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Why Atheism is Stupid, Redux

Okay, so I’ve noticed quite a few responses as of late regarding my original “Why atheism is stupid” post from almost 2 years ago, and since I originally posted it, I’ve come to some realizations, did more studying, and in general revisited my original thesis.

First, let me just say: I originally posted that entry in direct response to a lot of antagonism coming towards religious people from the atheist crowd. Places like Digg, or really any online community populated by techy folks, are rather hostile to anyone who professes any sort of belief in anything supernatural.
The post wasn’t meant to indicate that anyone who is an atheist is stupid. More or less that I found the belief stupid.
I think I was a bit angrier back then, and I reacted negatively towards the general hostility towards my faith.

But looking back, my argument was pretty flawed, and a few of the commenters caught wind of it before I did. While the principle is *technically* true, it’s pretty tautological.
To say that there is no definitive proof against the supernatural doesn’t prove it either. Also, the side making the positive assertion always bears the burden of proof.
It doesn’t fall on atheists to prove that God doesn’t exist. However, I think the part I struggle with, and the part I reacted to in the other post is that so many atheists DO try to prove He doesn’t exist.

I can totally understand a call to clear, rational thinking free from superstition. In fact, I applaud it.
But what I was arguing was, and perhaps this is a bit more what I mean: dogmatic assertions of God’s non-existence is stupid.

I can understand arguments against poor logic, I can understand arguments against improper methods of reaching a conclusion, and against illogical extrapolations off of data.
But there are some people who seem to have a vested emotional interest in proving that God does not exist.

While not evidence in and of itself, it seems striking to me that atheists would cast as fools and morons the vast majority of the human population, spanning through time, across multiple and very different cultures and beliefs.

Some would argue that it’s a human flaw, and that the reason it’s flawed is because of the way that humans brains are wired, and how they perceive the world. That when a human being sees a coincidence, they will most likely assign that coincidence to the act of something supernatural.

But really, the only way to know for sure if that’s true is to have a definitive knowledge that the world is in fact purely materialistic. It’s just as likely that the same characteristic that most human beings have shared throughout time, and the one that atheists do not seem to share is the same as how most people can see the world in color, but there are a few exceptions that do not have that ability.

That I guess is where the faith side comes in. For a scientist to say that the only part of the measurable world is the part that is measurable is pointless to say. But when scientists, and philosophers step out of that and say that the only part of the entirety of existence is the measurable world, it takes a leap of faith since neither of us know for sure.

But then what about the side where atheists are just atheists because of lack of evidence, and not dogmatic atheists.
And there I think there can be honest, real dialogue and disagreement.

I happen to believe in the existence of God for quite a few reasons, but one of them is that everyone believes in the existence of something eternal and self-existent. Materialist’s just happen to believe that it’s the universe itself.
That to me goes against our logic. Everything in the universe has a first cause. Everything originally comes from somewhere.

It seems to me then that the first action must have a first cause, and that first cause would have to be outside of the nature of reality because that would be the only way to escape the principle of first causes.

I know this argument has been hashed out before, by folks much smarter than me. But I have yet to see a compelling argument against that one.

One thing, though, that I have learned since my original post: angry diatribes accomplish little to convince either side. The only way to truly discuss this is not with insults hurled, ad-hominem attacks, or immature statements designed to insult and degrade the other side. The only way that has any effect is to discuss it politely, lovingly and respectfully.

And I, of all people, should have known that.

9 comments to “Why Atheism is Stupid, Redux”

  1. Linda Taylor
    01

    I am leaving my comment because I appreciate the tone and content of this post. I don’t know you, Nate, but I too believe in God. I have become resentful as I peruse the Web and notice the personal attacks against people that believe in God, specifically Christianity (although not the only religion attacked, to be sure), until I notice how horrible some of the Christians sound that respond to these personal attacks! I guess I understand the feeling of being picked on, but I wish that Christians would stop and think before they type out their angry responses. We are representin’, so to speak! We need to keep in mind that while we are driving around and shaking our proverbial fists at people, they are noticing the “Jesus loves you” sticker on our car! I didn’t read your previous post, btw, but I appreciate your humility. Thanks.

  2. Jon Reiland
    02

    Hey Nate, just wanted to comment and give you my 2 cents. I am an atheist, at least if somebody asked me what my religious beliefs were that’s what I would answer. When you said that atheists who claim without a shadow of a doubt that god doesn’t exist are stupid then I would have to completely agree with. My reason for being an atheist is that I see no reason why there should 100% be a god. I feel that the burden of proof relies on the person with faith in whatever god (Yahweh, Allah, Thor, Zeus, etc.) to prove that a god exists. You’ve also said that everything in our universe has a first cause, that something outside of it has to cause it to exist, and I would agree with you. If you say that god is the one who caused everything to happen then what caused god to exist. When you say that the force that created the known universe had to exist outside of it why do you jump to something that is supernatural? Why can it not just be other natural dimension?

  3. Man
    03

    The problem with Atheism is that if there is a god, then punishment is obvious. Another problem is that Atheists do not understand all religions, but only understand the one they left. Those born into Atheism never study another religion and do not understand any of them. This way stereotypes of religions are born and religious people are persecuted for being “idiots” and “conservatives.”

    Here is my religion analysis:
    Eastern religions must be wrong because the universe did have a beginning due to scientific observation. Trinaritary Christianity must be wrong because older Bibles never even reference it, an explicit statement > implicit statement, and older Christians believed 1 in 1 God. Avant-garde religions are also false for obvious reasons (just look at doctrine–Pastafarianism? Scientology?)

    Therefore, this is how I see it: Judaism, Unitary Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, or Atheism must be true. Or, of course, there is a different deity who never contacted us earthlings.

