me via proxies, I start to get suspicious.
    16. Ah, there it is – the switch! See, this would be an issue if we were debating some pure spiritual emanation, but the god you’re shilling for makes definite claims about being active in the world and the here and now. Those are claims which should be falsifiable, and if they’re not supported by evidence, which they do not seem to be, that’s a serious problem for you.
    17. Not in the way you probably intend it, no. I also don’t think that’s a problem, and I increasingly find the notion that you must have “purpose” to have value in your life uncomfortably transactional. Do the things you enjoy, live the best life you can – even your buddy Solomon thought that was wise.
    18. Again, this is kind of forcing pegs into misshapen holes, but I think it arises from the things we enjoy and cherish in life. I don’t think it’s eternal or written in stone or handed down from on high, but increasingly I don’t care.
    19. Our natural history as a species of social animals, along with a history of rational inquiry into the further development of those natural impulses in philosophy and ethics.
    20. Not in the sense that there’s some fundamental field equation of goodness or the like. I do think there are some general principles that are shared across cultures as a result of us all having evolved together as a species – basic altruism, empathy, concern for social order, etc. We see similar impulses in other social animals.
    21. See above. Those things are at the heart of ideas like “murder is bad”, “don’t steal”, etc. Even if you think there are religious moral absolutes, try defining their limits – it starts getting gray very fast. If you need a worked example, consider Evangelical support for Trump.
    22. I think evil is a useful category for particularly egregious offenses, but I don’t believe it’s embodied or that it exists as a literal physical force.
    23. The same standards I use to judge other morally bad individuals – he unambiguously endorses genocide, rape of captives, slavery and a number of other things. The New Testament isn’t much better – the doctrine of infinite suffering for finite crimes is utterly depraved by any sane standard of justice; it’s purely over-the-top retributive and barbaric.
    24. I’d need convincing evidence god was actually involved in the world. Give me amputated limbs regenerated, or rotting corpses returned to life at the behest of a holy man or prophet and I would seriously reconsider my atheism.
    25. I feel like we just had this conversation…
    26. I don’t like the implication that some of these things are distinct categories from others, but basically I would need to be reasonably sure it wasn’t con men or Photoshop, so yes, preferably something repeatable under controlled conditions with a number of objective (or even hostile) witnesses present. You know, the kind of stuff your god does all the time in your holy book but never in the modern world, somehow.
    27. I think that would depend a lot on the structure of the society and less on the personal beliefs of its head. I’m not much for theocracy or forced religious systems of any stripe, so I don’t think that’s super relevant.
    28. I believe in a very qualified form of something like that – we know our brains can take in input data and analyze it, and even perform metacognition on our thought processes. That’s close enough to something like free will to satisfy me that our day-to-day perception of choice isn’t completely an illusion, but I acknowledge that we are constrained by our genetics, upbringing, and various other limitations.
    29. First up, neuro-chemical laws aren’t a thing. The only physical laws that can be said to exist generally are the force laws of the fundamental field equations which aren’t really relevant here. That aside, I think it’s a somewhat emergent property of a fairly complex set of nonlinear neural circuits and constant reinforcement learning – some interesting parallels in emerging AI, but that’s a whole other rabbit hole.
    30. The actual fuck? No, I’m not aware of any physical processes that would allow for that kind of thing, even given infinite time. Also, evolution doesn’t really work that way – it’s not directed toward producing ubermenschen, it just shifts allele frequencies around in response to environmental pressures. Telekinesis isn’t going to evolve either, because there’s no physical basis for it.
    31. Yeah, uh, nice try.

  • Jim Jones

    17. Do we have any purpose as human beings?

    Because we are human beings we will strive to spread out and take over the universe. Why would we change what we have always been?

    It may be difficult, but we will try.

    “Humans are DNA’s attempt to escape this planet”.

  • Rupert McCallum

    1. Atheism is the combination of the ability to understand the content of theistic belief, with the absence of theistic belief.
    2. Because I don’t see any good reason to believe in God, consideration of this question doesn’t usually have a huge influence on my decisions about what to do. Which is not to say that I don’t spend a fair amount of time reading and thinking about what others have written about the question.
    3. No.
    4. If you want to raise the question of whether it is part of the reality that there is a God, then you need to clarify what type of God you have in mind. It may be that there exists some kind of intelligence who is responsible for creating this universe. I’m not in a position to have knowledge about that matter. If you want to raise the question of whether it might be the case that there are objective moral truths, and human moral intuitions are at least a moderately reliable guide to the truth about morality, and there exists an omnipresent spirit who is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good, then I’d say based on what we can observe we can pretty safely rule that out. My ground for thinking this is the enormous quantity of pain and suffering that we can observe to have taken place over the last few hundreds of millions of years on this planet.
    5. I do not understand how this question is different to the previous one.
    6. A proposition is true when the way it represents how things are corresponds to how things actually are.
    7. Because I am not aware of any good reasons to believe in the existence of God, and I also think that with regard to some conceptions of God, there is reasonably strong evidence, based on propositions that are commonly known to be true, that a God of that kind cannot exist.
    8. I have been friendly towards physicalism in the past, but am now somewhat ambivalent about physicalism because I am not sure if it is a satisfactory account of conscious experience. I have been reflecting on this question lately and am currently undecided.
    9. There are some systems of belief which are quite commonly associated with atheism, which could reasonably be called worldviews. I can’t see how you can defend the idea that atheism itself is a worldview. It is simply an absence of theistic belief.
    10. It depends on what type of Christianity, really. Basically, if your Christianity makes you disposed to be a dick, then I’ll be a bit antagonistic towards it, but otherwise fine.
    11. This does not apply to me.
    12. Yes.
    13. Yes.
    14. Not in every case, no. But there is no difference in the degree of rational warrant for religious beliefs and for those beliefs that are commonly labelled as delusional.

    15. There isn’t any precise definition of “scientific method” available, I’m open to considering whatever your proposed methods might be for finding out about reality, as long as I can see some kind of rational warrant for thinking them to be a reliable guide to the truth.
    16. This does not apply to me.
    17. Only those purposes we formulate for ourselves.
    18. By personal choice.
    19. Our propensities to construct systems of moral judgment is a product of the fact that we evolved as social animals. It’s a mechanism for encouraging co-operation. I am also somewhat open to Derek Parfit’s contention that there are objective normative truths, as outlined in the three-volume work “On What Matters” which appeared shortly before he died.
    20. I’m afraid I don’t really understand this question well enough. If you mean are there exceptionless moral rules which are objectively valid, I’m currently ambivalent on that question.
    21. A possible candidate might be “You should never cause extreme suffering to another sentient being for no good reason”.
    22. “Evil” is basically a word we apply to the more extreme forms of moral depravity. We naturally use that word in the context of discussing Adolf Hitler’s actions, for example.
    23. Well, I’m not a fan of the failure to condemn slavery or the commands to commit infanticide or the law that a rape victim has to be forced to marry her rapist, I’m sure I could come up with a few more examples for you if you really need them. The way he treated the inhabitants of Egypt who weren’t responsible for the decisions that the Pharaoh made wasn’t really entirely fair, either.

    24. You could perhaps entertain the idea that I might have an actual encounter with God after I die, or that someone appeared who claimed to be God Incarnate while I was still alive and gave convincing evidence of his omnipotence and omniscience. Either of those two scenarios would probably be pretty convincing. I’m also open to examining each argument in favour of the proposition on its own merits.
    25. See above.
    26. Pretty reasonable to insist on “rationally based” as a requirement, certainly.
    27. The problem with this question is that there are too many other factors that are relevant besides whether the leaders are Christian or atheist, and you can’t really give a sensible answer until you know about those factors.
    28. No.
    29. This question does not apply.
    30. Seems like a bit of a stretch to say that is “probable”. It’s always a possibility I suppose.
    31. This question does not apply. And no, it would not be the same as saying that the God of classical theism or personalistic theism exists.

  • Have you read the philosopher and metaphysicist David Bentley Hart? Specifically, his book “The Experience of God?” I think it should be required reading for all theists and atheists alike, simply because the views of idiots like Matt Slick are, well, rubbish, and easily brushed aside, while Hart is the cream of the crop in terms of theistic metaphysics. Not that you’ll agree with him, or that I’m trying to proselytize, but simply because if you are going to address questions like this, it’s best to address the strongest ones. My two cents. Cheers!

  • I didn’t mean a textual translation of written material. I was simply saying that the story originated in a Jewish/Aramaic culture, was transmitted orally so that it wound up in a Roman/Greek culture, was interpreted through that worldview, and then written down.

  • Jim Jones

    I don’t think any part of it was Jewish or Aramaic. It all seems to be solid Greek.

    It’s like someone now inventing some religion and adding a Tibetan guru or a Buddhist mystic to make it seem better/more mysterious.

    The gospels seem to have copied a few bits from the Septuagint but once again just to seem more mysterious. Look at Joseph Smith and his Egyptian ‘translations’.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    (sorry, getting back into late)

    I don’t know what evidence it would take, but I don’t need to know. GOD, assuming he is all-knowing, knows exactly what kind of evidence it would take to get me to believe. Clearly, he hasn’t provided it. From that, I conclude that either he chooses not to, and in that case, who am I to argue, or he cannot, in which case, he is not all-powerful.

    I don’t spend any time worrying about what it would take to get me to believe. Why should I? If God exists, he clearly hasn’t provided what it takes. And if he doesn’t care enough that I believe to provide what it takes, then why should I bother? Thy will be done…

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    My position is that technically there is no free will for the reasons you post but in practical terms there is, in that there is such a huge number of factors influencing us and reacting with us and possible behaviors that this is virtually indistinguishable from free will.

    Yes.

    These folks keep talking about free will, and how it is important that we have free will and that free will is a gift from God, etc. I say, says who? I see absolutely no virtue in the concept of free will.

    Oh, they say, but if we don’t have free will, then we are all just robots!

    To which I say, so what? As long as there is the appearance of free will, in that I I feel I am making my own choices, then why does it matter if it is truly free or just that the number of influencing factors is way too big for anyone to comprehend?

    Free will is totally question-begging.

