Internet evangelism day and an argument that needs to fucking die already

Yesterday was internet evangelism day.  Nobody decided to come play with me, but someone did decide to go play with my father.

The believer expressed skepticism that anybody had ever lost their job after being outed as an atheist.  My father responded with several examples (including one where he personally lost a job for being an atheist).  The believer responded with…

All those things you listed are horrible and should not have happened. However, I still maintain that to place the blame on “religion” is also wrong. I got to thinking about this some more, and I started remembering stories of people going to away games for their home sports team’s games, and expressing their nervousness when they are heavily outnumbered. There have even been assaults against sports fans, simply because they were of the wrong team. ‘T’ain’t religion, my friend. ‘T’ain’t religion.

Dad responded…

The story I was told is that religion is supposed to make folks more moral. A lot of times, the story is that morality is impossible without gods. But, here you are telling me the religious are guilty, that their excuse for their actions is their religion or their god, but that their religion isn’t culpable. If you want to agree it is religious people doing bad things and using their religion to justify it, I’m good with that. However, if you do go that way, you can’t use good works to promote religion, because that sword cuts two ways: both religious and non-religious do good things and good works, are charitable, etc., and that is just being folks.’T’ain’t religion, my friend. ‘T’ain’t religion.

The man’s good.  Now that that’s out of the way, here’s the argument that needs to die.  The believer said…

I would have to be brainwashed to become an atheist, because the single most illogical idea I know – even more illogical than the Flying Spaghetti Monster – is “no god required”.

Oh boy…

Let’s forget for a moment which side uses brainwashing of the young as its primary means to spread its ideas (hint: not atheists) and focus on why the believer thinks atheism is illogical.

Your three general options are “matter/energy poofed into existence (crap), matter/energy are just simply eternal for some reason (um…), or there is a supernatural creator of nature (ding!).

He left something off the last sentence.  It should read, “or there is a supernatural creator of nature…who just poofed into existence or is just simply eternal for some reason.”  This is what drives me up a tree about theists.  They want to use a standard to dismiss the other side after they declare themselves immune to it, and still want to insist their position is bound by reason.  It’s very disingenuous.

And what’s more, when will theists get around to why nothing is a more natural state of existence than things existing?  This is their premise.  They need to defend it.

We live in a universe where things move from simple to complex all by themselves.  Simple clouds of hydrogen collapse to become stars, life evolves from a self-replicating molecule to more complex forms.  It’s that way everywhere.  Literally everything we have explained has been found to be the result of natural forces.  Not some of it – all of it.

So either matter and the laws of physics existed forever or spontaneously sprang into existence (which happens on the quantum level, this is why we have developed an understanding of probability fields), or god existed forever or spontaneously sprang into existence.  In either case, why is god more likely?  In the first case, we don’t need a god, and the organization of the universe looks like it was driven by natural forces, not by intelligence.

In the latter case, it works against the way the universe develops order.  For instance, brains are comprised of heavier elements created in the hearts of stars over time.  It makes no sense to think a mind could exist without those elements, so it makes no sense to believe a mind could exist before stars.  If believers think a bodiless mind can exist, they should be expected to provide some evidence for it, not just say that science doesn’t explain everything so we can break whatever logical rules we feel like.

Another chimed in later.

The harder part to imagine is that it was all chance. It would be like a tornado hitting a Boeing warehouse and leaving a fully functional 747 in its wake.

Ok, let’s ignore the lame 747 argument.  I seriously thought that thing died ages ago.

Let’s focus on the idea that it’s hard to believe that existence is a matter of chance, because I hear that one from everyday believers all the time.

First, let’s look at how silly that argument is on its face.  Just because you don’t know how something could happen via chance does not, at all, in any sense, mean that you know how it happened and, don’t ya know, it was god.  What’s more, if it’s so complex that it had to be created by something, you don’t get to turn around immediately and say, “Its creator must have been something even more complex, but that complexity didn’t need to be created!”  Either complexity requires design or it doesn’t.  Pick one.

Second, what would the universe look like if, say, the rise of life occurred via chance?  Admittedly, the odds of life arising through chance are very small (though certainly not non-zero).  So what would the universe need to look life for something improbable, like life, to occur?

Consider the concept of the lottery.  Let’s say the odds of winning are one in a million.  Yet people win the lottery all the time.  Why?  Because one million people are playing.  If one million people play, you should expect the improbable to occur.  If two million people play, you should expect the improbable to occur twice!

So for atheism to be true, the only universe we could possibly find ourselves in is a very old universe with lots of matter, so lots of “lottery tickets” would exist for the rise of life.  Of course, this is the universe we find ourselves in.

But god doesn’t need any of that.  He doesn’t need a universe where the laws of nature produce order all by themselves.  He didn’t need to waste almost the entire sum of the universe’s matter on other stars and galaxies in a universe that is 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999% (and then some) lethal to life.  The only reason he would make a universe this way is if he was trying to create a universe that looked exactly like a universe in which there was no god.

Then the original believer came back.

I don’t buy that atoms and energy can just have always been hanging around for whatever reason, no. Not without a huge dose of evidence.

The simplest pieces of the universe existing for no reason?  Can’t buy it.

But an infinitely complex being existing for no reason?  Sounds legit.

He continues…

And the reason I can accept a supernatural creator more easily is the fact that I would not expect a supernatural anything to have to follow the rules I hold nature to. An eternal supernatural thing, I can grasp. An eternal natural thing, I can’t.

He can grasp an eternal thing.  Why does that eternal thing have to be supernatural?  Since nothing supernatural has ever been confirmed and natural things are, literally, everywhere, why is supernatural more graspable?

This is the first cause argument as I hear it 90% of the time.  It needs to die a quick and bloody death.  It’s a silly false dichotomy.

If you go by their logic, if something appears impossible given our present understanding of how nature works, it must be something that breaks the rules of nature.  They leave out another option: our understanding of how nature works is incomplete.  It is.  It’s why scientists still show up for work.  But for some reason they want to throw away the idea that the universe is bound by rules despite the historical trend in discovered knowledge, which I don’t think they’d be doing if not for the need to rationalize belief in god.

Here is a cartoon I made to show why I want to vomit blood every time a theist presents this argument.

It’s an argument from ignorance, pure and simple.  It’s the same as saying, “Shit, I don’t know how this works!  Fuck it, it must be magic because I can understand that.”  As Einstein said, “A man should look for what is, not what he thinks should be.”

These types of arguments are the best religion has to offer.  It’s both depressing and unsurprising that the best religion has to offer is simultaneously an affront to humanity’s potential.

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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.


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