The Silliest 8 Things of Atheism in 2016.

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I know it isn’t quite the end of the year yet, after all the malls haven’t been assaulted by pag… I mean Christmas decorations (are atheists already chanting “pagan” before the festive season has even commenced?). However, bad jokes aside, I don’t want this list to give the impression that I somehow hope for atheists to mess up and then write about it. That would be quite unChristian like of me, and I am not that sort of person who wishes to capitalize on others’ misfortune. After all, I love people which means I love atheists too. But what I do want to do is to counter some of the many false claims, and just some of the really silly things, that atheists have made this year. I also don’t pretend that Christians do that much better either; in fact, I could probably make a list double this length of really silly things Christians have said/done (but that’s for another time). I also don’t want to give the impression that this list applies to all atheists out there, because it doesn’t in the same way not all Christians believe dinosaurs were really on Noah’s ark. Nonetheless, here is my list:

1. Reason Rally (Silly Reason: Expecting and claiming too much)

The Reason Rally was expected to be something really big. It’s meant to be one of the central atheist gathering show pieces of the year. However, it turned out to be a major flop given what was expected.  They expected 30 000 attendees but probably got 5000 (that’s a generous estimate); they expected to raise $100 000 but failed to hit a quarter of that ($24 834, 81); onstage equipment gave them issues, and so on. This is silly, and embarrassing for them, because atheist writers are so vocal about how quickly their numbers are growing and how quickly they are relieving the world of its religious delusions, but when they try and organise a gathering nearly no-one pitches up. I think most people just don’t care (after all, more people seem to pitch up for a schoolboy rugby match where I live with half the publicity, half the funding and so on).

2. Atheists are Freethinkers (Silly Reason: Because there is no such thing as a “freethinker”).

This always makes the list because it is so overtly naïve (atheists should really avoid defining themselves in this way). Essentially what the atheist is arguing is that he is a freethinker because he has released himself from the clutches of religious belief. However, as soon as someone doesn’t agree with him, or think like him, then she is no longer a freethinker. So is the atheist even a freethinker in the first place? To answer, no, he isn’t simply because he has just adopted another non-religious dogmatic worldview. The atheist is just as shrouded in dogma as is the most ardent Christian/religious believer. And since everyone has a belief it is not possible to ever be a “freethinker” in terms of operating without at least one belief.

One could go on about how a naturalistic worldview undercuts the freethinker concept due to the atheist’s inability to ground his rationality. After all, on atheism, what we take for a “rational thought” is no more than electrochemical frizzling in our brains. Also remember that on the atheist’s worldview our thoughts are wholly deterministic. In other words, “free-thinking” would be illusory as our thoughts, actions, and dreams are solely determined by genetics, background, and environment. Not much room for any freethinking in there.

3. Only Gays, Buddhists, Agnostics and Atheists Allowed! (Silly Reason: Uhm, why?)

Around April this year an atheist “shotgunner” as I like to call them, Jason Mevin, argued rather viciously although he didn’t convince me much. According to Mevin I am not allowed to use Facebook because it, as he said, “was created by an atheist (Mark Zuckerberg) or a pair of atheists (Larry Page and Sergey Brin), using an OS created by a Buddhist (Steve Jobs), or an agnostic (Bill Gates), or an atheist (Linus Torvaids) that is executed through hardware based on the work of a homosexual atheist (Alan Turing).”

So apparently only gays, atheists, agnostics and Buddhists can use Facebook and computers nowadays. Probably wouldn’t total to an impressive number of active users (Facebook might just go bankrupt). Only thing Mr. Mevin overlooked was that it was a Christian, Charles Babbage, who designed the first mechanical computer. He can try and factor that into his argument.

4. “I’m an agnostic atheist!” (Silly Reason: Because you can’t hold to two exclusive worldviews at the same time).

In a recent debate I had with the Dutch Atheist he made the following remark, “It is important to clarify our position here: we are agnostic atheists.”

This is a common claim by atheists; the ones that copy the one liners from other atheists who copy from other atheists who copy from other atheists who copied the one liner from Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion. But as I pointed out is that atheism and agnosticism are not the same worldviews. Atheists affirm the non-existence of God whereas agnostics tend to sit on the fence. That’s the way it has traditionally been defined and it’s the definition supported by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the vast majority of encyclopaedias, and so on. They are mutually exclusive.

Maybe someday I will redefine myself as being an atheist Christian. I can’t you say? I know!

5. “Atheism is Not a Belief.” (Silly Reason: Because it is).

We could say a lot here but saying one’s worldview is “not a belief” is essentially to have at least one belief: the belief that one’s worldview is not a belief… after all, I am pretty sure he believes it.

6. “Philosophy isn’t evidence!” (Silly Reason: Because the atheist proposing has a philosophy).