    We do or don’t have free will, I don’t know and I don’t care. I have apparent free will, and that is all that matters. But an omnipotent god can absolutely give me no free will but make me feel like I have it.

  • I don’t spend any time worrying about what it would take to get me to believe. Why should I?

    Well, the notion of disconfirming evidence, the very thing that would refute what we currently believe, should be important to us. And plenty of people (our hostess included) have said that evidence would change their minds.

    All I’ve been trying to say here, in what I consider plain enough English, is that I don’t think it’s about evidence at all. I think we’re just not wired for belief, and no data points are going to change the foundation of our worldview, the basis of how we interpret phenomena.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    It makes me think of those big-headed brain guys from Star Trek.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    YW

  • OK, I see your point now. Sure, that’s a possibility.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Well, the notion of disconfirming evidence, the very thing that would refute what we currently believe,

    What belief are you talking about? I don’t believe in God; therefore, it’s not something that can be disconfirmed (how can you disconfirm a belief you don’t have?)

    no data points are going to change the foundation of our worldview, the basis of how we interpret phenomena.

    But that is not a problem for any omnipotent being. The foundation of our worldview is easily overcome by an omnipotent god. If some god is too puny to be stumped by our worldview, then why should I worry.

  • wolfypuppy

    I said atheism is a worldview in that it’s a concept of reality where supernatural beings are unnecessary. Dogmatically, atheism is not a set of anything; but this is what we do share–the irrelevance of gods. I like living in this worldview. A past minister of the UU church I go to described it as a “post-religious” reality. Being a humanist, he said we should feel compassion to those who still lean on supernatural crutches. Before y’all argue with me about humanism vs atheism, just address my idea of whether it’s valid to say that atheists share a worldview in which gods are irrelevant. In which we’re FREE of the cobwebs of silly beliefs.

  • wolfypuppy

    Matt Slick makes me want to vomit. lol

  • wolfypuppy

    Homeopathy. Religious people fall for that, too. The Imprint of the Essence of the Brain will leak out into the universe and act on it the way a homeopathic remedy acts on whatever it’s supposed to cure–as a placebo.

  • wolfypuppy

    The OT god is a product of the human imagination so I judge him by human standards–and he’s an asshole.

  • wolfypuppy

    1. Dark matter 2. “God” as homeopathy

  • Fair enough!

  • Paperboy_73

    The thing that annoys me about this variety of question crops up in #28. Free will is utterly indistinguishable from the “illusion”, or self-perception, of free will. Therefore the question itself is not well-posed, and has no meaning.

  • Mark Brewster

    Matt Slick is a frickin’ idiot, who tries to define his god into existence with the self-named “logical absolutes” — as if there were absolutes that are not logical, or logic that’s not absolute. I see these maxims as “absolutes of logic” — a category apart from absolutes of mathematics, for example. Slick says it his way to imply, and eventually say after much obfuscation, “logical absolutes prove god because it takes an absolute mind to conceive of logical absolutes.”

    I could easily and with finality answer all those questions — but Slick’s way of forming questions is SO leading, it’d take 20+ paragraphs of clarification before my answers.

    I don’t have the patience to plow through that shite. I WILL answer a few, though.

    1. Atheism is defined as the lack of belief in the claims that a god exists; more simply, “I’m not taking your word for it.”
    3. No, it is not inconsistent; the claimant for god MUST prove it, and debunking presented proofs is a necessary part of the process.
    4. It IS reality; reality is, I do not believe in any gods.
    5. Atheism is neither correct nor incorrect; it is a stance of belief, specifically the lack thereof.
    7. Atheism is justifiable because theism has not met its burden of proof.
    8. Irrelevant.
    9. It is not; it CAN help to FORM a worldview, however.
    10. Because of hypocrisy, condescension, and the attempts by christians to reform society in their preferred image.
    11. Disproofs of foundational stories in the bible.
    12. YES!
    13. YYEEESS!!
    15. Ben Franklin flying a kite in a thunderstorm was the scientific method; the “scientific method” is simply a logical and repeatable way of testing reality to help define it.
    16. Even an immaterial god, if real, can easily leave material manifestations.
    19. The realization that we do better living and working together communally, thus actions that cause the least harm and the most benefit would the bases for what’s “moral”.
    20, 21. I recognize one, at present — crimes against innocent children, or those unable to defend themselves, are absolutely abominable. I am open to others that would sufficiently impress me.
    27. Atheist societies are safer; we have proof. Iceland, Sweden, Finland, etc., are largely atheist, and their societies are demonstrably healthier than, say, the USA.
    30. No. TECHNOLOGY could cause this, but not evolution. Our form of life depends on the corporeal, and we will not slip that naturally and still thrive.

    Slick words these questions as a juvenile trap, and would, in conversation, not allow the clarifications I present. He’d start to interrupt and shout me down. He’d get ONE, to which I’d bellow, TALK OVER ME AGAIN!” After that, it’d get ugly. I don’t like Slick.

  • Mark Brewster

    Enjoy your comfort. The ‘concept of reality’ is an add-on to the rejection of the god claim. But if it works for you, okay. It doesn’t work for me, but we can be cool with that.

  • Mark Brewster

    Thane, watch your translations. Closer to the original Hebrew says, “You shall not murder.”

  • Greg G.

    That would make every killing by an omniscient being a premeditated murder. An being that is incapable of finding an alternative to killing a human cannot be considered omnipotent.

  • Greg G.

    Paul does show familiarity with Greek philosophy: https://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/paul-and-his-use-of-greek-philosophy/

    But Paul also displays a lot of knowledge about the OT scriptures. Everything he tells about Jesus can be derived by midrash from the OT but some of his conclusions appear to have been derived from the Septuagint version. He displays his thinking that Jesus was crucified by a series of OT references in Galatians 3:6-14. It’s not quite clear how he gets from everyone is under a curse to Jesus becoming a curse fixes everything.

  • So basically: raw power, of the nuclear sort: it can be used for bombs or for power plants. I wonder why those pesky Hebrews refused to use power (or prediction) as evidence for God’s existence:

    “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 12:32–13:5)

    It would appear that what would make you a believer in “God” would not make me a believer in whomever is able to do the [real!] miracle/​prediction. See also Mt 24:23–25 and Rev 13.

  • ravitchn

    Atheists and agnostics need to stop being so defensive. Since there is absolutely no evidence of a god such as religions propose those who disbelieve are totally correct in disbelieving. Those who believe are at best mentally ill and at worst dangerous fanatics who should be institutionalized.

  • Jim Jones

    I see him as Christianity’s L. Ron Hubbard.

  • Anri

    1) A lack of belief in god/s.
    2) It depends of the context. In day-to-day life, there is little if any contrast.
    3) Only the the extent that theism does not effect the world around them. If it does, it’s entirely consistent to attempt to demonstrate apparent truth.
    4) Reasonably sure.
    5) Reasonably sure. I would have to have it explained to me how questions 4 and 5 differ.
    6) That which is. A more specific answer would require a more specific question.
    7) I have not yet seen sufficient evidence of the existence of god/s.
    8) I am leery of giving myself labels suggested by other people unless they define what they mean by them for me.
    9) I would argue atheism is, in and of itself, not one. It certainly informs my personal worldview, however.
    10) It appears that a great deal of harm is being done to real people in the name of what appears to be an unreal entity.
    11) Lack of good evidence.
    12) Probably.
    13) Probably.
    14) Not in all cases, but certainly in some.
    15) Only to the extent that any actual influence on the universe is posited.
    16) Theists typically argue that their god effects the universe. This can presumably be observed.
    17) We can create purposes for ourselves. I am not certain everyone does.
    18) Hopefully with much careful thought.
    19) Decisions made by people.
    20) Their existence has not been demonstrated to my satisfaction. Generally due to lack of a coherent definition.
    21) See #20.
    22) A single, universal definition for evil has not been demonstrated to my satisfaction.
    23) My own, as informed by the society around me.
    24) Evidence of a nature that would be essentially impossible to explain via any other method.
    25) I have an example of such a thing, but it is rather long and complex.
    26) Why would we call it evidence otherwise?
    27) History suggests to me that theism or the lack thereof does not in and of itself determine the health of a society.
    28) I would like to, but I recognize that most of neuroscience suggests that is an irrational belief.
    29) As far as I know, the idea runs counter to most of modern neuroscience. I may of course be mistaken.
    30) No. Consciousness, as far as I know, has not yet ever been shown to exist without a physical substrate.
    31) I did not answer in the affirmative.

  • Pofarmer

    What’s kinda interesting here, ’cause, I’m gonna make this about me, cause, ya know, I’m a hedonistic, nihilistic athiest, is that Matt Slick is the one who actually started me on my Journey towards Atheism. I was questioning and wondering if Catholicism was “True” and I found CARM and Matt Slick. I decided that, no, Catholicism was not “true” but then I turned Slicks methods of questioning Catholicism on the rest of the Bible. Looking for both internal and external attestation. After a time, and lot of reading, the whole thing just collapsed.

  • Pofarmer

    The problem is that there are so many things, that you CAN be, and combinations. are you a Humanist? Secularist? Progressive? Etc, etc, etc. There are all kinds of moral philosophies one can attach to.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Before y’all argue with me about humanism vs atheism, just address my
    idea of whether it’s valid to say that atheists share a worldview in
    which gods are irrelevant. In which we’re FREE of the cobwebs of silly
    beliefs.

    There are a great many atheists who believe silly things.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    I presume the numerous Bible translations made use of the best translators available. Very many versions use “kill” not “murder.”

  • Mark Brewster

    So other translations are more accurate than the original Hebrew? I thought I was talking to someone intelligent.

  • Haha, that’s pretty interesting. I wonder what he would think if you told him?

  • Pofarmer

    Hard to say. My story isn’t that much different than his own daughters.

  • Kevin K

    Piling on …

    * If aborted babies go to heaven, why isn’t abortion mandatory?

  • Kevin K

    It’s not a “survey”. It’s a list of loaded “gotcha” questions.

  • Kevin K

    Shellfish and gey sexts are both abominations. Yet you never see anyone picketing Red Lobster.

