While I’m well known for answering theist questions, in fact I just did a long series of them, occasionally I come across something new and interesting, as I did here. It’s a theist who is attempting to refute atheism, ostensibly using logic and reason. Of course, as one might expect, the refutations really don’t work very well but I thought I’d try my hand at taking on these refutations of atheism on my own. Apparently, I’m not alone because I found that one of the other blogs I read did the same thing! Great minds think alike, I guess.
Now some of his refutations are quite lengthy and I don’t want to copy his entire post here, therefore I’m going to look at his original “atheist claim” and then address what he has to say about it. To read his original refutation, I encourage you to go look at his original post, linked above.
Claim: Atheists don’t bear the burden of proof or have to justify their lack of belief in God, because it’s impossible to prove a negative.
Very few atheists ever claim that God absolutely does not exist. For those few that do, I agree, they have a burden of proof because they are making a positive claim. However, because the overwhelming majority of atheists simply reject the claims of the religious and do not make any positive claims of their own, this isn’t a valid criticism. Unfortunately, it seems that for some theists, they specifically look for invalid criticisms, mostly because I don’t think they can find any valid ones. There are far too many theists who, as I’ve said in the past, will define atheism incorrectly in purpose so that they can attack that straw man.
Now taking on his refutation, he says that not all negatives cannot be proven, which really has no meaning because we’re not talking about any negative but a very specific one, that being the existence of gods. He’s simply wrong in stating that the one who makes any claim bears the burden of proof, it’s anyone who makes a POSITIVE claim. Claiming gods are real is a positive claim. Saying there is no evidence for such things is not a claim in and of itself, it is a rejection of claims for the existence of gods.
Claim: God can’t make a rock too big for him to lift, so God is self-contradictory and thus cannot exist.
First off, I’ve never heard an atheist make such a claim seriously so I question where it came from immediately. It is a valid question though because it betrays the utter irrationality of God’s composition. You cannot have a being that is all-powerful and can do anything, those are mutually exclusive concepts. Now I’ll grant that, as a serious claim, I find it a bit absurd and certainly not the best argument one can make, but as a way to refute atheism? No, it does nothing of the sort.
His claim then leads to an attack on evolution, wherein he says that atheists must believe in abiogenesis. No they don’t. In fact, it’s quite possible to believe that life on Earth was seeded by aliens. That does push the situation back another step, but since we cannot know what might or might not have happened on an alien world many lightyears away, that simply means that those answers, at least until we develop faster-than-light travel, are beyond our discovery. Of course, I don’t think that’s a good answer, I was just pointing out how his assertion is entirely false, accepting evolution doesn’t require anyone to believe abiogenesis happened, evolution as a scientific theory requires life to already exist. Anyone who is up on the scientific literature of the past 30-40 years knows that we’ve shown, quite conclusively, that amino acids can and did naturally arise in the early world, there’s no question whatsoever that life can and did arise entirely naturalistically, no matter what the religious would like to believe.
Claim: Atheism is the absence of belief.
That’s actually the truth but that’s not what atheism asserts. This is yet another straw man, which I suppose is no surprise. Atheism is the rejection of claims made by theists. That’s it. Theists claim gods exist, atheists look at the evidence, find that such a claim cannot be corroborated and reject it for failing it’s test of validity. Of course, since theists know they cannot back up their claims, they try desperately to shift the burden of proof to atheism. Sorry, no dice.
Claim: Belief in God is no different from belief in unicorns or Santa Clause. If you believe in one, you must believe in all. (a.k.a. “the Flying Spaghetti Monster” assertion)
No one has ever said that. There is no better reason to believe in God than to believe in unicorns or Santa Claus. If you think there is, feel free to provide evidence for your claims. The fact is, the only reason most atheists identify as atheists is because there are so many theists running around spouting nonsense. If there were unicornists trying to push their beliefs on the people through force of law, you’d better believe there would be plenty of aunicornists opposing them. Atheism, as a political force, is a response to theism, nothing more, nothing less. The second the religious go away, atheists won’t feel the need to stand up and be counted.
Further, he asserts that it is entirely rational to postulate a First Cause. Okay, present your evidence. Detail your logical pathway to your stated conclusion. Unfortunately, most theists don’t understand what is meant by being “rational”. Claiming you are being reasonable when you believe in some absurd nonsense, just because you can define a personal reason you believe it, is not being rational. Rationality and logic are specific tools and systems of thought meant to discover the factual truth, not some emotional desire to believe something for which you have no evidence.
Claim: There is no evidence for the supernatural.
And that is true. If it was not true, theists would have been able to produce such evidence by now. Of course, as above, not only do they not understand reason, they don’t understand evidence. Evidence isn’t quoting something said in a book, it isn’t proclaiming a personal experience, it isn’t stating your beliefs, it is producing something objective and substantive, such that anyone who cares to look at it can do so without having to hold a particular belief about it in the first place.
