If you are an atheist, you likely fall into one of two categories. Most of us don’t really spend a whole lot of time thinking about our atheism… we just are. In the course of our lives, we’ve determined that belief in the existence of gods is absurd. Then we file the whole issue on a mental back-shelf, unworthy of much more consideration. Many run-of-the-mill Christians on the street are the same. They usually give about as little thought about their belief as most atheists give about their lack of belief. They don’t have a well-defined worldview, and don’t much care.
On the other hand, if you’re like me, you devote a lot of mental bandwidth to the subject. You go around looking for trouble. We look forward to getting into “discussions” of atheism versus theism with (usually Christian) theists. I used quotes there because, depending on the personalities involved, what starts as a friendly chat often leads to a shouting match or something equally heated. People like me can get rather annoyed at how intrusive and judgmental religious folks can be concerning how others live their lives.
During these discussions, you can’t help but notice that those inclined to argue with atheists all have the same arsenal of talking points. The range of their arguments is pretty limited. So, we atheists end up also repeating ourselves in our rebuttals.
Religious people also tend to confuse atheism and science, claiming that a scientific principle is actually an atheistic one and vice versa. Or that science and atheism are the same thing. This article will only deal with the arguments which actually concern atheism. I’ll address some of the more absurd claims many Christians make concerning science in another post.
Below, I have assembled 10 common arguments that Christians make in their never-ending quest to save us from the fires of hell. Each absurdity is followed by my standard response when I encounter it. There are a few more than these out there, but I figured I shouldn’t get too long-winded here.
So, in no particular order, here are ten common absurdities that Christians use to annoy us… and the mostly short version of how I usually respond.
1.) Atheists have no morals.
This would be one of the more hilarious claims if it wasn’t for the unending parade of evil deeds performed in the name of their god over the span of 2000 years of Christian history. The fact that atheists don’t require a threat of eternal punishment for bad behavior, or eternal reward for good behavior, indicates that atheists are more moral than Christians. We are good for goodness’s sake. Santa Claus would be proud.
2.) Atheists are devil worshipers.
Of course, the absurdity of this statement completely escapes many Christians. For us to be devil worshipers, we first need to believe that the devil exists. Since the devil is supposedly a creation of god, he is just as imaginary as god is. It would be rather strange to worship a being that we don’t believe exists.
3) You’re just angry at god for some reason.
Again, for us to be angry at a being who we don’t believe exists… Well, that would be just plain nuts. That would be like being angry at Santa Claus because we didn’t get what we wanted for Christmas. We’ll leave that kind of nuttiness to the believers.
4.) Atheists have nothing to live for.
As Ricky Gervais said, “Um, that’s not right. We have everything to live for. Also, we have nothing to die for.” There are practically unlimited reasons for atheists to live for. For example, the love of friends and family, the smell of a pine forest in the mountains, the incredible beauty of the universe, visible by simply looking up at the sky on a dark night. The chance to do our part to save humanity and the rest of the world from the evil of religion and those who would force their beliefs upon others, under pain of death.
5.) If you don’t like Christianity, move to Iran or Saudi Arabia.
What galls many Christians is that the US Constitution guarantees the right of free speech and freedom of religion, not just for Christians, as they would prefer it, but for all Americans of all religious faiths and those with no religious faith.
6.) God allows evil to exist because of free will.
This subject is called theodicy; the attempt to explain why a supposedly all-powerful, loving and perfectly good god allows evil to exist. There are other defenses besides the “free will defense”, but most Christians haven’t been fed those arguments, so you won’t usually encounter them. As far as “free will” is concerned, it leaves much apparently gratuitous evil unexplained. For instance, when a fawn burns to death in a forest fire and no human being ever knows about it, this apparently unnecessary evil has no effect on the preservation of human free will.
7.) America is a Christian nation because the founding fathers were almost all Christians.
This is particularly annoying to those of us who pay close attention to Christian attempts to rewrite American history to favor their agenda. The founding fathers were definitely not mostly Christians. In fact, they were mostly Deists who lived during a philosophical period known as The Enlightenment. While the less philosophically-inclined citizenry of the American colonies tended toward Christianity, the Founding Fathers were not so intellectually stunted. Concepts such as tolerance and separation of church and state were worked into the Constitution because the founders were very aware of the destructive nature of government controlled by a state-sponsored religion.
8.) The evidence for god is everywhere. Look at the complexity and perfection around you.
This can be either the Argument from Complexity or The Argument from Ignorance. The claim here is that because they don’t know how existence came to be, it must have been created by a god. They conveniently ignore the fact that, over the last several centuries, science has found some of the answers to that question, and continues to look for more answers. Believers would prefer that seekers of scientific truth would just shut up and let them continue to be comfortably unaware of where the Sun goes at night, and believe there is a man in the sky who will protect them, even after death.
9.) I’d rather believe and be wrong than not believe and be wrong. If I’m wrong, then there are no eternal consequences. If you’re wrong, you’ll suffer for eternity.
This is referred to as Pascal’s Wager. My usual response to this is to ask, “Okay, how do you know that we’re not both wrong? There are thousands of religions which worship thousands of usually mutually exclusive gods. They can’t all be right (But they CAN all be wrong). What if the real One True god is The Great Juju Up The Mountain, and he’s angry that so many people worship a minor Middle Eastern war god instead of him?”
10.) The world is only 6000 years old because that’s what the bible says.
The bible makes no mention of the age of the world. The 6000 years claim is based on a calculation made by Bishop James Ussher, back in the mid-17th century. He added up the ages of the people listed in various genealogies in the bible, including those very exciting “Begats” chapters of the book of 1 Chronicles, from Jesus back to Adam. According to Ussher, the world was created on October 23rd, 4004 BC… at lunchtime. Of course, modern biblical scholars no longer consider Ussher’s calculation to be anywhere close to accurate. But, that doesn’t stop the biblical literalists from continuing to erroneously use that calculation as “evidence” for their claim that their god literally created the universe in six days.
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