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MacGyverJr wrote the post Five Good Reasons for Being an Atheist (November 2, 2009) and Stan wrote a fine response. I did not intend on attempting to improve upon his but as I read his I could barely believe what were being considered to be the good reasons and just had offer a few comments.
MacGyverJr’s premise is as follows:
It’s easy to point out the flaws in a religion or a certain god, but there’s no need to remain skeptical on a god-to-god basis. Lots of reasons exist irrespective of any single religion that makes atheism palatable. So listed here are five good reasons to be an atheist:
Unfortunately, what “atheism” means is not defined. However, due to the context of the article it is clearly a positive affirmation of God’s non-existence (something which is coming back into vogue in atheist circles).
I could not agree more that “Lots of reasons exist irrespective of any single religion that makes atheism palatable.” Amongst these are that atheism is a pseudo-intellectual excuse for the emotionally driven rejection of God; it is a psychological band-aid. Also, atheism is appealing via various consoling delusions such as the delusion of absolute autonomy, the delusion of lack of ultimate accountability, the delusion of being more erudite than thou, the delusion of subjective meaning in an objectively meaningless existence, etc.
Now, let us consider the “Five Good Reasons for Being an Atheist” one by one:
1. We have not found any gods. Contrary to popular belief, lack of evidence is proof of lack of existence. Take, for example, my claim that there is a unicorn in my garage. If independent scientists came to my house and searched my garage without avail, they would conclude there is no unicorn. The same is true of gods. We have looked, but we haven’t found any, ever.
Unfortunately, the term “found” goes undefined as a methodology. Millions of people claim to have “found God”—was God lost? :o)
Lack of evidence is not necessarily proof of lack of existence. Right now, I am thinking about when, as a child, I sat eating by the sea shore when my father squeezed a lemon on his food but a stream of juice went directly into my brother’s eye. What is the evidence of this? Not only can I not provide evidence that the event occurred (you could ask them but they may have forgotten or we could have collated) but I cannot provide evidence that I was thinking about that event.
Stan provides examples of many things once considered to not being in existence only to be later discovered.
While on some level we have to be agnostics regarding flying purple people eaters on another level we do not have to be aUnicorn-ists or agnome-ist. The levels of which I speak are basically: 1) I do not believe in gnomes because their existence has not been evidenced and 2) no gnomes exist. This is like the atheist assertion to 1) merely lack a belief in god(s) and 2) asserting that god(s) does not exist.
What the “independent scientists” would do is to ask what MacGyverJr meant by reporting a “unicorn.” Is a magical mystical Invisible Pink Unicorn meant? Or, a horse with a horn?
There are many scientists, such as those who established the very fields and methods of science itself, who do claim to have searched for and found God. They have done so by drawing inferences from that which the universe and its fine tuning imply, etc. If MacGyverJr means that we move a rock or look on the dark side of the moon, point our fingers and say, “Hey, look! That’s God right over there!” then that is another issue.
Firstly, it depends on which God we are envisaging. For example, with the God implied by the universe and also reflected in the Bible we must recognize that there is no correlation between a unicorn and this—eternal and immaterial—being. Thus, if there is no unicorn, the same is true of only certain gods.
MacGyverJr needs to elucidate what would be considered finding God; what would be considered evidence of God? For example, seeking physical evidence of a non-physical being is tantamount to seeking wet evidence of a dry object.
2. There are lots of tales of gods. If you need any proof that gods are made up beings, look no further than the amount of mythology surrounding thousands of different gods. Most Christians, Muslims, and Jewish people are atheists to 99% of all the gods ever thought up. Most every agrees that all these gods, like Apollo, are made up. Nothing makes the Judeo-Christian god any more special than Zeus.
I suppose that since there are lots of tales as to how the universe came into being then the universe never came into being. Speaking for Christians; we are not “atheists to 99% of all the gods” but would be more likely to believe that these gods are fallen angels who are deceiving people (for example of this see The “Skeptic’s Annotated Bible” as a Heuristic Device). Thus, we deny that they are ontologically “gods” and thus reject them as “gods” due to them being fallen angels out to deceive: we believe in but do not worship all gods.
In any case, atheists and Christians do not reject other, respectively 100% and 99% of gods, for the same reasons. Atheists paint with a materialistic broom while Christians, being monotheists, deny the existence of any God but the one God implied by nature and expressed in the Bible. This is why it is faulty to correlate the Judeo-Christian God and Zeus.
The overall fallacy here is that since “Most every[one] agrees that all these gods…are made up” (an argument from authority) one can deny that any gods exist at all. This is an expandio ad absurdum.
3. Religion is silly. Take Christianity for example. They believe that they can turn crackers and wine into the symbolic (or real) flesh and blood of Jesus; then they eat it. Also, have you ever taken a look at what the pope wears? The Bible is full of absurdities such as condemning homosexuality but allowing servitude. Religion just doesn’t make any sense.
The fact is that something can be silly and yet, true. Subjective opinions about levels of silliness are irrelevant; this is basically an argument from personal incredulity.
Moreover, this is a non-sequitur since just because “religion” is silly does not mean that God does not exist.
Furthermore, how it is silly to symbolically turn bread and wine into flesh and blood (whatever it may mean to symbolically turn something into something else)?