  • mr_tedious

    1. The lack of belief in a god or gods
    2. Do you act according to your belief in Zeus?
    3. Just the type of garbage, leading question I’d expect from a survey like this.
    4 & 5. One of the nice things since deconverting is not having to be so caught up in whether or not I’m absolutely 100% certain of whether or not I know the unfathomable truth about the universe and beyond.
    6. “Truth” is that it’s all just quarks, and our human understanding of the universe is just an incredibly rough abstraction of that reality.
    7. I’ll believe it’s justifiable all the way up to the point that I observe direct evidence to the contrary.
    8. What does this have to do with atheism again?
    9. I affirm that whoever wrote this question doesn’t understand what atheism is, otherwise they’d realize this question is almost as ridiculous as #3.
    10. I’m not any more antagonistic towards Christianity than I am towards the Greek pantheon. What I am antagonistic towards is Christians, specifically the ones who seem hell bent on imposing their beliefs on the rest of the world, whether we like it or not.
    11. I’m going to overlook the obvious presupposition in using the term “deny” here. The thing that caused me to lose my faith was, specifically, the story on Noah and the obvious myth it is if you bother to apply even the slightest bit of critical thinking to the matter. There was, of course, a whole chain of events that followed, but that was the first metaphorical domino.
    12 & 13. Probably. In some ways definitely. In some ways it’d likely be worse. But I think it would be a net positive change overall.
    14. Disorder? No. But I do think sustained belief requires someone to exercise certain cognitive biases frequently.
    15. Maybe not a formal application of it. But it does require actual evidence.
    16. If god cannot effect the material world, then of what relevance is he? And how do you square this with numerous stories in your holy book that claim he can and does?
    17-23. See answer to questions #4&5. One day maybe you’ll understand that it’s ok to admit that you don’t know everything and you’re just doing the best you can.
    24 & 26. Something that a) violates the physical laws of the universe, b) is indisputably from “god” and not something else supernatural, c) is reliably observed/recorded (ie none of this “I had a vision bullshit”).
    27. Safer for who?
    28 & 29. Free will is an illusion.
    30 & 31. That’s… quite the hypothetical. To answer the question though, physical beings of this universe are (presumably) still bound by the laws of this universe, god(s) or the supernatural would not be. Also, even if such a being did exist, it inherently cannot be the God of Abraham. As it cannot simultaneously be a product of this universe and the creator of this universe.

  • Kevin K

    And that word “affirm” is a weird one, don’t you think? It’s almost as if they want to impose a religious construct into scientific observations.

    Of course, unless humans can get their asses off this planet, “evolution” will end in the next billion years or so as the sun gets hotter and closer (by expanding) to Earth. Eventually, the entire planet will be consumed in the sun’s “red giant” phase. So…doesn’t matter whether the universe will continue to expand forever … humans won’t be around to observe it or participate.

  • Kevin K

    I used Google Translate to buy a bullet train ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto. Worked like a charm. Coming back, I tried to input one too many variables (non-smoking, etc. etc.). The ticket agent said “I do not understand this Japanese”. We got there eventually…just took me asking for one thing at a time.

  • Roger Peritone

    Nice loaded question here:
    “If you were at one time a believer in the Christian God, what caused you to deny his existence?”

    So he’s assuming right there that his god exists, and the atheist just doesn’t *want* to believe. Yeah. “Slick” is right.

    The total lack of fulfilled prophecies (ie. the one with Jesus saying that “some of you standing here will not taste of death” until the son of man comes again in his kingdom

    The lack of physical corroboration of biblical events:
    https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/MAGAZINE-is-the-bible-a-true-story-latest-archaeological-finds-yield-surprises-1.5626647

    The many scientific errors in the bible, etc.

    Isn’t his daughter an atheist?
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/07/15/the-atheist-daughter-of-a-notable-christian-apologist-shares-her-story/

    And then there’s this question:
    “If you believe in free will, do you see any problem with defending the idea that the physical brain, which is limited and subject to the neuro-chemical laws of the brain, can still produce free will choices?”
    He contradicts what he said about “free will” being a lack of coercion in his lead-in question to this. He’s changed the meaning!

    It’s the interaction of the neurons that gives us the ability to think, and react, I’d point out that if there was some other, non-material basis to our thinking, then it wouldn’t be affected by age, damage, or disease. But our ability to think IS affected by those.

  • Jim Jones

    Yes. I go to Chinese and then back and keep trying until what comes out again is still what I mean. But it still doesn’t work well.

  • rubaxter

    Ah, more rhetorical B/S from True Believers.

    Nothing of value there, just a list of pedantic gotcha’s that tacitly assumes a gawd actually exists. It’s not fit for purpose except to make those who feel a need to believe to ONCE AGAIN feel superior to us poor deluded mortals.

    The Adult way to respond this is to uncontort their weasel queries into the original, REAL questions that ask how they can possibly believe in a gawd by the standards atheists used to ask those questions originally. These questions are just polemical restatements of those the gawd-o-philes get their knickers in a wad over when embarrassed by them by atheists, with no “and then a miracle occurs” replies allowed.

    “Hoist on your own petard, retard.”

    to them as I also say to their colouring book gawd.

  • BillYeager

    Atheism and theism are just opposite answers to the same question

    I’d contend they are not opposite answers, they are one answer and a dismissal of that same answer for being fallacious and intellectually dishonest. Not believing in somebody else’s God does not require a contradictory proposition, it merely requires the initial theist proposition be dismissed and anyone can do that, irrespective of their personal world view.

  • Yeah, most of these questions are loaded. It’s not often I get any other sort of question from believers.

  • Kevin K

    Another one…

    * Was Bigfoot on Noah’s ark?

  • Jim Jones

    And the Loch Ness Monster?

  • Kevin K

    Like Jonah’s whale…in the water.

  • Bruce Gorton

    30:No. There are several problems with what you’re suggesting. I’ll just list two of them.

    First problem: If the universe is going to expand forever, there will come a point at which atoms no longer interact with each other, this is termed the heat death of the universe. Life is basically just atoms interacting with each other, so at this point life becomes impossible.

    Second problem: No matter how smart we get, our brains and our consciousness rest upon physical processes. In order to transcend space and time, our brains would have to be radically altered to the point where the very basis of their chemistry is no longer tied to cause and effect, and the more likely result of that isn’t some sort of orderly transcendence, it is insanity.

  • JesusIsFakeNews

    Slick is a douche canoe.

  • strawberry

    How many times does Matt (and all the other pro-pologists) need to hear these things before they finally sink in? I’m beginning to think they’re all con artists.

  • 70happyatheist

    In Judges 1:19 Yahweh comes down and fights battles for the Jewish people and he can defeat the people in the mountains but not the people in the valley because they have chariots of iron! What a weak “God”!

  • Lark62

    Beginning to think they’re all con artisrs?

    That ship has sailed.

    It is said religion began when the first con artist met the first chump.

  • Lark62

    Required reading? That’s arrogant. Why would I waste my time?

    Should I also read “the cream of the crop in terms of theistic unicornist metaphysics”?

    Or perhaps “the cream of the crop in terms of theistic grecian deity metaphysics”?

    Then maybe I will move on to “the cream of the crop in terms of theistic big foot metaphysics”.

    Puhleeze.

    Nonsense is still nonsense and imaginary beings are still imaginary even when you use fancy words like “metaphysics.”

  • DBH doesn’t define God as a being. But strawmen are easier to refute, aren’t they?

  • Lark62

    What strawman? You said a book titled “The Experience of God” should be “required reading” for people who believe deities are every bit as real as the tooth fairy.

    That is quite arrogant.

    You carefully did not mention what the author said that you found to be correct or valuable. So this may well be a backhanded attempt at proselytizing, despite your denial.

    You didn’t mention how this author defines “god,” though that is apparently important to whatever point you are trying to make.

    You and this author can define “god” however your precious little hearts desire.

    No matter how much metaphysical mumbo jumbo anyone spews, humans still cannot “experience” imaginary beings / concepts / woo. Since I have no intention of wasting my time with bullshit, I have no,clue whether the author considers the “god” alluded to in the title to be a concept or a being or a force or whatever. All forms of “god” are make believe.

  • I don’t see how it’s arrogant. I think good atheistic literature should be required reading as well. The way you dismiss any solid theistic metaphysics is quite arrogant, however. It smacks of fundamentalism, only instead of theistic fundamentalism, it’s atheistic fundamentalism. But I used to be an atheist, so I get it. Cheers.

  • Lark62

    You used to be an atheist?

    What evidence caused you to conclude a deity or deities exist?

  • What do you mean? Like, scientific evidence? I don’t think there is any. But I don’t think God is a “deity.” I’m not really concerned about deities like Zeus, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster for that matter. There will never be any evidence for them.

  • Lark62

    In other words, you changed from “atheist” to “non atheist” but cannot explain what caused such a dramatic change in viewpoint.

    Why should anyone take anything you say seriously?

  • It would seem from his questions that this is at least somewhat accurate.

  • I think some of them definitely are. They know the answers to these questions.

  • Who ever said that? God, you sound like a fundamentalist.

  • Lark62

    I’m seriously curious about what prompted your switch from atheist to non atheist.

    You respond only with word games, quibbling and insults: e.g.
    “Evidence? What do you mean?”
    “I don’t think God is a ‘deity.’ ”
    “God, you sound like a fundamentalist.”

    I have more enlightening discussions with my cat.

  • Well, all insults aside, I changed my mind about atheism because I couldn’t understand why anything should exist rather than not exist. Naturalism/materialism, as per my understanding, only explains what exists in the natural world. And sure, you don’t need a God to explain that which already exists. However, I don’t think it has anything to say about why the natural world exists rather than doesn’t exist. So, for me, it comes down to a question of metaphysics and philosophy, rather than the physical sciences. Bentley Hart explains it quite well in the book I referenced. I’m not a metaphysicist nor a philosopher, so the nuts and bolts of things is above my pay grade. I tend to focus on anthropology. But, I’m not a “con artist” as has been alluded to here. That is ridiculous. Con-artists tend to con people into giving them money. I don’t want anyone’s money and don’t really give a shit what people on here believe. I just think if we are going to have a serious dialogue about “God,” Matt Slick — the moron that he is — can be easily dismissed and ignored.

