When I discussed the fallacy in religious arguments that claim atheism is a form of belief, I really did not try hard to dismantle the false assertions of the faithful. My intention was simple: to give a quick and uncomplicated take on the whole affair.
Since then, as I should have expected, I’ve received some rather spittle-filled e-mails telling me how wrong I am and that being an atheist is being a believer… a believer that there are no gods. How it all tickles me so!
Most of the arguments fall along the lines of expounding faith in a negative. That is, most people argue that the question of deities has always and is still one of believing either for or against the premise. If you have faith, you believe in some mystical, hoodoo-voodoo wielding, eye-in-the-sky being who’s got nothing better to do than meddle and victimize. If you don’t believe, then you believe anyway, except you believe a negative—that there is no omnipotent busybody hanging out in the clouds passing judgment on people for no good reason and inciting intolerance and hate under the guise of love and compassion.
What malarkey! What balderdash!
Since I’m so fond of using it, let’s once again delve into reductio ad absurdum to analyze that reasoning.
The logic used says someone who claims there is not or probably is not a god is as much a believer as the person who says there is a god. Okay, let’s go with that.
Using the same logic (not believing in something is actually believing in something), we can say this: Not being a coin collector is a hobby. Not being a murderer is a crime. Not sharing your home makes you a roommate. Not being tolerant makes you inclusive.
Dare I go on?
It’s silly to say not believing in something is a belief unto itself. To illustrate the point, let’s consider a different perspective.
Do you think there are monsters in your closet? You can’t prove it either way, right? I mean, no one can. Does not believing in them make you a believer nonetheless? You must believe the negative if you don’t believe the positive assertion, right?
And there’s one further place to take this.
You have to be a believer to think the sun will rise tomorrow. You can’t be absolutely certain it will. No one can. No scientist can claim it’s an absolute. Why? Because any number of events could take place between now and then, phenomena capable of forever changing the orbit of our planet or the status of our star, happenings that would prohibit the sunrise from ever being seen again.
Perhaps Earth will tilt on its axis such that one pole or another permanently faces the sun while the rest of the planet languishes in eternal darkness. Perhaps our star will suddenly go nova or supernova, or will just fade in an hour’s time to a smoldering cinder, a shadow of its once bright greatness. Perhaps a rogue asteroid or comet will lunge out of the darkness of space, a predator leaping from the deep recesses of our fears to push us out of orbit and hide the light of day forevermore.
You don’t know any of those things won’t happen today, tonight, or even tomorrow. Therefore, you’re a believer to assume the sun will come up tomorrow morning just as it has for billions of years.
So are you a believer when you say the sun will climb above the horizon tomorrow just as it did today? Or are you just playing the odds, seeing how inconsequential the chances are that it won’t? It’s obviously a safe bet to say it will.
Likewise, atheism is a safe bet on the odds. It’s not a belief; it’s a critical, reasonable view of the evidence.
But to take the conversation further, I also want to touch on the idea of atheism. That is, I want to express a bit of clarification on what I think.
One of the most impossible endeavors is the attempt to prove a negative. With that in mind, I do not claim that there absolutely is no chance for the existence of one or more deities. What I do claim is that there is such a low probability of such a thing being true that the premise can be disregarded entirely. I also claim that all present incarnations of belief rely heavily on hatred and intolerance, on selfish endeavors in the name of compassion, and on vitriolic texts written by men in attempts to control humanity.
Whether or not any gods exist can be debated ad nauseam, until the cows come home, and while waiting for pigs to fly. It makes little difference. The only absolute knowledge about that question stems from blind faith either for or against, neither of which I have. What I do have is a critical mind that sees dogma as dangerous, religion as refutable, and belief as bereft of value.
For those who believe in a deity or deities, I challenge you to show me why. Prove that your faith is sound.
Don’t point out the window and tell me to behold the splendor of creation. That’s nonsense.
First, it’s a mess, a bungled menagerie of broken and weak components too likely to fail for anyone to claim it was designed by some omnipotent, omniscient being. If that’s the case, your god’s an inept fool who couldn’t find its way out of a wet paper bag. Hell, I could do better than this. What about making bones so they don’t break? And what about doing away with disease? And what about making the weather just right to support comfort and continual crops?
Second, science has done a wonderful job of explaining the cosmos without mysticism and magic. Evolution shows us clearly, and with evidence, precisely where life came from, how it developed, and why we see what we see. Geology tells us how mountains form, how valleys form, how continents form, and what makes volcanoes go boom and what makes lava flow and what makes tidal waves possible. Astronomy tells us why the sun rises, the steps necessary to make a planet, where the stars come from and what happens when they die. Cosmology shows how galaxies form and that the universe is so large and vast as to be near unimaginable. And the list goes on. Processes have been identified that explain all of what you’re pointing at, so that’s just a cheap excuse. You’ll have to do better.
Don’t claim that each morning when you wake up and take a breath, or every football game you win, or every person who overcomes cancer… Don’t claim any of that is a miracle and proof of some god. Doing so is insulting. How many children die each day from hunger and disease? How many adults? How many species of life have been forever wiped from the face of the planet? And how many people languish with ailments and illnesses for which there are no cures? You call those things miracles? Hardly. It’s offensive to think someone gets up in the morning and says it’s a miracle they’re alive while so many suffer and die needlessly each year. What makes you so special and all the others disposable?
Don’t give me any of that claptrap. I’m asking you to show me definitive proof that your god or gods exist. Using the normal activities of life on this planet as evidence is silly, senseless, and stupid.
Show me why you believe without referencing explainable or challengeable evidence. Give me something that can’t be questioned.
Huh? I’m listening. Anyone? Hello?
I thought as much. You see, faith is blind, meaningless belief. Lacking the same is not a belief. It’s common sense. It’s logic. It’s reason.
So get off me about atheism being a belief, a religion unto itself. It’s not. It’s using our human capacity to analyze the evidence, understand the statistics, extrapolate probabilities, and arrive at a logical conclusion.