Ten Bad Commandments

The first ten were crap, let’s see some better ones.

I ran into this over on a debate forum and thought it was extremely well written so… I stole it.  Actually, I want to make sure people see it and I wanted to respond to some of the points, therefore I’m going to cut and paste some portions here.  Please, make sure you go read the original, there’s more there that really deserves to be seen.

As atheists, we run into so many really awful arguments made by theists, so many ridiculous claims that demonstrate just how little understanding theists have, not only of their own religious beliefs, but of the world around them.  No matter how many times we destroy these claims, the one thing we can be sure of is that some other clueless ninny is going to pick up the identical claim and come at us, as though jousting with the atheist windmill will somehow make these ideas worthwhile.

It just won’t because these ideas are flawed from the get-go.  And so, I present, the Ten Bad Commandments and why only an idiot, an ignorant, irrational, illogical idiot, would ever try to use these against atheists.

One: “You have faith in no God”
Fallacy: Tu Quoque (you too!)

Very well. Let us assume, for a moment, that this is the case. How does this dismantle the argument the atheist is presenting?
Is having faith good or bad? If having faith is a good thing, one would think this is a compliment to the atheist. “Why thank you, I *do* have faith in no God, and you have faith in God… isn’t it nice to have faith in things?” This gets us nowhere. So where is the argument? There is none.

How many times have we seen that?  It seems that many theists are  simply incapable of understanding the difference between not believing in a god and believing no god exists, yet it is a very basic and fundamental difference.  Now I don’t think that all theists who use this argument are so stupid that they don’t understand the flaw, in fact, I think there are many who recognize the flaw, yet use it anyhow in hopes of sneaking it past atheists who aren’t paying close attention.

Two: “You hate God”
Fallacy: Logical incoherency, Ad hominem.

This is logically incoherent because hating something requires that you believe in it. The atheist is saying they do not; thus, they cannot hate God.
Even if we assumed that they secretly believed in God and secretly hated God – how does this emotion affect their arguments? It does not. Therefore, this objection too is invalid.

Honestly, do Christians hate Krishna?  Do Muslims hate Enki?  Do they think Buddhists hate God?  Or Allah?  The idea that you can hate something that you don’t even think exists is absurd.  I don’t hate God anymore than I hate unicorns or leprechauns.  I think there are a lot of theists out there who just can’t wrap their tiny little minds around the fact that people can entirely reject the existence of their deity.  They just can’t understand that so they desperately try to force atheists into a mold of their own invention, that atheists really believe in God, they just can’t stand the guy.  While I will agree that the mythical God has a lot of reasons for hatred, like Lord Voldemort, I don’t hate him because I have no reason to think he’s real.

Three: “You can’t prove God does not exist”
Fallacy: Shifting the burden of proof.

The burden is on whoever makes a positive statement, such as “There is a rock in my hand.” This is a statement that requires some level of proof to show it is the case. The more extraordinary the claim, the more proof we should require of it. Uttering to someone, “You can’t prove there isn’t a rock in my hand” and not allowing them to look at what you are holding – if indeed you are holding anything at all – shifts the burden to them; they cannot disprove it, and it is you who should prove it.

Other “you can’t prove” statements could fill libraries with things we cannot prove do not exist: goblins, orcs, dragons, etc., but the burden is clearly on the one who makes the claim that (X) does in fact exist. Typically, this statement is made because the person additionally assumes that atheists are claiming either as a single person or as a whole that “there is no God,” when this is not the thing they as a whole are claiming – they as a whole are claiming, “we lack belief in a God.” Although there might be a singular person who says, “there is no God,” this is not the point – for that person, whoever it is, has the burden to show reasons why we should think they are correct.

But if one still wishes to press forward this statement, what does it matter if the answer is “you are correct; I cannot prove there is not a God…”? This does not mean there is a God.

Luckily, I don’t have to prove that God doesn’t exist for the  same reason that argument #1 fails.  I don’t have faith that there is no God, I simply have not seen sufficient evidence to suggest God is real, hence I reject claims that he is until better evidence becomes available.  I don’t have to prove anything to anyone because I have made no claims that need supporting, unlike theists.

Four: “Atheism is a religion”
Fallacy: Tu Quoque.

