Are They Even Trying?

I went to karaoke last night. At one point a gentleman approached me to compliment my voice and told me I should be singing for a living. I thanked him and told him I’d found a career that I enjoyed much, much more. “What career is that?’ he asked.

“I’m a professional atheist,” I answered.

“Well god bless you!”


“But you know, atheists can’t exist?”

I pointed to myself and said, “Empirically denied.”

“You’re an agnostic, you’re not an atheist.”

“I’m an atheist. I think the evidence is against the existence of a god.”

“Think about it. How can you be against something that doesn’t exist? Meditate on that.” (No, I am not exaggerating. He said that.) I considered pointing out to him that lots of people are against atheists, which would mean we’d have to exist.

Instead, I said “I think bad ideas exist and I’m against them. I think god is a bad idea.”

As though he hadn’t heard me, the man continued. “If you don’t believe in something, that something has to exist for you to not believe in it.” Arguments like this make me wish the world really would end today.

I took a second to wonder if rebutting something so silly was worth it. He’s clearly talking about believing in things as a concept while I’m talking about that concept being, y’know, real. You may think this type of thing is uncommon, but remember that I recently had a ‘philosopher’ do the same thing by trying to convince me that Spider-Man exists.

I elected to continue. “If not believing in something means it exists, and believing in something means you think it exists, then by your logic everything must exist. Surely you can’t honestly believe that.”

He complimented me for being good (presumably at debating) and said he’d meditate on that.

Nice guy. Lame arguments. In the world I wish to create, somebody never makes it into their forties/fifties without having it thoroughly explained to him why such arguments suck. We’re not there, sadly. But you know what they say: be the change you want to see.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • feralboy12

    He complimented me for being good (presumably at debating) and said he’d meditate on that.

    I would have suggested that he medicate on that. But that’s just me. (WWFD?)

  • janicot

    If I remember right(I read an English translation years ago), that was the basis for Decartes’ proof of God (I think in his ‘Discourse on Method’).

    Basically: Man is incapable of creating anything. So any concept that Man is aware of must exist somewhere. Man is aware of the idea of perfection so perfection must exist which must therefore be God.

    You likely are more familiar with Decartes than I am but as I remember being shocked that nonsense like that could come from the definitive 1st-principles guy. Why would he even pretend to believe that? I always wondered if he was pressured into it by the Church or something.

    • Chrisj

      By extension, of course, people can imagine (“are aware of the idea of”) humans who create new things. Therefore humans who create new things must exist. So the argument disproves its own premise.

  • K

    This is why I have stopped arguing that I don’t believe in Gods and rather started explaining that I have a lack of belief in the concept of gods. The best explanation that I have found to come up with arguments is this video by QualiaSoup:

  • troll

    That story reminds me very much of a vapid, pantheist, unitarian friend of mine. His mind is so open that I think his brain may have fallen out.

  • Jonathon B

    “… but remember that I recently had a ‘philosopher’ do the same thing by trying to convince me that Spider-Man exists.”

    JT, buddy, you still are missing what I committed myself too. Do the work you’ll find yourself less surprised by Spiderman’s existing…