But what about really claiming to do it? Now we are not speaking of “Christianity” in general but to, for example, Roman Catholicism which claims to possess the ability to transubstantiate: transform the substance of bread/wine into flesh/blood yet, under the appearance of bread/wine. Thus, their claim to a literal transformation amounts to not actually transform the substance (I tackle this issue historically, logically and biblically here).
May one argue that since some atheists believe in “silly” concepts such as a self-created universe, eternal un-cause matter, abiogenesis, etc.; therefore, atheism is false?
The Pope’s regalia is likewise 1) non-biblical, non-God ordained, nor 2) relevant to the issue of God’s existence. May one argue that since some atheists wear “silly” clothes; therefore, atheism is false?
Again, something may strike us as absurd but also be true such as that light behaves as both a particle and a wave—as Prof. Richard Lewontin wrote:
What seems absurd depends on one's prejudice. Carl Sagan accepts, as I do, the duality of light, which is at the same time wave and particle, but he thinks that the consubstantiality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost puts the mystery of the Holy Trinity "in deep trouble." Two's company, but three's a crowd.
MacGyverJr’s argument amounts to: God does not exist because “The Bible is full of absurdities such as…”
Yet, perhaps a god does exist but had nothing to do with the Bible. Now, why it is absurd to condemn homosexuality but allow servitude is something that is not elucidated; it is a politically correct emotionally charge appeal.
Firstly, any and every reasonably sane person condemns one or another form of sexual act; surely including MacGyverJr. Secondly, servitude allowed for the disadvantaged to pay off debt via working it off; this was a temporary arrangement which became null and void upon the repayment of the debt or at the year of jubilee.
As for the comment, “Religion just doesn’t make any sense”—again, just because something does not make sense to MacGyverJr does not mean that it is not true—or does not exist. Yet, I agree that all man-made religion does not make sense, is false and is the greatest obstacle to a personal relationship with God (see The Most Anti-Religion Book Ever Published).
4. Religion justifies horrible behavior. Last year in California, a proposition was put before the citizens to ban gay marriage. This was proposition 8. Who were some of the biggest donors to prop 8? The Mormons in Utah! There is no doubt that many in the United States use religion to justify their homophobia. Abroad in the Middle East, violence and bombings are all evoked in the name of Islam. Being religious is not the way to bring peace to this world.
Fighting for freedom justifies horrible behavior therefore, no one should fight for freedom.
Prop 8 opposed radically redefining marriage and thus, it is fallacious to correlate the protection of traditional marriage with homophobia. Any and every reasonably sane person condemns one or another form of marriage; surely including MacGyverJr.
The argument is that violence is justified by extremists by appealing to Islam and Mormons support traditional marriage (at least, on this side of heaven) and thus, religion is not the way to bring peace to this world. This is a non-sequitur since that some perpetrate violence in the name of “religion” does not mean that God does not exist.
Also, atheism has been used to justify horrible behavior therefore, atheism is false. In fact, since the most secular century in human history was also the bloodiest; atheism is not the way to bring peace to this world.
Lastly, consider that the “Encyclopedia of Wars” (New York: Facts on File, 2005) was compiled by nine history professors who specifically conducted research for the text for a decade in order to chronicle 1,763 wars. The survey of wars covers a time span from 8000 BC to 2003 AD. From over 10,000 years of war 123, which is 6.98 percent, are considered to have been religious wars.
See Is the Atheist Argument from Religious Violence Cogent? for further elucidation of this fallacy.
5. Prayers don’t work. I have a testable hypothesis for the existence of gods – pray for something and see if it came true. Prayer has been invoked since the dawn of humanity with no avail or proven results. Gods clearly don’t exist or don’t give a squat about human existence. Since the simplest answer is usually preferred, it’s reasonable to conclude that gods don’t exist.
This is a fallacy of not understanding the concept of prayer. Of course prayer fails when it is defined as God being a cosmic Jeeves. This view of prayer has the God at the human’s beck and call; we pray and God is somehow bound to accomplish the task to which He is put—this is iTheism.
Yet, at least form a Judeo-Christian perspective; prayer is primarily about building a personal relationship with God. Prayer’s primary purpose is therefore not to ask for stuff that we want. We pray and yet, God is sovereign and could be said to answer every pray indeed, but He can say “Yes,” “No” or “Wait.”
Also, the argumentum ad God not giving a squatum fails since, for example, sometimes my children ask for my help in performing a certain task but I, knowing better than they, know that they can accomplish the task at hand without my help. I have all the power whereby to help them but choose to not do so and I choose to not do so based on my knowledge that letting them struggle with a task that they are finally able to accomplish on their own is more beneficial to them than having me swoop in and do it for them.
At times, they ask for my help and indeed, they cannot do something without my help, in which case I help them.
At other times, I do not allow them to perform tasks which they are not physically and or mentally prepared to perform. All this and more based upon my greater knowledge and ability (for further elucidation see Atheism, EvilBible.com and Jesus Lied).
Overall, what MacGyverJr accomplished is a very clear example of the presumption of erudition, logical fallacies, and five good reasons for rejecting MacGyverJrian atheism.
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