Again, we see him redefining terminology to suit his needs and I call bullshit. Who cares if you want to call the absence of belief “agnosticism”? You’re still debating a person who doesn’t believe your religious claims. You’re still debating a person who rejects your religious beliefs. What difference does it make what word you attach to such a thing? You still have to deal with the individual. This is simple semantical sophistry.
Claim: Religion is a dangerous idea because it’s anti-science.
I’ve never said anything of the sort. Religion isn’t dangerous because it’s anti-science, it’s dangerous because it’s anti-reality. It isn’t interested in what is actually true, it’s only interested in what makes the individual feel good on an emotional level. What makes you feel good isn’t necessarily so and theists don’t seem to be able to get it through their heads. We know that religion is dangerous, we can look at case after case after case of children who die because their parents would rather pray over them than take them to the doctor. We know that religion is dangerous because we can present case after case after case of people who are killed, accused of witchcraft, or albinos being slaughtered so their body parts can be used in magical spells, or people murdered because they practice a different religion than the one in local power. So-called witches were burned at the stake by the religious. Children are molested by the religious, using religion to justify their actions. Religion is dangerous because it’s a piss-poor worldview in a world that increasingly requires intelligent, evidence-based, rationally-justified thinking.
Some rhetorical questions for atheists that he asks:
An obsession is when something or someone dominates a person’s mind. So what else can it be called when so many atheists spend large amounts of time and effort in Christian venues such as message boards and blogs, arguing and mocking incessantly? Who else spends more time on what they don’t believe than what they do believe? If all unprovable beliefs are the same, why don’t atheists put forth the same effort to combat belief in the tooth fairy or pink unicorns on Mars? Is it really Christians who are being inconsistent, or is it atheists?
I hate to break it to you, but for myself at least, I spend exactly 0% of my time in Christian venues such as message boards, blogs, Twitter, etc. It just doesn’t interest me. The only places I ever come into contact with theists these days are on either neutral territory or when theists come and invade places where atheists are talking, again the aforementioned message boards, blogs, Twitter, etc. I have never, in my life, read any of the religious hashtags on Twitter. I don’t remember the last time I have visited a religious blog for the purpose of engaging in debate. I may have done it for blog fodder, but I have very rarely ever left a message there, I just borrow the material and quietly leave. Believe it or not, I actually have some respect for people who want to believe absurd things, at least so long as they have respect for people who do not. That’s the issue though, most of them have zero respect for others. It isn’t atheists going around ringing doorbells, it’s theists. It isn’t atheists ringing their obnoxious church bells to attract attention, it’s theists. At least in my experience, atheists are not nearly as obsessed with religion and other people’s beliefs as theists are. So why aren’t you criticizing theists who do the same thing and try to evangelize people who want nothing to do with their beliefs?
And why do atheists even care what anyone believes? If, as they claim, they are defined by not believing, then why is belief such an all-important matter to them?
Because what people believe affects those around them. A person’s beliefs inform their actions. When one’s beliefs are faulty and nonsensical, their actions are faulty and nonsensical as well and the stronger someone believes bullshit, the worse they act. So long as a person’s religious beliefs affect their views on social issues, political candidates, etc., people need to care what the people around them believe and to try to convince the people with the most damaging beliefs that they are wrong.
Since all attempts at scapegoating Christians/theists are fallacious as shown above, and since atheists commit their share of crimes, then what good is atheism doing for society, and why does it matter since they say we are merely glorified pond scum?
No, actually, you’ve never proven any of that, you’ve just asserted it. I’ve shown you just how wrong you are, not that I expect you to ever read this refutation of your views, or even care if you did. Atheists, in case you’re unaware, is very under-represented among the prison population. The overwhelming majority of inmates are religious, even beyond their representation in the outside society. Last I checked, the prison population was 0.29% atheist. That’s less than 10% of their numbers outside of prison. For glorified pond scum, atheists seem to be doing a lot better than glorified dust, which is what the Bible claims man was made from. Atheism is actually doing quite a bit for society if you consider that the overwhelming majority of professional scientists are atheists, the overwhelming majority of people coming out of college are atheists, etc. I’m really wondering what you think the religious are doing for society? Not much from where I’m standing.
I’d offer to debate this individual but, unfortunately, that requires one to be rational and logical and, based on these arguments, I can’t say I’m too hopeful. This person has clearly never found out if any of the things he claims are actually true and probably doesn’t care. Doing research, asking questions and seeking evidence are too difficult and get in the way of blind faith in emotionally comforting ideas. Atheists, by and large, are not interested in emotional comfort but in demonstrable fact.
Too bad theists will never reach that point.