Atheism and Religious Beliefs Are NOT And Never Will Be On The Same Page

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In some recent conversations, including the comment dialogue on my recent “tips for atheists” post, I have come face to face with what I call the “Stalemate” Meme. This is the argument believers make that points of view supporting religious belief have just as much merit as points of view supporting atheist worldviews. The implication, of course, is that if atheists expect respect for what they “believe,” they should offer the same respect for what believers believe.

This is a fallacy, and when people say it, it reveals that they do not understand atheism. Since today is International Blasphemy Day, I thought I would outline (without being smug, hardy har) exactly why, contrary to popular belief (hardy har), atheists are right and believers never will be.

Yeah, that’s right. I said it. Here’s the distinction: the only way a religious belief is true is if a person believes it. Right? Believers admit as much: you gotta have faith. But notice this striking difference. The general tenets of atheism will always be true no matter who believes what. They are not open to interpretation, they don’t rely on intense theology. They are simple facts.

Let’s take a look at them!

There is no and never has been any evidence whatsoever supporting the existence of a supernatural entity.

Yes, this is a fact. Like all scientific theories, it only takes one piece of contrary evidence to change how we think about things, but there is no such evidence for any supernatural entity. If you believe in a supernatural entity, your belief is your only proof, and that isn’t enough. Do you know why?

There is no burden of proof for a negative.

See, atheists don’t have to make an argument against God or Vishnu or Zeus. We couldn’t if we wanted to, but we don’t have to. We don’t have to prove there aren’t unicorns or a Flying Spaghetti Monster, either. None of them exist. An argument against a supernatural entity is solid, and an argument for one is baseless. Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s address another one.

There is no and never has been any evidence to support the assumption that people should believe in a supernatural entity.

I get so tired of hearing believers talk about how great it is to believe. “It’s not easy, you have to have courage to have faith.” That’s not courage, my friends. It’s ignorance. But they insist! “You lose nothing by believing. You should believe anyway, just because. What’s the harm?” Actually, my intellectual integrity would be on the line. My susceptibility to stupid ideas would be on the line. I call this the “Just Because” meme, and it’s a total crock. Keep telling yourselves that this is meaningful, but you’re really just conforming to peer pressure.

Now, let’s hammer home just how much higher the burden of proof is for believers.

It is impossible to concretely define the parameters of a supernatural entity.

I don’t think any two Christians could ever 100% agree on how to define God. Who is he? What does he look like? What does he want from humanity? What is his personality? What pleases him? What angers him? What can he do? What does he do? To what extent does he care? How is his power measured? Let’s add some Jews and Muslims to the discussion and see how the conversation changes, even though they all believe in the same Abrahamic God. Heaven forbid (hardy har) we add a couple million Hindus to the debate.

Who is right? If God exists, he is what he is and nothing else, or in the Hindus’ case, they are what they are. It’s not a very convincing argument to expect respect for beliefs when nobody can agree on what to believe. It’s pretty tough to call that “truth,” especially when we atheists don’t have to prove anything for our truth to be true. (Am I sounding smug yet? It doesn’t change the fact that I’m right.)

The existence of any supernatural entity would have to, by any definition, be more improbable than any theory currently being explored by science.

It doesn’t matter how complicated you think evolution or the Big Bang would be, the existence of something that could cause something that improbable would have to be exponentially less probable. (Go read The God Delusion.) That’s why we think you sound stupid whenever you attack scientific theories. This is how that conversation goes:

Believer: “You think all of this could just happen??”
Atheist: “Well, it did, so yeah.”
Believer: “No, it’s too much. Something else must have been responsible.”
Atheist: “And something else that could be responsible isn’t too much?”
Believer “No, God is eternal. Bullshit bullshit bullshit, propaganda propaganda propaganda…”

Sorry, it’s Blasphemy Day, I’m not feeling very censored.

When you think of it, every time believers use God to explain anything, they are making atheists’ case for us. And not to sound redundant, but think about it. Yeah, “it’s hard to believe in God,” but that’s exactly why you shouldn’t. Believing in God isn’t the opposite of believing in science. Science requires NO belief. It’s our best explanations of what we know under concrete definitions and testable conditions. Belief warrants no admiration; it’s offensive. “Yeah? All that stuff we know? It’s not good enough. I’m going to pursue all this made-up stuff because it makes more sense to me.” Then open a science textbook and get a tutor.

Belief will never have the same merit as nonbelief.

Believers will always say, “these issues are so complex, we have to respect each other while we explore them and figure them out.” You can never figure something out that can’t be figured out, so stop trying. We atheists have figured it out. (Reread the post.)

If you’re tired of arguing with atheists, try thinking about what they say. And if I’m smug for making this argument, get over yourself. Belief might make you feel good, but if being wrong doesn’t, there is an easy way to fix that.

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There are 5 Comments to "Atheism and Religious Beliefs Are NOT And Never Will Be On The Same Page"

  • thatguy says:

    I have one nitpicky comment. We can make argument against specific gods. Say a god violates the laws of physics or logic. Then we can make an argument against it.
    Thank you,
    thatguy

  • ZackFord says:

    Oh for sure. We just can’t “disprove” a supernatural entity.

  • studentaffairsdarling says:

    I admire your straightforward confidence. This is a sensitive subject, but you clearly know where you stand, well done.

  • UNRR says:

    This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 10/01/2009, at The Unreligious Right

  • Flourishing_bloom says:

    The fact is that all positive claims of knowing that something does not exist need arguments, they can not be assumed just because of the absence of evidences.

    This would hold true for all popular examples of the new atheists: there is almost certainly no teapot around Mars because teapots are the product of intelligent human beings and no man has been ever there, a Spaguetti monster could not exist because Spaguettis are a recent human (delecious) invention, they are an inert stuff which could not possibly have the properties we associate we life.
    If unicorns existed on the earth, after all the knowledge we have accumulated over the centuries, they should have let evidences like bone remains.

    Now, they are many things about which we have no evidence at all that could well exist: unicorns on an other planet somewhere in our vast universe, intelligent beings looking like lizards, a paralell universe with laws radically differing from our owns and I could imagine lots of further examples.

    Certainly, everyone claiming we can be pretty sure none of these things exists would look completely silly, at least to my mind.

    Defined as an intelligence at the origin of all things, God is not improbable as the three popular icons of atheism: his existence would be compatible with all our knowledge, and many very clever folks like Albert Einstein would be led to believe that there is an intelligence being the universe transcending our universe.

    In fact, the three most virulent horsemen of theism, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchen, each recognize that it is very likely there exists a whole reality beyond our understanding conditioned by a biological evolution only caring for useful beliefs.

    Nevertheless, they would go on to argue that the primitive, anthropomorphic God given by the Coran and Bible is entirely at odd with the wonderful things we may observe in the cosmos.

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