This is another line from my debate; he says, “Philosophical notions or metaphysics at best and thus present us with no evidence at all.”

It was very hard not to pounce on this one. Why? Because this atheist is a philosophical naturalist… Naturalism is itself a philosophical system of thought that draws conclusions about the natural world that goes beyond the available empirical evidence. The naturalist assumes that God does not exist but, as he knows, he cannot prove it. He assumes that objective moral values do not exist though he cannot prove that either. He assumes that a physical world of objects exists externally to his own mind which is an unprovable metaphysical assumption that he, and the rest of us (unless we’re solipsists), think is a reasonable belief. The point is that not only can’t this atheist help but to actually engage in philosophy but his entire atheism is underpinned by a philosophical system of beliefs. In other words, to say that philosophical and metaphysical “present us with no evidence at all” is effectively to attack one’s own atheism! It’s like me saying Jesus’ deity and resurrection “presents us with no evidence at all  that Christianity is true.

7. “Follow the evidence until…” (Silly Reason: Because you’re not really following the evidence).

This one didn’t exactly take place in 2016 but I find out about it in 2016, and want to include it anyway. Lawrence Krauss, a well-known atheist scientist, rightly says that being “Open minded means conforming to the evidence of reality whether or not we like the implications.”

That’s fair, we can grant him that. After all, that would be a good rule of thumb because we should be obligated to follow the evidence where it leads. However, a little later he concedes, “I can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but I’d much rather live in a universe without one.”

So what is it? Should we follow the evidence where it leads or not? Or should we follow the evidence until it conflicts with our hope of an outcome and then dismiss it? If evidence suggests that it is improbable that God exists then we should all become atheists; however, if evidence suggests that it is probable that God exists then we should all become theists (thankfully the evidence is in the affirmative). After all, Krauss would agree… until something pops up that he would “much rather” not have popped up. One thing I’ve learnt is that atheists like Dawkins, Harris, Krauss etc. espouse bundles contradictions. They say one thing one minute and an entirely contradictory thing the next… very common.

8. “We’re friendly and we won’t offend you, but we’ll blaspheme your religion just for the fun of it.” (Silly Reason: Because deliberately blaspheming someone’s religion is insulting.)

I did a brief review of Blasphemy Day recently, and much like the Reason Rally, no-one really cares too much about it; after all, it is scarcely known. However, according to Justin Trottier, a coordinator of Blasphemy Day, they are “not seeking to offend, but if in the course of dialogue and debate, people become offended, that’s not an issue for us.”

As I pointed out in the review most people would agree that there is a line that generally shouldn’t be crossed in civil dialogue. And I think deliberately insulting the beliefs of people might cross that line. However, that is not me saying that we need to respect the false beliefs held by people because we have the right, as well as the intellectual obligation, to critique false beliefs; that is why I critique atheism. However, we should remember that false beliefs are held by people and, as mom repeatedly told me (or rather raised her voice), it is preferable maybe not to call them names while trying to convince them they’re wrong about something? I soon deduced that this was just common sense without my mom having to tell me.

So, saying Blasphemy Day is a day that’s “not seeking to offend” and a day hoping to nurture “dialogue and debate” won’t tend to go down too well with a Christian when an attendee has hung up a painting of the Last Supper with Jesus portrayed as Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck? Or maybe dialogue with a Muslim might be possible if you’re not painting a naked Muhammad who looks a tad too white for comfort? Again, just good old common sense.

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9 responses to “The Silliest 8 Things of Atheism in 2016.

  1. I’m 55 years old; I turn 56 this month. For more than half of my life, I’ve identified as an atheist. Would you surprise you to know that I agree with most of this post (especially no. 5)?

    However, I do have a few quibbles, which I’ll address below.

    No. 2: A freethinker is defined more by what he rejects than by what he embraces. The Oxford online dictionary defines freethinker as, “A person who rejects accepted opinions, especially those concerning religious belief.” So I don’t think that it is necessarily correct to disassociate atheists from from freethinkers.

    No. 3: This isn’t a quibble; Melvin’s argument is indeed ridiculous.

    No. 4: A person who calls himself an agnostic atheist is merely distinguishing himself from those atheists who declare they _know_ that gods don’t exist. The agnostic atheist doesn’t _believe_ that gods exist, but he feels it is important to acknowledge — even if only for reasons of intellectual honesty — that he might be wrong. When I was still a new atheist (not be be confused with the New Atheists), there were many “strong” atheists. I like to make my separation from them explicit.

    No. 7: Lawrence Krauss’s apparent hypocrisy aside, it is possible for two honest, rational people to follow the same evidence and arrive at different conclusions.

    No. 8: Again, not a quibble. Blasphemy Day is embarrassingly juvenile.

      • That’s a hard question to answer.

