Why I am an atheist: my response to a Patheos challenge

I got a message from my contact at Patheos saying:

For March/April, participate in the “Why I am a…” Blogger Challenge! We invite all of our contributors to respond to the challenge by contributing with a response on why they are committed to their faith group in 200 words or less.

Well, here it goes:

I’m an atheist because I see no reason to think there are any gods. Because I think it would be silly to call myself agnostic about the Greek gods because I can’t technically disprove them, and I see no reason to treat the Christian god, or the Muslim god, or the Jewish god, or even the idea of a deistic god any differently. Because every claim of the supernatural we investigate carefully turns out not to be real. And because I can’t believe that an all-powerful, loving god could allow children to be tortured to death.

I’ve read a great deal of religious apologetics, and I find the belief of many religious believers that there are powerful intellectual defenses of religion which at least deserve respect for their sophistication to be entirely without basis. Religious thinkers may impress each other with their arguments, but there are good reasons why they are mostly not taken seriously by the academic mainstream. Religion has simply lost the argument—indeed it did so long ago.

Hmmm… you know, that’s a pretty good advertisement for my current book project.

  • MNb

    I used to think along the same lines – and when debating christians I still do – but I am tending to become more positive. I am going to take lots of time, but I am seriously considering granting myself a 7 on the scale of Dawkins. Here is one reason.
    Consider the statement X loves Y. How can Y know? If X is something lifeless like a fence the statement is meaningless. Now if X is an animal it becomes somewhat tricky, but that doesn’t seem to be relevant for the argument. Of course an automofreak might claim that his car loves him due to the way it reacts to his actions, but we would call that a projection.
    When X and Y are human beings, let’s say Mark loves Chris, the statement is completely meaningful. Mark can express his love in four ways as far as I can see: by means of language, facial expressions, body language and behaviour.
    Now consider God loves Barack. How can Barack know? God is assumed to be an entity without body, so the means I mentioned before are not available to Him. Of course Barack might claim that God talks back when praying. But we don’t accept that from serial killers who claim to have a commanding voice in their heads either.
    So God loves Barack is a projection too. The fact that God is immaterial and the car of the automofreak is not only makes things worse for Barack.
    If this is correct and it applies to any other feature assigned to God (and I don’t see now why it shouldn’t) the whole concept is meaningless. So I am a 7 atheist.
    What bothers me – and I haven’t found the time and peace yet to think it thoroughly over – is that this argument might prove materialism by assuming materialism. So tell me what you think.
    My thanks to Herman Philipse, who addresses this point much more extensive in his latest book; eventual flaws are probably mine.

    • hf

      This tries to give a way in which we could tell apart statements that might prove true, and meaningless noises. Now if we accept this, I think it would let you vastly reduce the probability of theism by simple observations. But it wouldn’t give you the total certainty that you seem to assert here. Possibly I’ve misunderstood you.

    • MNb

      “the total certainty that you seem to assert here”
      Well, I was pretending that the argument provides total certainty, but actually I’m not sure. In fact I posted it to find out if someone can reduce that total certainty.
      Thanks for the link; it provides some food for thought indeed. But I don’t like the assumption of causality, especially because the article mentions Quantum Mechanics.

  • John Jones

    Your term “projection” is the key to a flaw in the whole argument.
    You privilege materialism by assuming that material objects are not projected, while non-material objects are projected. “Projection” is used as a euphymism for wrong thinking or irrationality. It is a term that sits out of place in the argument. Materialists and atheists too often slip in pejorative or privileging terms to back up a rational argument.

    In fact, it could be said you argue against materialism if you argue that material objects are not projected. For if they are not projected then they must somehow form their own boundaries, just like experiences without material bases form their own boundaries.

  • andyman409

    I’m waiting patiently to see Librisco’s entry.

  • http://siftingreality.com John B

    Which supernatural claims have been “investigated carefully” and where can I find this research?

    • Chris Hallquist

      Lots of them. I discuss the issue in considerable detail in my first book, and my bibliography have lots of relevant sources. Two books that are especially worth Reading re: religious miracles are James Randi’s and William Nolan’s books on faith healers. (IIRC the first one is just called “The Faith Healers,” and the second one is called “In Search of a Miracle.”)

  • http://siftingreality.com John B

    So you’re telling me I have to buy your book to get an answer?

    • Chris Hallquist

      If you’d clicked the link, you’d have noticed it’s a free download.

  • http://siftingreality.com John B

    You’re right, I would have. But can’t you just summarize and cite for discussion sake rather than assigning me homework?

    • Chris Hallquist

      It’s all in the chapter titled, “A brief history of debunking.” Not a long chapter. Since clicking a link before commenting was apparently too much work for you, imma gonna decide summarizing is too much work for me right now.

  • http://siftingreality.com John B

    So then if you and I are in a discussion in the future and I make a claim about something, and you ask me to back up my claim, you’re telling me that an acceptable response to you is “go search my blog for your answer”?

  • duane

    DNA. Mathematical proof. No excuse.

  • AlphaOmega

    Science proves an intelligent designer. Any scientist who still cries “cosmic mishap” after diligent study, is not an ethical scientist. Now, WHICH God created it all is another topic. I personally believe it’s the God of the Bible because Christian theology is the only faith I have found that is not opposed to reason.

  • Peter B.

    That post is nothing but complete and utter nonsense.

    Science does NOT prove an intelligent designer. The overwhelming majority of scientists in relevant disciplines regard “Intelligent Design” as pseudoscience at best, junk science at worst. Try reading the Wikipedia article “Intelligent design and science” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design_and_science) before making such ridiculous claims.

    It is unethical to misrepresent the facts. Again, the overwhelming majority of scientists in relevant disciplines subscribe to the standard or Lambda-CDM model of Big Bang cosmology. Look that up Wikipedia while you’re at it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambda-CDM_model).

    Your last sentence amounts to “begging the question” and you would be laughed at by any serious student of philosophy. You will be busy on Wikipedia today (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question).

    One more thing… You would do well to take some advice from St. Augustine of Hippo, an early Christian theologian …

    “In matters that are obscure and far beyond our vision, even in such as we may find treated in Holy Scripture, different Interpretations are sometimes possible without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such a case, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it.”

    You guessed it, more on Augustine available at Wikipedia… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine_of_Hippo

    In this environment, your ignorance is laughable.

  • Peter B.