This is again not an argument at all. Even if atheism was a religion (and it is not), how does this dismantle the arguments being made? If there is only “one true religion,” as some say, and atheism is a religion, who’s to say that it is not, in fact, the one true one? However, this is not an argument, and thus should not be utilized, as it is nothing more than a “you too!” statement and not an argument at all.

Atheism is not a religion because it does not fit the criteria of being a religion, this is a simple case of definition.  If you expand the definition, as some theists do, to the point where atheism can be considered a religion, then virtually anything and everything must be considered a religion.  Political parties are a religion.  Food preferences are a religion.  It gets absurd and thus, we cannot consider atheism as a religion because it just doesn’t qualify.

Five: “You have an agenda to deconvert!”
Fallacy: Ad hominem.

This is attack to the person, rather than to the argument, because even if true – say the person does in fact have an agenda to deconvert people – so what? If those of faith have the right to convert (or try to convert) people, then those of non-faith have the right to deconvert (or try to deconvert) people as well. Even if true, it does not dismantle whatever arguments the person has.

See, I’m actually fine with this, I have no problem thinking that I have an agenda to deconvert, or at the very least, an agenda to encourage rational, intelligent and critical thinking about all things.  I freely admit that I do.  So what’s the problem?  The fact is, we only really have one solid set of tools that demonstrably work when looking at the real world around us.  A theist who disagrees simply has to produce another method that is testable under rigorous conditions and can produce the same demonstrable results that science and the  scientific method can.  How long do we have to wait until someone formulates an equivalent methodology for prayer?  A long time, I’ll wager.

Six: “Atheists have no morals”
Fallacy: Poisoning the well/Strawman/Ad hominem.

Three fallacies at once! Seriously, this is nothing more than an attempt to poison the well – to say this is akin to saying that Muslims are terrorists or that Catholics are pedophiles or that Christians think slavery is all right. There might be some who are, but to say all are is poisoning the well. It is a strawman because you do not know it to be true, and finally it is an attack to the person, rather than the argument. Again, perhaps they have no morals, but this does not dismantle the arguments they have at all.

Further, this is used by theists who want to redefine “morals” as only those things handed down by a magical, universal, imaginary man in the  sky.  You’re right, if that’s the only definition of “morals” that you’ll accept, I have no morals.  Nor do I want any.  I’d much rather be able to think about the consequences of my potential actions and their impact on others and decide, based on evidence, what I should and should not do.  That’s really what’s moral, not blindly following a primitive book of mythology.  And let’s be honest, Christians, according to their own book, aren’t moral either because none of them follow all of the moral precepts that their book demands.  Stoned any unruly children lately?  I thought not.

Seven: “You believe that nothing started the universe”
Fallacy: Strawman.

There is no held statement of any kind of atheism in regards to what, if anything did start the universe, or if “start” is even the correct word. Here, atheists typically turn to whatever science is saying for answers. If science does not yet know, then the atheist typically does not know. There is at least one scientist who is promoting the idea of the universe starting from nothing, but when he says nothing he does not mean the philosopher’s nothing, and honestly I really would prefer if he came up with a new word for it, but it might be the case that nothing came “before” the universe if there is no “before” or it might be the case that nothing did cause the universe, and now that we have a universe there is no more “nothing” so we can’t have a new universe made.

We simply do not know, but we cannot just place aside the possibility – even if it goes against what our brains think of things and how we think things should work. If the theist really wants the atheist to allow for God as a possibility, they should be equally fair (intellectually speaking) to allow for nothing to be a possibility as well.

Still, this is nothing more than a strawman, although it could be the case that there is an atheist that thinks nothing made the universe, again such a person has the burden, and the scientist who thinks this is producing peer-reviewed papers to forward his arguments. To restate saying “you believe (X)” is a strawman – let the person tell you what they believe first, and then argue against THAT.

Now this is something I’ve handled several times recently and it’s still absurd, but the author brings up a very good point that I’ve missed in the past.  This has nothing whatsoever to do with atheism.  So what?  Atheism is, by definition, a lack of belief in god(s).  Period.  That’s it.  It requires no other beliefs.  Theists like to claim that being an atheist requires that you believe in evolution, that you believe in this or that and it’s just not true.  You don’t have to have any of those beliefs to be an atheist, all you have to do is not believe in god(s).

Eight: “You can’t explain how life began…” (or) “You can’t explain the universe” (and other you can’t explain statements).
Fallacy: Appeal to ignorance.