        The longer I was a Christian, the less it seemed likely to be true. I’ve always been someone who needed to believe things more with his brain than with his heart, and I stopped believing it with my brain.

        Every day, the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection started to seem more like a narrative than truth. One day I was praying at church, and I realized that I no longer believed in the God to whom I was praying. It was literally that instantaneous.

        I capitalized the word ‘God’ above because I do mean specifically the god of Judeo-Christianity and Islam. I didn’t stop believing in the possible existence of gods (I still haven’t). But the god of Hebrew and Christian scripture and of the Quran suddenly lacked verisimilitude.

        There’s more, but that’s the gist of it.

        • Would you disagree with me if I said there were good evidential reasons for believing in the actual resurrection itself? If we had to put all the hypotheses before us on the table, would you identify one as being more persuasive than the resurrection hypothesis?

          • I wouldn’t disagree with you, per se, in that I would accept that you perceive good evidential reasons for believing in the literal resurrection, and I wouldn’t think that you were irrational for believing them.

            I would probably conclude that your standards of evidence are different than mine, and I wouldn’t arrive at that conclusion with any negative baggage. Every single one of us believe things that seem reasonable to themselves — yet not to others — and vice versa.

            I am probably already familiar with all of the evidence that has persuaded you to believe – I’ve been having this dialogue for many years. But that doesn’t mean that I am unwilling to hear it again, as long as you understand that my responses are likely to be in the skeptical (though not dismissive) vein.

            • That’s fair enough, Chas. It’s nice that you are willing to engage others with whom you disagree, and do so in a cordial manner.

              I would like for you to propose your non-resurrection hypothesis that you believe clinches it for you, since you say your are familiar with the evidence that has persuaded me.

              Additionally, if Jesus was resurrected from the dead, would you agree that that proves Christianity is true and that God exists?

              • I’m going to answer your questions in reverse.

                If Jesus were resurrected from the dead, would it prove to me that Christianity was true and that God existed?

                Yes. The resurrection of Jesus does not, in itself, automatically entail the truth of any of the claims of Christianity, nor the existence of God, but I know that I would accept it that way. It would take a particularly tortured form of sophistry to arrive at any other conclusion.

                As for proposing a non-resurrection hypothesis that clinches it for me, I don’t have a simple answer, so please bear with me.

                History is something that historians create. It is a reconstruction of past events formed from available evidence. This necessitates, for me, a top-down versus a bottoms-up approach when examining historical claims.

                The historical claim that we are examining here is straightforward: Was Jesus raised from the dead?

                So the first question I ask myself is this: In modern times, how many people does medicine affirm have been resurrected?

                I’ve read Keener’s Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, and the answer, while not conclusive, seems to be, “no one at all.”

                I’m not suggesting that none have been resuscitated. Literal millions have. But resuscitation and resurrection are not the same thing, and the occurrence of the former does not demand the occurrence of the latter.

                In other words, if the universe functioned yesterday in the same manner that it does today, then the occurrence of resurrections in the pre-modern world would be an extremely unlikely event.

                Not impossible, but understand that I can’t logically explain this miracle as an act of God when belief in this God is contingent upon proving that Jesus was resurrected.

                As for the evidence of the resurrection, we have contemporaneous and non-contemporaneous sources. I don’t care about the non-contemporaneous sources. Non-contemporaneous sources do count as evidence, but they don’t, for me, add enough weight to contribute even fractionally as proof.

                Ten million non-eyewitness Tweets regurgitating the same information don’t add anything, either.

                As for contemporaneous sources, how many sources do we actually have? Do the four gospels really count as four separate pieces of evidence? What about the epistles of Paul? Do we have five separate contemporaneous sources, then? Were any of these sources legitimately eyewitnesses? Historians can’t decide.

                Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, J. Warner Wallace, Gary R. Habermas and Michael Licona – all of them have written extensively on this subject, and all of them have done their jobs well. But how much of it is not circumstantial? And how much of it makes assumptions that cannot be warranted based on what we actually know of human nature?

                I’m sure you know their arguments; I don’t need to itemize them here. But I can address most of them by pointing out a few human truths.

                People have always believed uncomfortable things. Beliefs that put them in danger or made them martyrs. There have been Buddhist martyrs and Baha’i martyrs and Hindu martyrs and Muslim martyrs and Sikh martyrs and Jewish martyrs. Heaven’s Gate was a cult whose adherents castrated themselves and then committed suicide when the spacecraft following behind Hale–Bopp comet failed to appear. The Millerites sold their belongings and stood on a hilltop waiting for an apocalypse that didn’t come. Hong Xiuquan, the founder of the God Worshipping Society, led 20 to 70 million of his followers to their deaths.

                Hypothesizing how or why religious movements began, or the motivation of early adopters, isn’t useful in determining the truthfulness of those faiths.

                Hence, it isn’t useful in determining the truth of the resurrection.

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