Christians have a lot in common with atheists. A Christian approaches the claim that Vishnu exists the same way we heathens look at Yahweh. A Muslim dismisses the claim that Chango brings the thunder as easily as we dismiss the claim that Allah is the creator of all things. The very same skepticism that is activated in atheists when any god is proposed, is present in theists when any god but their own is proposed. It is undeniable that we share this sort of skepticism with theists, and yet, many of them refuse to see it.
I got an email from a believer the other day that got me thinking more about this. Is it just that they refuse to see the similarities, or is it that they just haven’t thought about it that way?
The email began,
I stumbled across your page in my Facebook feed. Although being a Catholic, I have an open mind (shock horror…) and read your website and facebook posts. Some made me laugh, because I recognise that Catholicism and the Church are far, far from perfect. But what is? Anything run by people is never going to be perfect.
I wholeheartedly agree that anything run by people will never be perfect. The problem here is that the top dog in your church ain’t people. He is claimed to be an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, benevolent, perfect being. This is the claim, and if the claim is correct, then his little club must also be perfect, infallible, and all-good. If God is all-good, why would he call to broken predators who victimize young boys to lead his churches? Many of the men and women who lead congregations describe their inspiration to do so as a call from god. Why would god call people who hurt kids? I’m not asking for a canned apologetic answer. I’m asking you for a truthful answer; something you can live with; something that doesn’t require any cognitive dissonance or cherry-picking. If your god is perfect, and his manifestation on earth is your church, why isn’t your church perfect? Either he’s not in your church, or he’s not perfect. Which is it?
However, one post that caught my eye in particular was ‘atheism is a conclusion, not a belief.’ I thought about this, and I wanted to ask you a genuine question.
God hasn’t been scientifically proven and neither has atheism been scientifically proven (If so, please show me).
Here, you’re making the classic mistake that atheism is the claim that there is no god. It’s not. It’s a lack of a belief in a god. You probably don’t believe in a great many gods even though you likely have not disproven them. The very same way you feel about Vishnu or the great Agwe is the way I feel about your god. I do not make any claims about your god or any others. Not that they do exist and not that they don’t.
So shouldn’t the logical, scientific conclusion therefore be that we genuinely do not know?
If you can apply that logic to a god whose only evidence is an ancient book, you can apply it to vampires, leprechauns, fairies and unicorns, for which the only evidence is literature and other art, really. If I am to say that, logically speaking, I do not know if a god exists or not, I would have to be able to say the same about anything anyone claims that I cannot disprove:
Logically, I do not know if the ghost of Liberace is living in the gas tank of my neighbour’s Nissan Cube.
Logically, I do not know if the dead souls of slaughtered indigenous people communicated with Sarah Winchester, instructing her on how to build her house around the clock for 38 years straight.
Logically, I do not know if god told Victoria Soliz to drown her son in a puddle.
You get the idea. There are plenty of things we cannot disprove, but we can still safely say, “I don’t believe you because that seems a bit far-fetched to me”.
I cannot disprove that a god exists, but the claim that one does seems a bit far-fetched to me.
Logically then, isn’t theism (not confined to Christianity, but just the belief in a God/s) just as ‘logical’ as atheism?
I can ask you a similar question: Logically then, isn’t belief in Yahweh just as ‘logical’ as belief in Allah, Anansi, Loki, Thor, the Great Baron Samedi or Chinnamasta? You have dismissed all of these gods except Yahweh. Why? What evidence do you have for your god that does not exist for any of the others?
There is none. There are holy texts claimed to be divinely inspired supporting the existence of all of them. Followers of each of these gods claim prophecy from their holy texts has come true. These gods are claimed to be felt by their worshippers, and often deliver experiences to them that “can’t be explained any other way.” These gods heal, these gods answer prayers, these gods perform miracles. These gods are what their followers see when they suggest we “look around! Creation is all the evidence we need.”. These gods are as likely as your god, and yet you choose not to follow any but yours. Each of them is equal in the amount of evidence they have supporting them.
So, no, it is not just as logical to lack belief in all gods as it is to choose Yahweh out of the many thousands of gods even though Yahweh has no more evidence for him than all the others. No, the most logical position, is to see that none of them has sufficient evidence, to an equal degree, just like leprechauns, the Ogopogo or Liberace’s ghost, and belief in any of them is equally unsupported.
Unless and until you can present to me demonstrable, repeatable evidence for any god the most logical position remains to withhold belief in any and all gods.
If there is anything you lack a belief in, be it other gods, mythical creatures, magical powers, alien abductions, etc, then you know precisely how I feel about your god. You do not need to be able to disprove something to lack a belief in it. On the flip side, for some of us, you do need to be able to prove something before we believe it. It’s just as simple as that.
How would you answer these questions? Let me know in the comments!
I’m writing a book addressing the many reasons believers distrust atheists. I’m around 40,000 words in! If you want to help me get it done, you can support me by donating here or becoming a patron here.
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