Four Bad Atheist Arguments

zeus_is_a_myth_and_so_is_your_god_t_shirt-rdf7a501454994da18789f2953ac1e0da_va6lr_512I point out a lot of really awful arguments made by theists, although I do make an attempt to be even-handed.  Therefore, here are a couple of really bad arguments made by atheists.  Granted, these did come from a post written by a really nutty fundamentalist Christian, I don’t know if that matters or not, but I found myself agreeing that atheists shouldn’t use them.  Believe it or not, it’s not just theists who make bad arguments, there are a ton of them out there made by atheists as well.

So let’s take a look at these four arguments that atheists shouldn’t make.

1. “I just believe in one God less than you, you don’t believe in Zeus, Thor and so on and so forth”

This is one of the most common atheist memes out there, often used in the form depicted to the right.  While it might be a pithy comment, it’s also entirely wrong and it makes atheists look silly by using it.  See, the reason atheists reject Zeus isn’t the same as why theists reject Zeus.  Atheists, at least most atheists, reject Zeus because there is no evidence for Zeus.  It’s the same reason that we reject Allah, Vishnu and God.  However, Christians don’t even consider evidence for Zeus, any more than they do for God.  They reject Zeus and all other deities because they believe their God has declared all other gods to be non-existent.  Yeah, I know, they ought to read the Old Testament, there are plenty of cases where the gods of other pantheons perform miracles, but they’ve fooled themselves into thinking “the devil did it”.  That makes the statement factually incorrect, since theists do not exercise their critical reasoning skills to reject the existence of gods, they will never understand why atheists don’t believe in their god.

2. “You might as well say Unicorns exist.”

This is the only one of the four that I would find somewhat valid if done right.  I find it funny that theists get very, very bothered when you compare their gods with leprechauns, unicorns, Bigfoot or alien abductions.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a theist get pissed off because “God” and “leprechaun” were used in the same sentence, but in reality, both words have just as much evidence to support their factual existence.  I think theists get upset simply because they realize just how silly the association makes their religion sound.  I did say that this argument had to be done right, I think that it’s possible to do it wrong by making claims that unicorns or similar imaginary critters really do exist, citing the same “evidence” that theists use as proof.  I can’t tell you how crazy it drives me seeing atheists making jokes about the flying spaghetti monster and the invisible pink unicorn, I think it makes us look foolish because it’s far too easy to shift what we mean by the analogy with a strawman version of our statements.  As much as I hate to say it, theists cannot be trusted.

3. “Science can explain everything.”

While I would agree that this is a very bad argument, I can honestly say I don’t remember ever hearing an atheist actually saying it.  I suspect this is just a theist strawman, something they think atheists ask for but can never demonstrate that they actually do.  Science cannot explain everything, otherwise we’d no longer need science, we’d already know everything.  Science and the scientific method are the only demonstrable means we have of reliably discovering objective reality.  We do need to be careful with how science is handled because it’s often open to theist misuse.  Science does not have all the answers to all of the questions right this minute, that doesn’t mean that it won’t answer many of the questions in the future, nor that religion has any means to demonstrably and factually answer any questions at all.  Science is a methodology.  Religion is blind faith.  One works and we can prove it.  The other fails all the time.

4. “You cannot PROVE God.”

Yes, they’re right, it is foolish to ask them to prove the existence of God, just as foolish as when they demand that we prove that God doesn’t exist.  It’s not about proof.  Proof only matters in mathematics and alcohol.  Outside of that, it ought to be a verboten word.  We cannot expect them to prove anything because absolute proof doesn’t exist in the real world.  It makes us look bad when we demand an unreasonable standard and it opens the door for them to make similar unreasonable demands back to us.  What we ought to expect is for them to produce objective evidence for their claims.  They can’t do that, we know, but it is a wholly reasonable request.

I realize that statements like these are easy and lend themselves to posting witty remarks in 140 characters or less, but when they are so easily distorted, or worse yet, absurdly untrue, they do nothing to help our cause.  Hop on Twitter and watch what scrolls by in a busy hashtag like #atheism.  Just spend 5 minutes and watch every tweet critically, evaluate it for validity and I think you’ll be shocked at how bad most of them are.  We really need to strive to be better than the theists, we need to think about what we’re tweeting or blogging or posting online, we need to examine our own arguments even more closely than we do the arguments of the theists so that when we say something, not only is it better than what the theists come up with, it’s demonstrably factually and rationally correct.

5 thoughts on “Four Bad Atheist Arguments

  1. I personally think these are not arguments in the strict sense of the word, more just phrases that people like to use. But I agree they are doing no one much good.

    However, using some of them in real arguments could be beneficial to point out absurdities in a belief system.
    My recent post Chemical Origins of life

  2. These all seem like bad versions of things I will say from time to time.

    1. I'm not really a fan of the "one less god that you" line, but I do like to ask people how they could prove *insert any god here* doesn't exist after they ask me to prove their god doesn't exist.

    2. This one should work logically, but as soon as I mention santa, christians get all bent out of shape

    3. I'm sure some atheists have said this, but I've never seen it. I do, however, see Christians claiming that atheists say this all the time. What I do see atheists say is that science is the best method we have to determine things about the world.

    4. As you said, I try to ask for evidence rather than proof, although I'm sure I've said proof plenty of times. Hopefully it's clear what I mean from context.

    My recent post Prayer in Pid

    1. That’s one reason I strongly encourage atheists to think about their arguments before they use them. It’s clear that there are an awful lot of atheists out there who are no more rational, no more intellectual, no more credible than theists, whose lack of belief in gods is based wholly on emotional grounds, and every time those idiots open their mouths to theists, it makes all of us look bad.

  3. “I just believe in one God less than you, you don’t believe in Zeus, Thor and so on and so forth”

    Of course, the statement is not a complete argument, but it can be a lead-in to a good argument or a "talking point." The point is that there is no more evidence for the Christian god than there is evidence for any other god that the Christian rejects. If the Christian god is rejected, atheism is the most logical belief because all other gods have already been rejected by the theist.

    1. Except for the fact, as I pointed out, that the Christian isn't rejecting other gods for lack of evidence, but because they have faith that there is only one god. The Christian didn't reason their way out of belief in other gods, any more than they reasoned their way into belief in the Christian God.

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