  • MystiqueLady

    You gotta check out Matt Dillahunty debating Matt Slick on YouTube. There are many videos! And the funny part is that Matt Slick (and his followers) think that they totally defeat Dillahunty. Another good debate to watch is Matt Dillahunty debating Sye Ten Bruggencate. It is epic!

  • MystiqueLady

    I think that is the one thing that separates humans from all other living organisms that we know of. At this point, apparently humans are the only species to invent god.

  • bill wald

    Why are humans important to this universe?

  • bill wald

    Have you read the Bible for your self? Cover to cover? I personally like the Jerusalem Bible. The poetry reads like poetry, the OT footnotes are interesting, and a know the
    NT footnotes with which I will disagree.

  • bill wald

    Use the Bible as koan.

  • bill wald

    A scammer?

  • Lark62

    Thanks

    For me, I realized that the christian deity was make believe. I temporarily believed that there might be some other benevolent supernatural being out there, controlling evolution and so forth. But that was a non starter. Nearly every animal that has ever lived died or will die by starvation or by being eaten alive. So much for a benevolent supernatural whatever. I don’t see evidence for any supernatural being.

    But I am honestly interested in why someone would reach a different conclusion.

    Cheers

  • Jim Jones

    That, yes, but religion inventors are an odd bunch.

  • Jim Jones

    I prefer to look at it as a block diagram. You can get lost in the detail.

    For example, I see the lists of ‘begats’ as whakapapa (Maori).

  • Without Malice

    Though the universe as a whole is – or so it looks – going to expand forever the individual galaxies and even systems of galaxies can still hold together. But eventually, everyone in our galaxy who looks into the heavens will see nothing beyond our own galaxy.

  • Without Malice

    If it’s anything like his “The Atheists Delusions” it would be a complete waste of time. Nothing but the same old warn out BS that apologists have been pushing for centuries. I don’t see how you can think it contains anything new. In “Delusions” he tries to make the case that Christianity brought a new concept to society, a concept called charity. The man must be a full-blown blithering idiot if he doesn’t know that charity was one of the hallmarks of the Jewish law, as was loving your neighbor as yourself and even loving your enemies (as long as they were fellow Jews anyway). Not only that, charity has been an important concept in all societies, with bodies of handicapped individuals as much as a hundred thousand years old proving that they had been cared for by other for years after they were unable to care for themselves.

  • Without Malice

    Same old apologetic nonsense almost everyone of us has heard a thousand times. Solomon was right, there’s nothing new under the sun, at least when it comes to Christian apologetics.

  • With that, I’d part ways with him.

  • Martha Anne Underwood

    Paul was a Greek Jew. I think most Christians know this.

  • Jim Jones

    Paul claimed a lot of things. So did L Ron Hubbard. Lies are the basis of religion.

    Paul may have been a Roman citizen, but there’s little evidence of that.

    There’s no evidence Paul was a Jew except his own claims, proved wrong.

    The gospel authors were definitely Greek. They knew little about Jews.

    The OT was written in Hebrew. The NT is assuredly Greek.

    There are no canonical documents in Aramaic, and there should have been if the religion had been at all Jewish.

  • Jim Jones

    See if you can find these documentaries:

    The Beginning and End of the Universe Episode 1 of 2 – The Beginning
    Professor Jim Al-Khalili takes us back in time to tackle the greatest question in science: how did the universe begin? Uncovering the origins of the universe is regarded as humankind’s greatest intellectual achievement. By recreating key experiments Jim unravels the cosmic mystery of science’s creation story before witnessing a moment, one millionth of a second, after the universe sprang into existence.

    The Beginning and End of the Universe Episode 2 of 2 – The End
    Professor Jim Al-Khalili carries us into the distant future to try to discover how the universe will end – with a bang or a whimper? He reveals a universe far stranger than anyone imagined and, at the frontier of our understanding, encounters a mysterious and enigmatic force that promises to change physics forever.

  • Jim Jones

    Yes. It’s going to be hard to spread our DNA over every possible planet.

    But we’ll try.

  • Jim Jones

    > Have you read David Bentley Hart?

    Why? Every “cream of the crop” I’ve tried has turned out to be fake cream. Most can be dismissed after one or two pages.

