Why I am an Atheist

Why I am an Atheist May 31, 2013

Randal Rauser, with whom I have had a radio debate about the Nativity, is running a series on his blog asking atheists why they are atheist (or not Christian). He has asked several atheist bloggers and authors, including myself, to produce a paragraph. Justin Schieber, Counter Apologist and Ed Babinski did a little more than that, so I added a tiny bit extra to mine, but it still remained more concise than theirs! See what you think – it is hard to be super concise:

My name is Jonathan MS Pearce and I am a teacher, philosopher, author and blogger. I am an agnostic atheist in that I believe there is probably no God, though cannot prove it any more than a theist can prove that there is (it’s difficult to prove anything past cogito ergo sum). I came from a religiously apathetic house – no real persuasion either way. For this I am hugely grateful, now. This allowed me to make up my own mind, swinging from a confirmed Christian in my school days to rejecting God in my late teens. This was based initially on living and travelling around the world and seeing pain, suffering, inequality (I’m drinking a cup of tea now whilst thousands are starving in sub-Saharan Africa, none of which can be justified by compensation in heaven) and diverse beliefs first hand (later understood as the Problem of Evil and the Outsider Test for Faith). I realised my beliefs were a product of where I was brought up. This cast serious doubts. Living at university with scientists as a lone Arts student gave me a greater understanding of empirical arguments against God (they were all atheists). Later in life, as someone who has studied the arguments in depth, and as part of the Tippling Philosophers group which has included a notable published Christian philosopher and a theologian, I have interacted in great depth with all of the arguments for the existence of God. I find none persuasive, including (and, perhaps especially, the historical ones). I cannot even understand why an ontologically perfect being would have any needs or desires at all, especially to create something so apparently imperfect as us and this universe.

In one of my books, I set out a cumulative case against the existence of God in 501 questions directly to him. One of my favourite questions for its simplicity in exposing design flaws and the Problem of Evil is this: Why don’t humans and all animals photosynthesise? Quite simple for an omniGod. In fact, due to the vastness of pain, suffering and death over millions and millions of years due to carnivorousness just so organisms can survive, why is it that organisms be designed to need energy at all? This kind of panoply of pain, designed in and actualised by a Creator, is surely unnecessary and best explained by a naturalistic universe.

The core to my disbelief, though, is the philosophical incoherence of the idea of free will, upon which a personal deity supervenes. This should be THE most prevalent topic of debate in theology. Arguing about whether the dead saints really did parade around Jerusalem, meeting many people, never to be reported by anyone else on earth but Matthew; about whether it really happened is irrelevant if you can’t establish free will.

 


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