It matters not if we cannot explain anything at all. This does nothing to make your stance any better. It appeals to ignorance- “I can’t explain it, so it must be (X)” where (X) is the made up idea that you think is the explanation. Now, you might object and say, “But God is not made up!” You are free to believe that is the case, and you might be right for all I know, but you have still made a logical fallacy by placing God where it might not belong. If I cannot explain my computer, I would not say it is here because of God – it could be, but it might not be. I cannot fill the void of knowledge that I have with an explanation – and this is what these sorts of statements try to do.

Similar to #7, atheists don’t have to have an explanation for the beginning of life or the beginning of the universe, it is entirely irrelevant to atheism.  That said though, theists don’t have any inherently better explanation for any of these things, they simply have bald assertions.  They cannot demonstrate that any of those assertions are factually true.  Science, however, has it’s own evidentially-supported ideas on these things, science does know how those things came about, at least in the broad strokes and we’re gaining more information and a better understanding every day.  Religion, though, isn’t learning anything, it isn’t about learning, it isn’t about improving, it’s about making bald-faced assertions and clinging to them, even after they’ve been demonstrated to be laughably false.

Nine: “If there is no God, then I’d do all sorts of bad things!”
Fallacy: Appeal to emotion.

I question the morals and ethics of the person who would do bad things the moment they stopped believing in God. I think this is a harmful idea for people deconverting – and if you’ve managed to convince someone that if there is no God then you (or anyone) can do anything, then you’ve potentially made it so someone who deconverts can do anything – and that’s no good for anyone. Still, this is nothing more than an appeal to emotion, a strange blackmail that seeks to stop the arguments of the opponent in their tracks. “I’ll kill myself if there is no God” is similar in nature to this. I cannot control what you choose to do or not to do if you decide that you do not believe in God, but stating this forwards no positive argument for your side.

I actually just had this discussion with a theist in the last  couple of  days, where the theist stated that without belief in God, he’d have no control over himself and would go on a rampage.  I responded that he doesn’t need God, he needs a therapist.  People who honestly hold beliefs like this need professional help, they are borderline sociopaths whose brain chemistry is on the fritz.  Normal people are able to control their actions without having to believe in imaginary friends.  Normal people can control their impulses without thinking God will fry them in a fiery skillet for all of eternity if they don’t.  Anyone who cannot keep their actions under control lacks sanity, not religion.

Ten: “The Bible says…”
Fallacy: Circular logic.

The Chronicles of Narnia say that Lucy found Narnia in the wardrobe, and Lucy was known to not lie, therefore Narnia exists.

This is so similar to everyone who quotes scriptures at people as if that, by itself, is enough. It is not. It assumes said scriptures are true in order to assume the rest is true. This is the core of circular logic and really should stop.

If all you have is some verse quote, then you do not yet have any argument. The only place where verses matter is when you are debating your Bible.   Also, do note that Bible might be any “Holy” writings or sacred documents of anyone; the Christians do not have the only written account of their idea of God. Other religions do as well.

So no. This will not work, it cannot work. It’s circular. Cut it out already. Prove your writings are true first, and then you are free to use them as reference.

Sometimes I honestly don’t know if theists are just ignorant, not knowing  that the Bible isn’t absolutely proven as fact, or if they just  don’t care.  So far as most of them are concerned, it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and nothing anyone says will ever change their mind.  Well, at least until they find a part they don’t agree with, then they’ll work their way around it and pretend the Bible doesn’t really mean what it says.  However, Christians need to stop and think when using the Bible this way.  I know logic is hard, but please try.  They wouldn’t pay any attention if a Muslim claimed the Qu’ran was perfect in every way, they wouldn’t believe it if a Hindu played the “The Vedas say…” game, so why do they think that quoting the Bible is going to mean a damn thing to atheists?  Of course, this requires logic and… you know…

So there you go, what do you think?  Does anyone have any more to add?  Inquiring minds want to know!

2 thoughts on “Ten Bad Commandments”

  1. Excellent post! #9 made me think about one sect of protestant faith: Calvinism. Calvinism believes basically, "once saved, always saved". So, what's to prevent a person from going out and doing bad things once they've been saved under calvinist teachings? You're not going to go to "hell", so you can go and do pretty much anything you want, right?

    1. Yeah, if that's not a license to just go crazy, I don't know what is. I'm saved! Now fuck it, I'm going to do whatever I want, you can't take it away from me now!

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