    CHAPTER ONE

    “God” Is Not a Proper Name
    I
    An absolutely convinced atheist, it often seems to me, is simply someone who has failed to notice something very obvious—or, rather, failed to notice a great many very obvious things. This is not any sort of accusation or reproach. Something can be incandescently obvious but still utterly unintelligible to us if we lack the conceptual grammar required to interpret it; and this, far from being a culpable deficiency, is usually only a matter of historical or personal circumstance. One age can see things that other ages cannot simply because it has the imaginative resources to understand what it is looking at; one person’s education or cultural formation may have enabled him or her to recognize meaning where others will find only random disorder. If a man raised in a culture without any written language, for instance, or anything analogous, were to happen upon an abandoned city built by a vanished civilization that long ago copiously recorded its history, literature, philosophy, and music in indelible ink on imperishable paper, and stored the whole archive in a great and indestructible library, everything he could ever hope to know about that ancient people would be laid out before him in those books; but it would mean nothing to him. The situation would not be entirely hopeless: sooner or later he or one of his compatriots would probably realize that the letters of that unknown alphabet were more than bland decorative motifs pointlessly preserved in irregular sequences, and would begin to grasp the mysterious principle behind them. Even then, though, real understanding would lie only at the end of a long and excruciatingly laborious process.
    This may be a somewhat defective metaphor, however; I am not even entirely sure how I wish it to be taken, or whether it constitutes more of an exaggeration or an understatement. Seen in one way, certainly, contemporary atheist discourse is not separated from the language of the great theistic traditions by anything as vast as the abyss separating that illiterate explorer from the meaning of those texts. If it were, things might be much simpler. Unfortunately, one of the more insidious aspects of today’s public debates over belief and unbelief is that they are often sustained by the illusion that both sides are using the same words in the same way; since there are no immediately obvious linguistic barriers to overcome, each side understands the other just well enough to be deceived into thinking that both are working within the same conceptual frame. There are times when that illiterate explorer’s blank stare of incomprehension, accompanied by a long tentative silence, would be dearly welcome. Seen in another way, however, the separation may actually be a great deal more radical than my metaphor suggests. After all, once the illiterate culture has solved the enigma of those texts and penetrated their fascinating veils of symbols, it might find a people much like its own on the other side, with many of the same beliefs and intuitions and expectations of the universe. I sometimes wonder, however, whether in the case of modern atheism and theistic tradition what is at issue is the difference between two entirely incommensurable worlds, or at least two entirely incommensurable ways of understanding the world. It may be that what the atheist lacks the conceptual means to interpret may be nothing as elementary as a foreign language or an alien medium of communication, but rather the very experience of existence itself.
    In the end, though, I doubt that the problem is really as extreme as all that. I retain a belief, however naive, in a sort of universal grammar of human nature, which makes it possible to overcome any cultural or conceptual misunderstanding; and, without discounting the immense power of culture to shape and color our encounter with the one world that we all together inhabit, I also believe there are certain common forms of experience so fundamental to human rationality that, without them, we could not think or speak at all. They make all other experiences possible, from the most quotidian to the most extraordinary; they underlie and animate all the great ventures of the human intellect: art, science, philosophy, and so forth. Starting from that most primordial level, reciprocal understanding is always in principle possible, assuming there is enough good will on both sides. All I want to do in the pages that follow is to attempt to explain, as lucidly as I can, how traditional understandings of God illuminate and are illuminated by those experiences.
    That may seem a somewhat minimalist project, I know, but the conviction behind it is not; in fact, it could scarcely be more “maximal.” Just to make clear what my peculiar prejudices are, I acknowledge up front that I do not regard true philosophical atheism as an intellectually valid or even cogent position; in fact, I see it as a fundamentally irrational view of reality, which can be sustained only by a tragic absence of curiosity or a fervently resolute will to believe the absurd. More simply, I am convinced that the case for belief in God is inductively so much stronger than the case for unbelief that true philosophical atheism must be regarded as a superstition, often nurtured by an infantile wish to live in a world proportionate to one’s own hopes or conceptual limitations. Having said this, though, I have to qualify it, because it is a much more limited assertion than it at first appears to be. I do not mean that there is anything intellectually contemptible in being formally “godless”—that is, in rejecting all religious dogmas and in refusing to believe in the God those dogmas describe. One might very well conclude, for instance, that the world contains far too much misery for the pious idea of a good, loving, and just God to be taken very seriously, and that any alleged creator of a universe in which children suffer and die hardly deserves our devotion. It is an affective—not a strictly logical—position to hold, but it is an intelligible one, with a certain sublime moral purity to it; I myself find it deeply compelling; and it is entirely up to each person to judge whether he or she finds any particular religion’s answer to the “problem of evil” either adequate or credible. I also do not mean that there is any deep logical inconsistency in an attitude of agnostic aloofness from all theologies and spiritual practices; one either finds them plausible or one does not. When I say that atheism is a kind of obliviousness to the obvious, I mean that if one understands what the actual philosophical definition of “God” is in most of the great religious traditions, and if consequently one understands what is logically entailed in denying that there is any God so defined, then one cannot reject the reality of God tout court without embracing an ultimate absurdity.
    This, it seems to me, ought to be an essentially inoffensive assertion. The only fully consistent alternative to belief in God, properly understood, is some version of “materialism” or “physicalism” or (to use the term most widely preferred at present) “naturalism”; and naturalism—the doctrine that there is nothing apart from the physical order, and certainly nothing supernatural—is an incorrigibly incoherent concept, and one that is ultimately indistinguishable from pure magical thinking. The very notion of nature as a closed system entirely sufficient to itself is plainly one that cannot be verified, deductively or empirically, from within the system of nature. It is a metaphysical (which is to say “extra-natural”) conclusion regarding the whole of reality, which neither reason nor experience legitimately warrants. It cannot even define itself within the boundaries of its own terms, because the total sufficiency of “natural” explanations is not an identifiable natural phenomenon but only an arbitrary judgment. Naturalism, therefore, can never be anything more than a guiding prejudice, an established principle only in the sense that it must be indefensibly presumed for the sake of some larger view of reality; it functions as a purely formal rule that, like the restriction of the king in chess to moves of one square only, permits the game to be played one way rather than another. If, moreover, naturalism is correct (however implausible that is), and if consciousness is then an essentially material phenomenon, then there is no reason to believe that our minds, having evolved purely through natural selection, could possibly be capable of knowing what is or is not true about reality as a whole. Our brains may necessarily have equipped us to recognize certain sorts of physical objects around us and enabled us to react to them; but, beyond that, we can assume only that nature will have selected just those behaviors in us most conducive to our survival, along with whatever structures of thought and belief might be essentially or accidentally associated with them, and there is no reason to suppose that such structures—even those that provide us with our notions of what constitutes a sound rational argument—have access to any abstract “truth” about the totality of things. This yields the delightful paradox that, if naturalism is true as a picture of reality, it is necessarily false as a philosophical precept; for no one’s belief in the truth of naturalism could correspond to reality except through a shocking coincidence (or, better, a miracle). A still more important consideration, however, is that naturalism, alone among all considered philosophical attempts to describe the shape of reality, is radically insufficient in its explanatory range. The one thing of which it can give no account, and which its most fundamental principles make it entirely impossible to explain at all, is nature’s very existence. For existence is most definitely not a natural phenomenon; it is logically prior to any physical cause whatsoever; and anyone who imagines that it is susceptible of a natural explanation simply has no grasp of what the question of existence really is. In fact, it is impossible to say how, in the terms naturalism allows, nature could exist at all.
    These are all matters for later, however. All I want to say here is that none of this makes atheism untenable in any final sense. It may be perfectly “rational” to embrace absurdity; for, if the universe does not depend upon any transcendent source, then there is no reason to accord the deliverances of reason any particular authority in the first place, because what we think of as rationality is just the accidental residue of physical processes: good for helping us to acquire food, power, or sex but probably not very reliable in the realm of ideas. In a sense, then, I am assuming the truth of a perfectly circular argument: it makes sense to believe in God if one believes in the real power of reason, because one is justified in believing in reason if one believes in God. Or, to phrase the matter in a less recursive form, it makes sense to believe in both reason and God, and it may make a kind of nonsensical sense to believe in neither, but it is ultimately contradictory to believe in one but not the other. An honest and self-aware atheism, therefore, should proudly recognize itself as the quintessential expression of heroic irrationalism: a purely and ecstatically absurd venture of faith, a triumphant trust in the absurdity of all things. But most of us already know this anyway. If there is no God, then of course the universe is ultimately absurd, in the very precise sense that it is irreducible to any more comprehensive “equation.” It is glorious, terrible, beautiful, horrifying—all of that—but in the end it is also quite, quite meaningless. The secret of a happy life then is either not to notice or not to let it bother one overly much. A few blithe spirits even know how to rejoice at the thought.
    II
    There have been atheists in every age, of course, but much of modern Western atheism is something quite novel in human history: not mere personal unbelief, and not merely the eccentric doctrine of one or another small philosophical sect, but a conscious ideological, social, and philosophical project, with a broad popular constituency—a cause, a dogma, a metaphysics, a system of values. Many modern atheists object to that description, of course, but only because they are deceiving themselves. When it first arose, however, like any new creed, modern atheism had to win its converts from other adherences; and so its earliest apostles were persons who had for the most part been formed by a culture absolutely soaked in the language, images, ideas, and sentiments of belief. All of them had at least some understanding not only of the nature of religious claims but of the pathos of faith. No matter how much the new convert may have hated his or her native religion, a complete ignorance of its guiding ideas or of its affects and motives was all but impossible. And this remained the case until only fairly recently. Now, however, we have arrived at an odd juncture in our cultural history. There has sprung up a whole generation of confident, even strident atheist proselytizers who appear to know almost nothing about the religious beliefs they abominate, apart from a few vague and gauzily impressionistic daubs or aquarelle washes, and who seem to have no real sense of what the experience of faith is like or of what its rationales might be. For the most part, they seem not even to know that they do not know. It is common now for atheist polemicists (A. C. Grayling is a particularly dazzling example here) to throw off extraordinarily sure and contemptuous pronouncements about the beliefs or motivations or intellectual habits of Christians or of religious persons in general, only to end up demonstrating an almost fantastic ignorance not only of remarkably elementary religious tenets, but of the most rudimentary psychology of belief. And, in general, what is most astonishing about the recent new atheist bestsellers has not been the patent flimsiness of their arguments—as I have noted, they are not aimed at an audience likely to notice or to care—but the sheer lack of intellectual curiosity they betray.
    This is not a very terrible indictment, I suppose. No one is obliged in the abstract to be curious about religious claims. Still, though, if one is going to go to all the trouble of writing a book about the deficiencies of religious ideas, one should probably also go to the trouble of first learning what those ideas are. The major religions do, after all, boast some very sophisticated and subtle philosophical and spiritual traditions, and the best way for the enterprising infidel to avoid recapitulating arguments that have been soundly defeated in the past is to make some effort to understand those traditions. The physicist Victor Stenger, for instance, wrote a book not long ago with the subtitle How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist. Had he only inquired, any decently trained philosopher with a knowledge of the history of metaphysics, ontology, and modal logic could have warned him of the catastrophic category error in that phrase—suggesting as it does a fundamental misunderstanding not only of the word “God” but of the word “science” as well—but apparently he did not inquire, and as a consequence the book he wrote turned out to be just a long non sequitur based on a conceptual confusion and a logical mistake. Or consider Richard Dawkins: he devoted several pages of The God Delusion to a discussion of the “Five Ways” of Thomas Aquinas but never thought to avail himself of the services of some scholar of ancient and mediaeval thought who might have explained them to him, perhaps while strolling beside the somberly gliding Thames on some long, lustrous Oxford afternoon. As a result, he not only mistook the Five Ways for Thomas’s comprehensive statement on why we should believe in God, which they most definitely are not, but ended up completely misrepresenting the logic of every single one of them, and at the most basic levels: Not knowing the scholastic distinction between primary and secondary causality, for instance, he imagined that Thomas’s talk of a “first cause” referred to the initial temporal causal agency in a continuous temporal series of discrete causes. He thought that Thomas’s logic requires the universe to have had a temporal beginning, which Thomas explicitly and repeatedly made clear is not the case. He anachronistically mistook Thomas’s argument from universal natural teleology for an argument from apparent “Intelligent Design” in nature. He thought that Thomas’s proof from universal “motion” concerned only physical movement in space, “local motion,” rather than the ontological movement from potency to act. He mistook Thomas’s argument from degrees of transcendental perfection for an argument from degrees of quantitative magnitude, which by definition have no perfect sum. (Admittedly, those last two are a bit difficult for modern persons, but he might have asked all the same.) As for Dawkins’s own attempt at an argument against the likelihood of God’s existence, it is so crude and embarrassingly confused as to be germane to nothing at all, perhaps not even to itself.1
    Now, none of this is to say that, had either man taken the time to understand the ideas against which he imagined he was contending, he would not have rejected them all the same. The Five Ways, if properly understood, are far richer and more interesting than Dawkins grasps, but they are certainly not irresistibly persuasive (nor are they intended to be). While it is usually imprudent for any scholar to stray too intrepidly outside the boundaries of his or her expertise, at least without a trained guide, there is no reason why a scientist committed to some form of philosophical naturalism, who is as willing to learn as to pontificate, should not enter the debate. Not that, at the moment, there is any real public debate about belief in God worth speaking of. There is scarcely even a public conversation in any meaningful sense. At present, the best we seem able to manage is a war of assertions and recriminations, and for the most part each side is merely talking past the other. And the new atheists have yet to make a contribution of any weight whatsoever. If one could conclusively show that the philosophical claims the major religions make about the nature and reality of God were fundamentally incoherent or demonstrably false, that would be a significant achievement; but if one is content merely to devise images of God that are self-evidently nonsensical, and then proceed triumphantly to demonstrate just how infuriatingly nonsensical they are, one is not going to accomplish anything interesting. For the sake of harmony, I for one am more than willing to acknowledge that the God described by the new atheists definitely does not exist; but, to be perfectly honest, that is an altogether painless concession to make.
    Would that I could, however, lay the blame for many of these misunderstandings entirely to the charge of the atheists. I cannot, sadly. Late modernity in the West has been marked, as no other period ever has, by the triumph of ideological extremism. The twentieth century gave birth to fundamentalism in religion, but also in politics, social theory, economics, and countless other spheres of abstract conjecture and personal commitment. Radical materialisms bred mass murder, radical political movements and radical religious fideisms bred terrorism; never before had abstract ideas proved to be such lethal things. What the cause or causes of this peculiarly modern pathology might be is a fascinating but tangential question here. Whatever the case, the results have spanned the full spectrum, from the unspeakably tragic to the ineffably banal. It is true that a great deal of the rhetoric of the new atheism is often just the confessional rote of materialist fundamentalism (which, like all fundamentalisms, imagines that in fact it represents the side of reason and truth); but it is also true that the new atheism has sprung up in a garden of contending fundamentalisms. There would not be so many slapdash popular atheist manifestoes, in all likelihood, if there were not so many soft and inviting targets out there to provoke them: young earth creationists who believe that the two contradictory cosmogonic myths of the early chapters of Genesis are actually a single documentary account of an event that occurred a little over six millennia ago, and that there really was a Noah who built a giant ark to rescue a compendious menagerie from a universal deluge, or Hindu nationalists who insist that Rama’s Bridge was actually built by Hanuman’s monkeys, and so forth. Here, certainly, the new atheism has opponents against which it is well matched.
    It should be noted, though, just out of fairness, that the emergence of fundamentalism in the last century was not some sort of retreat to a more original or primitive form of faith. Certainly the rise of the Christian fundamentalist movement was not a recovery of the Christianity of earlier centuries or of the apostolic church. It was a thoroughly modern phenomenon, a strange and somewhat poignantly pathetic attempt on the part of culturally deracinated Christians, raised without the intellectual or imaginative resources of a living religious civilization, to imitate the evidentiary methods of modern empirical science by taking the Bible as some sort of objective and impeccably consistent digest of historical data. It is of course absurd to treat the Bible in that way—though, frankly, no more absurd than thinking that “science shows that God does not exist”—but it is also most definitely not the way the Bible was read in the ancient or mediaeval church. The greatest Church Fathers, for instance, took it for granted that the creation narratives of Genesis could not be treated literally, at least not in the sense we give to that word today, but must be read allegorically—which, incidentally, does not mean read as stories with codes to be decrypted but simply read as stories whose value lies in the spiritual truths to which they can be seen as pointing. Origen of Alexandria (185–254), in many ways the father of patristic exegesis, remarked that one would have to be rather simple to imagine that there could have been “days” before the creation of the sun, or that God literally planted an orchard with physical trees whose fruits conferred wisdom or eternal life, or that God liked to amble through his garden in the gloaming, or that Adam could have hidden from him behind a tree; no one could doubt, he said, that these are figural tales, communicating spiritual mysteries, and certainly not historical records. As Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–c. 396) said, if one does not read scripture in a “philosophical” fashion one will see only myths and contradictions. And it was something of a theme in patristic texts that one must not mistake the Genesis narratives for scientific descriptions of the origin of the world. If nothing else, it would have offended against many Christian philosophers’ understanding of divine transcendence to imagine that God really made the world through a succession of cosmic interventions; they assumed that God’s creative act is eternal, not temporal, occurring not at a discrete instant in the past, but rather pervading all of time. Basil of Caesarea (330–379) argued that the “beginning” mentioned in the first verse of Genesis ought not to be thought of as a moment of time, as such a moment would itself be something divisible, with a beginning of its own that would then itself have had to have a beginning, and so on ad infinitum; rather, he said, creation should be conceived of as the eternal, indivisible, and immediate bringing into existence of the whole of creation, from its beginning to its end. Many of the Fathers—Origen, John Chrysostom (c. 349–407), Augustine (354–430), for example—took “beginning” as a reference to the eternal “principle” of God’s Logos. Thus it made perfect sense for Gregory of Nyssa and Augustine to speculate that, while the act of creation is timeless, the world had unfolded progressively in time, out of its own intrinsic potencies and principles, with nature itself acting as the craftsman. And such was the pattern of “higher” biblical exegesis for centuries thereafter. Certainly anyone searching mediaeval commentaries on the creation narratives of Genesis for signs of fundamentalist literalism will be largely disappointed. There is a good reason why, among Darwin’s contemporaries, even as orthodox a Christian thinker as John Henry Newman (1801–1890)—who was, among other things, a great patristics scholar—could find nothing in the science of evolution contrary to or problematic for the doctrine of creation.2
    Not that we need to exaggerate the sophistication of Christians or of religious persons in general down the centuries, or imagine that they could foresee future advances in cosmology, geology, or genetics. Intelligence, education, curiosity are always variable properties, and the average person as a rule has only a vague interest in what the remote origins of the world may have been, or where the demarcation between legend and history lies. Moreover, no ancient thinker, however brilliant, had access to modern knowledge regarding the age of the earth or the phylogeny of species. What we can say, however, at least with regard to Western culture, is that it was not until the modern period (and, really, not until the late modern period) that a significant minority of believers became convinced that the truth of their faith depended upon an absolutely literal—an absolutely “factual”—interpretation of scripture, and felt compelled to stake everything on so ludicrous a wager. Now the Bible came to be seen as what it obviously is not: a collection of “inerrant” oracles and historical reports, each true in the same way as every other, each subject to only one level of interpretation, and all perfectly in agreement with one another. As I say, this was largely the result of a cultural impoverishment, but it also followed from the triumph of a distinctly modern concept of what constitutes reliable knowledge; it was the strange misapplication of the rigorous but quite limited methods of the modern empirical sciences to questions properly belonging to the realms of logic and of spiritual experience. I think it fair to say that the early fundamentalist movement opposed itself to Darwinism not simply because the latter seemed to contradict the biblical story, and not even simply out of dismay at the rise of the eugenics movement or of other forms of “social Darwinism” (though that was definitely one of the issues involved); rather, many genuinely believed that there was some sort of logical conflict between the idea that God had created the world and the idea that terrestrial life had evolved over time. This was and is a view held, of course, by any number of atheists as well. In either case, however, it is a bizarre belief. After all, one assumes that fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist materialists alike are aware that Christians believe God is the creator of every person; but presumably none of them would be so foolish as to imagine that this means each person is not also the product of a spermatozoon and ovum; surely they grasp that here God’s act of creation is understood as the whole event of nature and existence, not as a distinct causal agency that in some way rivals the natural process of conception. Somehow, though, even in the minds of some Christians, God has come to be understood not as the truly transcendent source and end of all contingent reality, who creates through “donating” being to a natural order that is complete in itself, but only as a kind of supreme mechanical cause located somewhere within the continuum of nature. Which is only to say that, here at the far end of modernity, the concept of God is often just as obscure to those who want to believe as to those who want not to. Ours is in many ways a particularly unsubtle age.
    III
    There are two senses in which the word “God” or “god” can properly be used. Most modern languages generally distinguish between the two usages as I have done here, by writing only one of them with an uppercase first letter, as though it were a proper name—which it is not. Most of us understand that “God” (or its equivalent) means the one God who is the source of all things, whereas “god” (or its equivalent) indicates one or another of a plurality of divine beings who inhabit the cosmos and reign over its various regions. This is not, however, merely a distinction in numbering, between monotheism and polytheism, as though the issue were merely that of determining how many “divine entities” one happens to think there are. It is a distinction, instead, between two entirely different kinds of reality, belonging to two entirely disparate conceptual orders. In fact, the very division between monotheism and polytheism is in many cases a confusion of categories. Several of the religious cultures that we sometimes inaccurately characterize as “polytheistic” have traditionally insisted upon an absolute differentiation between the one transcendent Godhead from whom all being flows and the various “divine” beings who indwell and govern the heavens and the earth. Only the one God, says Swami Prabhavananda, speaking more or less for the whole of developed Vedantic and Bhaktic Hinduism, is “the uncreated”: “gods, though supernatural, belong … among the creatures. Like the Christian angels, they are much nearer to man than to God.”3 Conversely, many creeds we correctly speak of as “monotheistic” embrace the very same distinction. The Adi Granth of the Sikhs, for instance, describes the One God as the creator of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.4 In truth, Prabhavananda’s comparison of the gods of India to Christianity’s angels is more apt than many modern Christians may realize. Late Hellenistic pagan thought often tended to draw a clear demarcation between the one transcendent God (or, in Greek, ho theos, God with the definite article) and any particular or local god (any mere “inarticular” theos) who might superintend this or that people or nation or aspect of the natural world; at the same time, late Hellenistic Jews and Christians recognized a multitude of angelic “powers” and “principalities,” some obedient to the one transcendent God and some in rebellion, who governed the elements of nature and the peoples of the earth. To any impartial observer at the time, coming from some altogether different culture, the theological cosmos of a great deal of pagan “polytheism” would have seemed all but indistinguishable from that of a great deal of Jewish or Christian “monotheism.”
    To speak of “God” properly, then—to use the word in a sense consonant with the teachings of orthodox Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, Bahá’í, a great deal of antique paganism, and so forth—is to speak of the one infinite source of all that is: eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, uncreated, uncaused, perfectly transcendent of all things and for that very reason absolutely immanent to all things. God so understood is not something posed over against the universe, in addition to it, nor is he the universe itself. He is not a “being,” at least not in the way that a tree, a shoemaker, or a god is a being; he is not one more object in the inventory of things that are, or any sort of discrete object at all. Rather, all things that exist receive their being continuously from him, who is the infinite wellspring of all that is, in whom (to use the language of the Christian scriptures) all things live and move and have their being. In one sense he is “beyond being,” if by “being” one means the totality of discrete, finite things. In another sense he is “being itself,” in that he is the inexhaustible source of all reality, the absolute upon which the contingent is always utterly dependent, the unity and simplicity that underlies and sustains the diversity of finite and composite things. Infinite being, infinite consciousness, infinite bliss, from whom we are, by whom we know and are known, and in whom we find our only true consummation. All the great theistic traditions agree that God, understood in this proper sense, is essentially beyond finite comprehension; hence, much of the language used of him is negative in form and has been reached only by a logical process of abstraction from those qualities of finite reality that make it insufficient to account for its own existence. All agree as well, however, that he can genuinely be known: that is, reasoned toward, intimately encountered, directly experienced with a fullness surpassing mere conceptual comprehension.
    By contrast, when we speak of “gods” we are talking not of transcendent reality at all, but only of a higher or more powerful or more splendid dimension of immanent reality. Any gods who might be out there do not transcend nature but belong to it. Their theogonies can be recounted—how some rose out of the primal night, how some were born of other, more titanic progenitors, how others sprang up from an intermingling of divine and elemental forces, and so on—and according to many mythologies most of them will finally meet their ends. They exist in space and time, each of them is a distinct being rather than “being itself,” and it is they who are dependent upon the universe for their existence rather than the reverse. Of such gods there may be an endless diversity, while of God there can be only one. Or, better, God is not merely one, in the way that a finite object might be merely singular or unique, but is oneness as such, the one act of being and unity by which any finite thing exists and by which all things exist together. He is one in the sense that being itself is one, the infinite is one, the source of everything is one. Thus a plurality of gods could not constitute an alternative to or contradiction of the unity of God; they still would not belong to the same ontological frame of reference as he.
    Obviously, then, it is God in the former—the transcendent—sense in whom it is ultimately meaningful to believe or not to believe. The possibility of gods or spirits or angels or demons, and so on, is a subordinate matter, a question not of metaphysics but only of the taxonomy of nature (terrestrial, celestial, and chthonic). To be an atheist in the best modern sense, however, and so to be a truly intellectually and emotionally fulfilled naturalist in philosophy, one must genuinely succeed in not believing in God, with all the logical consequences such disbelief entails. It is not enough simply to remain indifferent to the whole question of God, moreover, because thus understood it is a question ineradicably present in the very mystery of existence, or of knowledge, or of truth, goodness, and beauty. It is also the question that philosophical naturalism is supposed to have answered exhaustively in the negative, without any troubling explanatory lacunae, and therefore the question that any aspiring philosophical naturalist must understand before he or she can be an atheist in any intellectually significant way. And the best way to begin is to get a secure grasp on how radically, both conceptually and logically, belief in God differs from belief in the gods. This ought not to be all that difficult a matter; in Western philosophical tradition, for instance, it is a distinction that goes back at least as far as Xenophanes (c. 570–c. 475 BC). Yet the most pervasive error one encounters in contemporary arguments about belief in God—especially, but not exclusively, on the atheist side—is the habit of conceiving of God simply as some very large object or agency within the universe, or perhaps alongside the universe, a being among other beings, who differs from all other beings in magnitude, power, and duration, but not ontologically, and who is related to the world more or less as a craftsman is related to an artifact.
    At a trivial level, one sees the confusion in some of the more shopworn witticisms of popular atheism: “I believe neither in God nor in the fairies at the bottom of my garden,” for instance, or “All people are atheists in regard to Zeus, Wotan, and most other gods; I simply disbelieve in one god more.” Once, in an age long since vanished in the mists of legend, those might even have been amusing remarks, eliciting sincere rather than merely liturgical laughter; but, even so, all they have ever demonstrated is a deplorable ignorance of elementary conceptual categories. If one truly imagines these are all comparable kinds of intellectual conviction then one is clearly confused about what is at issue. Beliefs regarding fairies are beliefs about a certain kind of object that may or may not exist within the world, and such beliefs have much the same sort of intentional shape and rational content as beliefs regarding one’s neighbors over the hill or whether there are such things as black swans. Beliefs regarding God concern the source and ground and end of all reality, the unity and existence of every particular thing and of the totality of all things, the ground of the possibility of anything at all. Fairies and gods, if they exist, occupy something of the same conceptual space as organic cells, photons, and the force of gravity, and so the sciences might perhaps have something to say about them, if a proper medium for investigating them could be found. We can, if nothing else, disabuse ourselves of belief in certain gods by simple empirical methods; we know now, for example, that the sun is not a god named Tonatiuh, at least not one who must be nourished daily on human blood lest he cease to shine, because we have withheld his meals for centuries now without calamity. God, by contrast, is the infinite actuality that makes it possible for either photons or (possibly) fairies to exist, and so can be “investigated” only, on the one hand, by acts of logical deduction and induction and conjecture or, on the other, by contemplative or sacramental or spiritual experiences. Belief or disbelief in fairies or gods could never be validated by philosophical arguments made from first principles; the existence or nonexistence of Zeus is not a matter that can be intelligibly discussed in the categories of modal logic or metaphysics, any more than the existence of tree frogs could be; if he is there at all, one must go on an expedition to find him, or at least find out his address. The question of God, by contrast, is one that can and must be pursued in terms of the absolute and the contingent, the necessary and the fortuitous, potency and act, possibility and impossibility, being and nonbeing, transcendence and immanence. Evidence for or against the existence of Thor or King Oberon would consist only in local facts, not universal truths of reason; it would be entirely empirical, episodic, psychological, personal, and hence elusive. Evidence for or against the reality of God, if it is there, saturates every moment of the experience of existence, every employment of reason, every act of consciousness, every encounter with the world around us.
    Now, manifestly, one should not judge an intellectual movement by its jokes (even if one suspects that there is little more to it than its jokes). But exactly the same confusion shows itself in the arguments that many contemporary atheists make in earnest: For instance, “If God made the world, then who made God?” Or the famous dilemma drawn, in badly garbled form, from Plato’s Euthyphro, “Does God command a thing because it is good, or is it good because God commands it?” I address both questions below (in my third and fifth chapters, respectively), so I shall not do so here. I shall, however, note that not only do these questions not pose deep quandaries for believers or insuperable difficulties for a coherent concept of God; they are not even relevant to the issue. And, until one really understands why this is so, one has not yet begun to talk about God at all. One is talking merely about some very distinguished and influential gentleman or lady named “God,” or about some discrete object that can be situated within a class of objects called “gods” (even if it should turn out that there happens to be only one occupant of that class).
    As it happens, the god with whom most modern popular atheism usually concerns itself is one we might call a “demiurge” (dēmiourgos): a Greek term that originally meant a kind of public technician or artisan but that came to mean a particular kind of divine “world-maker” or cosmic craftsman. In Plato’s Timaeus, the demiurge is a benevolent intermediary between the realm of eternal forms and the realm of mutability; he looks to the ideal universe—the eternal paradigm of the cosmos—and then fashions lower reality in as close a conformity to the higher as the intractable resources of material nature allow. He is, therefore, not the source of the existence of all things but rather only the Intelligent Designer and causal agent of the world of space and time, working upon materials that lie outside and below him, under the guidance of divine principles that lie outside and above him. He is an immensely wise and powerful being, but he is also finite and dependent upon a larger reality of which he is only a part. Later Platonism interpreted the demiurge in a variety of ways, and in various schools of Gnosticism in late antiquity he reappeared as an incompetent or malevolent cosmic despot, either ignorant or jealous of the true God beyond this cosmos; but none of that is important here. Suffice it to say that the demiurge is a maker, but not a creator in the theological sense: he is an imposer of order, but not the infinite ocean of being that gives existence to all reality ex nihilo. And he is a god who made the universe “back then,” at some specific point in time, as a discrete event within the course of cosmic events, rather than the God whose creative act is an eternal gift of being to the whole of space and time, sustaining all things in existence in every moment. It is certainly the demiurge about whom Stenger and Dawkins write; neither has actually ever written a word about God. And the same is true of all the other new atheists as far as I can tell.
    To be fair to all sides, however, I should also point out that the demiurge has had some fairly vociferous champions over the past few centuries, and at the moment seems to be enjoying a small resurgence in popularity. His first great modern revival came in the Deism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a movement whose adherents were impatient with the metaphysical “obscurities” and doctrinal “absurdities” of traditional religion, and who preferred to think of God as some very powerful spiritual individual who designed and fabricated the universe at the beginning of things, much as a watchmaker might design and fabricate a watch and then set it running. In David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion this is the view of God advanced by Cleanthes and then elegantly dismantled by Philo (the traditional metaphysical and theological view of God is represented by Demea, though not very well, and against him Philo marshals an altogether different—and much weaker—set of arguments). And, while Deism had more or less died out before Darwin’s day, the argument from cosmic or biological design, which was its chief philosophical support, has never entirely lost its charm for some. The recent Intelligent Design movement represents the demiurge’s boldest adventure in some considerable time. I know that it is fashionable to heap abuse upon this movement, and that is not my intention here. After all, if one looks at the extraordinary complexity of nature and then interprets it as a sign of superhuman intelligence, one is doing something perfectly defensible; even some atheists have done as much (the brilliant and eccentric Fred Hoyle being a notable example). Moreover, if one already believes in God, it makes perfect sense to see, say, the ever more extraordinary discoveries of molecular biology, or the problem of protein folding, or the incredible statistical improbabilities of a whole host of cosmological conditions (and so on) as bearing witness to something miraculous and profoundly rational in the order of nature, and to ascribe these wonders to God. But, however compelling the evidence may seem, one really ought not to reverse the order of discovery here and attempt to deduce or define God from the supposed evidence of design in nature. As either a scientific or a philosophical project, Intelligent Design theory is a deeply problematic undertaking; and, from a theological or metaphysical perspective, it is a massive distraction.
    To begin with, much of the early literature of this movement concerned instances of supposedly “irreducible complexity” in the biological world, and from these developed an argument for some sort of intelligent agency at work in the process of evolution. That would, of course, be a fascinating discovery if it could be shown to be true; but I do not see how in principle one ever could conclusively demonstrate such a thing. It could never be more than an argument from probability, because one cannot prove that any organism, however intricate, could not have been produced by some unguided phylogenic history. Probability is a powerful thing, of course, but notoriously difficult to measure in the realm of biology’s complex systems of interdependence, or over intervals of time as vast as distinct geological epochs. And it would be quite embarrassing to propose this or that organism or part of an organism as a specimen of an irreducibly complex biological mechanism, only for it to emerge later that many of its components had been found in a more primitive form in some other biological mechanism, serving another purpose. Even if all this were not so, however, seen in the light of traditional theology the argument from irreducible complexity looks irredeemably defective, because it depends on the existence of causal discontinuities in the order of nature, “gaps” where natural causality proves inadequate. But all the classical theological arguments regarding the order of the world assume just the opposite: that God’s creative power can be seen in the rational coherence of nature as a perfect whole; that the universe was not simply the factitious product of a supreme intellect but the unfolding of an omnipresent divine wisdom or logos. For Thomas Aquinas, for instance, God creates the order of nature by infusing the things of the universe with the wonderful power of moving of themselves toward determinate ends; he uses the analogy of a shipwright able to endow timbers with the power to develop into a ship without external intervention. According to the classical arguments, universal rational order—not just this or that particular instance of complexity—is what speaks of the divine mind: a cosmic harmony as resplendently evident in the simplicity of a raindrop as in the molecular labyrinths of a living cell. After all, there may be innumerable finite causes of complexity, but a good argument can be made that only a single infinite cause can account for perfect, universal, intelligible, mathematically describable order. If, however, one could really show that there were interruptions in that order, places where the adventitious intrusions of an organizing hand were needed to correct this or that part of the process, that might well suggest some deficiency in the fabric of creation. It might suggest that the universe was the work of a very powerful, but also somewhat limited, designer. It certainly would not show that the universe is the creature of an omnipotent wisdom, or an immediate manifestation of the God who is the being of all things. Frankly, the total absence of a single instance of irreducible complexity would be a far more forceful argument in favor of God’s rational action in creation.5
    As for theistic claims drawn from the astonishing array of improbable cosmological conditions that hold our universe together, including the cosmological constant itself, or from the mathematical razor’s edge upon which all of it is so exquisitely balanced, these rest upon a number of deeply evocative arguments, and those who dismiss them casually are probably guilty of a certain intellectual dishonesty. Certainly all of the cosmos’s exquisitely fine calibrations and consonances and exactitudes should speak powerfully to anyone who believes in a transcendent creator, and they might even have the power to make a reflective unbeliever curious about supernatural explanations. But, in the end, such arguments also remain only probabilistic, and anyone predisposed to explain them away will find plentiful ways of doing so: perhaps the extravagant hypothesis that there are vastly many universes generated by quantum fluctuations, of the sort Stephen Hawking has recently said does away with any role for God in the origin of the universe, or perhaps the even more extravagant hypothesis that every possible universe must be actual (the former hypothesis reduces the odds considerably, and the latter does away with odds altogether). But in a sense none of this really matters, because ultimately none of these arguments has much to do with God in the first place.
    This is obvious if one considers the terms in which they are couched. Hawking’s dismissal of God as an otiose explanatory hypothesis, for instance, is a splendid example of a false conclusion drawn from a confused question. He clearly thinks that talk of God’s creation of the universe concerns some event that occurred at some particular point in the past, prosecuted by some being who appears to occupy the shadowy juncture between a larger quantum landscape and the specific conditions of our current cosmic order; by “God,” that is to say, he means only a demiurge, coming after the law of gravity but before the present universe, whose job was to nail together all the boards and firmly mortar all the bricks of our current cosmic edifice. So Hawking naturally concludes that such a being would be unnecessary if there were some prior set of laws—just out there, so to speak, happily floating along on the wave-functions of the quantum vacuum—that would permit the spontaneous generation of any and all universes. It never crosses his mind that the question of creation might concern the very possibility of existence as such, not only of this universe but of all the laws and physical conditions that produced it, or that the concept of God might concern a reality not temporally prior to this or that world, but logically and necessarily prior to all worlds, all physical laws, all quantum events, and even all possibilities of laws and events. From the perspective of classical metaphysics, Hawking misses the whole point of talk of creation: God would be just as necessary even if all that existed were a collection of physical laws and quantum states, from which no ordered universe had ever arisen; for neither those laws nor those states could exist of themselves. But—and here is the crucial issue—those who argue for the existence of God principally from some feature or other of apparent cosmic design are guilty of the same conceptual confusion; they make a claim like Hawking’s seem solvent, or at least relevant, because they themselves have not advanced beyond the demiurgic picture of God. By giving the name “God” to whatever as yet unknown agent or property or quality might account for this or that particular appearance of design, they have produced a picture of God that it is conceivable the sciences could some day genuinely make obsolete, because it really is a kind of rival explanation to the explanations the sciences seek. This has never been true of the God described in the great traditional metaphysical systems. The true philosophical question of God has always been posed at a far simpler but far more primordial and comprehensive level; it concerns existence as such: the logical possibility of the universe, not its mere physical probability. God, properly conceived, is not a force or cause within nature, and certainly not a kind of supreme natural explanation.6
    Anyway, at this point I shall largely leave the new atheists, fundamentalists of every adherence, and Intelligent Design theorists all to their own devices, and perhaps to one another, and wish them all well, and hope that they do not waste too much time chasing after one another in circles. If I mention them below, it will be only to make a point in passing. From here onward, it is God—not gods, not the demiurge—of whom I wish to speak.

    V

    And on and on and on and on … is he paid by the word?

  • Jim Jones

    Fine. Define ‘god’.

  • Jim Jones

    > Well, all insults aside, I changed my mind about atheism because I couldn’t understand why anything should exist rather than not exist.

    https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/personal-incredulity

    Because you found something difficult to understand, or are unaware of how it works, you made out like it’s probably not true.

    Complex subjects like biological evolution through natural selection require some amount of understanding before one is able to make an informed judgement about the subject at hand; this fallacy is usually used in place of that understanding.

    Example: Kirk drew a picture of a fish and a human and with effusive disdain asked Richard if he really thought we were stupid enough to believe that a fish somehow turned into a human through just, like, random things happening over time.

  • Jim Jones

    They’re no more important than sand flies.

  • OV

    ha ha The ultimate xitan evangelical, Ted Cruz is very secretive about his DNA. Why? Because it would prove him human……and certainly not godly.

    Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was issued an unusual challenge on Tuesday night when a constituent asked him if he’d take a DNA test.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=12&v=F-va3WUAnXE

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ted-cruz-dna-test_us_5ac59a0fe4b056a8f5982f9e

  • OV
  • I absolutely love watching Dillahunty debate.

  • I wonder what sort of god dogs would dream up.

  • They aren’t.

  • MystiqueLady

    That’s easy — people like me! Who give them lots of scruffies, play, attention and treats (and don’t forget, rides in the car)!

  • Perfect answer 🙂

  • crden

    1. Lack of belief in deities of any sort.
    2. Well, I don’t pray or anything! Um…generally I act as if there’s no personal deity who cares what I do, who wants me to worship it, etc.
    3. I don’t run around trying to show God doesn’t exist. I just live my life.
    4. I feel pretty confident in it. I’ve lived almost half a century without anything arising that gave me serious doubts about it.
    5. What, that I’m correct in that I don’t believe there’s anything out there? I don’t believe there is. Moreover, if there’s another dimension with powerful beings, I think that it would then be considered natural rather than supernatural.
    6. Generally I believe in material reality. Show me (a) reasoning but also (b) actual evidence.
    7. I’ve never seen what I would consider a truly justifiable reason to believe in any deity. Even if I did believe there was such a thing out there, most Christians presume that I’d default to their God, which I think is kind of ridiculous. That gets into description of a being I don’t believe exists.
    8. Are those different?
    9. Atheism itself is not a worldview, though lack of belief in deities can strongly affect one’s worldview. It’s not complete enough to be a worldview..
    10. I am not antagonistic to Christianity itself, but I don’t trust Christians. Christians started trying to convert me when I was six, and many of them are quite willing to be cruel and deceitful in the name of getting people to convert. As a group, I don’t see Christians as kind or ethical.
    11. N/A — I was raised without belief.
    12. I think religion is a dangerous tool for manipulation, but I think that if we hadn’t invented it, we’d probably have something else just as dangerous.
    13. I don’t know. I don’t think about it much.
    14. *giggles* No, not unless you’re hearing voices or something.
    15. No, but there’s not even that much and, again, I have no reason to believe that if there are supernatural deities and think that if we found evidence of some other world, that wouldn’t make it supernatural.
    16. N/A
    17. Not beyond what we make for ourselves. We’re individuals, distinct from the universe and made of it, but I don’t think the universe is sentient or anything.
    18. N/A
    19. It’s a human invention, but we’re social animals and we look around and try to make the world better for ourselves and those around us. Trying to be compassionate to others and do the right thing is called morality and if you think you’re helpless about it without a list, you’re probably kind of dangerous to be around and scare me a bit.
    20. No
    21. N/A
    22. As an entity? No.
    23. I think the God of the Old Testament is cruel and capricious. I also think that if you believe in Hell, infinite punishment for finite transgression is overkill.
    24. I don’t know that I ever could AS A GOD because if we found something, I would think we would just change our view of what constitutes “natural.”
    25. See 24.
    26. Uh, yes. Rationally based.
    27. I think people from either group (or even, *gasps*, another religious group) could rule well or poorly. It depends on the way it’s set up. I’d prefer a secular society, where you can believe or not.
    28. I don’t know. I think the best we can do right now is act like we have free-ish will and some responsibility for our actions.
    29. N/A
    30. I think this question exhibits an exceptionally poor understanding of what evolution is. It’s possible that we could take some other sort of form, but there would be *something physical* there. It’s not like evolution inevitably marches towards “more advanced.”
    31. See earlier answers where I talk about expansion of understanding of what is “natural.”

  • crden

    Yes, and the question also shows a complete lack of understanding of how evolution works.

  • Thomas Price

    “How sure are you that your atheism is correct?”

    Atheism is lack of belief in deities. It is not a claim of correctness, so the question is nonsensical. Slick is an imbicile who can’t even a question in a coherent manner.

  • Kevin K

    I hate the begats. What a waste of space.

  • alverant

    But he’s OK. He sleeps all night and doesn’t ask questions all day.

  • Daniel Mathers

    You can tell these questions were written by a person of faith. I think most atheists don’t think too deeply about their disbelief in god. The benefit of being an atheist is that you don’t have to search for some sort of rationale to disbelieve. You can, but it’s not an obligation. I think many Christians believe that the act of disbelieving is a religious faith in itself.

    Some of these questions are of a moral nature and don’t presuppose atheists can be moral without the intervention of a religious practice – you know, the old argument that when you become an atheist you begin to lose your moral compass.

    From what I’ve read in the comments below I gather that I’m not the only one in thinking that pondering these questions is a waste of time.

  • Jim Jones

    But they are there for a reason. And not to give an accurate history of the Jews.

  • Rizdek

    These questions are far more important to the theist than to the atheist. When I think of questions theists ask of atheists, they remind me of questions a child who believes in Santa Claus might ask a grownup who doesn’t even remember what it was like to believe in Santa Claus. And the only reason the theist thinks those questions are so important is they have the misconception that positing a God actually solves any of the problems that are behind those questions. ANY thing one can attribute to God can be attributed to nature if one allows one’s self to make up things about nature the way theists allow themselves to make up things about God.

  • The doctrine that God demoniacally tortures billions of immortal spirits for all eternity in a blazing sea of perpetual fire is a Satanic Antichrist mendacity that defames God.

    As a God of justice and love, he would never create such a vicious and barbaric realm much less prescribe infinite punishment for a finite crime no matter how wicked.

  • David Heath

    How about having no label at all! To categorise something is to limit and ‘pacify’ something (or someone). Once we are labelled, it takes a conscious act to break out of the bucket and we feel compelled to land in a different bucket. But there is space between the buckets – that’s where I will always be found. (yes, I see the response already… “but the space outsider the bucket is essentially yet another bucket” – I’ll leave the readers to ponder why that argument is false).

  • Pofarmer