    I believed in Christianity my entire life, then converted to Judaism, then Buddhism, then Hinduism, then Zoroastrianism, then Atheism, and finally Islam. When I go into a religion, I try to LEARN everything about it.

  4. kalli
    04

    Atheism is stupid. its an excuse for people to be lazy and disregaurd the higher power (God) that their mind cant comprehend. :)

  5. jontsai
    05

    Only 2 options are possible.

    1) There does not exist any true god -> Where did we come from? No answer.
    2) There is only one true God -> If this God created the entire universe, then God sets the rules.

    Option 3) which some people would like there to be, there are multiple true gods, is not possible. god A says only god A is true, all other gods are false. god B says only god B is true, all other gods are false. Can’t have god A and god B.

  6. Mark
    06

    I lost what little faith I had in a higher power many years ago. Not necessarily because of any disbelief or lack of proof.. but simply because if there is a God… I willfully choose to turn my back on Him as a show of disappointment with the job he’s doing.

  7. Julian
    07

    “It seems to me then that the first action must have a first cause, and that first cause would have to be outside of the nature of reality because that would be the only way to escape the principle of first causes.”

    Nate – this argument must equally apply to the supernatural realm you postulate. By your logic, the god(s) of this supernatural realm must ask themselves how it is they can rule out that an undetectable super-supernatural realm exists which in fact caused their supernatural realm to be. Of course this goes ad-infinitum and the so the argument that there ‘must be’ some unperceivable realm external to whatever current realm a being finds themselves in explains nothing.
    Put a slightly different way..if you’re suspicious of mere earthly atheism.. what possible justification is there for your god to be an atheist and assume He/She/It does not have meta-gods?

    It simply won’t do to plead ‘outside of time’ as a special property of some particular supernatural realm if you’re then going to claim that beings in this supernatural realm interact with reality not only through the *event* of creating it, but through various other interactions and monitorings as pretty much every religion claims. I might just as well claim the super-supernatural realm is a fabric ‘outside of and above the timelessness’ of the supernatural and yet designed and ’caused’ it.
    It is not logically valid to claim that an *event-triggering* supernatural realm doesn’t require a cause yet the natural one does. It’s a non-solution to the question of ‘but what happened before that?’ and it certainly doesn’t answer the question of how a vast calculating intelligence can arise.. whereas, back in reality – we can and do begin to understand how biological and machine intelligences arise from non-intelligent beginnings.

  8. Lisa
    08

    I realize this is an old thread–I didn’t read it all–just hoping to give Nate something more to think about. My mother had Alzheimer’s and it was my job (and honor) to take care of her. I knew that I would most likely see the day she would pass and I felt unprepared, so I used the situation in my college writing class as the subject of my semester research paper that year. I titled my paper “Can I Help You Die?” During my scholarly research I discovered an extremely involved dissertation (or at least I think it was a dissertation). Although its subject is based around the concept of “afterlife,” I think it can basically be applied to concepts about God as well (or that “supreme” self-existence outside of ourselves. Whatever anyone wants to call it). In any event, I think you might find it interesting in helping you prove your point with some scientific research that is difficult for anyone to dispute. The following is my annotated bibliography of it:

    Bering, Jesse M. “Intuitive Conceptions of Dead Agents; Minds: The Natural Foundations of
    Afterlife Beliefs as Phenomenological Boundary.” Journal of Cognition and Culture 2.4 (2002): 263-308. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Helmke Lib., Indiana State U. 1 Nov. 2009
    This author, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Arkansas with a Ph.D. in Religion and Evolutionary Psychology, did a study to explore where the belief in afterlife comes from. Written for students of psychology, the author’s report discuses that his discoveries prove afterlife beliefs (of the variety in his report) to be more or less innate, rather than stories handed down socially. Incorporating other studies that prove the existence of innate knowledge, the author has discovered adults revert to what they have learned rather than to innate knowledge. This study, partially funded with a dissertation grant, does not state it is a dissertation.

    In case you can’t find it, or just want a more simplistic version of the study, here is some of what I wrote about it in my research paper:

    Jesse M. Bering of the University of Arkansas’ Department of Psychology did a study to explore where the belief in afterlife comes from. Interestingly, Bering’s discoveries prove afterlife beliefs to be more or less innate, rather than just to be stories passed down socially (292-293). In his report, Bering points out that “Cognitive developmentalists have long speculated on innate knowledge in human ontogeny” and he cites research that shows various forms of implicit knowledge in young children (265-266). Bering explains that his research expands on previous research and shows that, as children mature, they begin to incorporate learned behaviors/cultural trends, which naturally override innate knowledge (266). More specifically Bering acknowledges other research (i.e. Barrett & Nyhof 2001; Boyer & Ramble 2001) when he states, “Indeed, recent evidence shows that recall memory for counterintuitive concepts within the handling limits of the constraint systems is significantly higher than for mundane concepts that possess no ontological violations” (qtd. in Bering 266). In more simple terms, adults more easily remember what they have learned rather than what they innately know.
    The overall concept of Bering’s findings is that studies prove we all have innate knowledge about an afterlife (264). However, when posed with the problem of trying to describe being without certain human faculties that we have never been without, such as thinking, we revert to what we have learned rather than to our innate knowledge of what being dead is like (Bering 273). Thus, our description of what it is like to die or be dead seems to contradict itself—causing our description to seem unrealistic (Bering 267). Bering explains that the intuitive aspects of human behavior, including our understanding of afterlife, are not wrong—they only appear to be a belief in paranormal behavior when attempting to communicate our understanding, because, as his study suggests, we combine what we innately know with what we have learned (267). According to Bering, his current findings parallel those of several other studies (i.e. Sperber & Hirschfeld 1999), “. . . showing that religious concepts may not simply be enticing anomalies of intuitive concepts, or the mongrel progeny of cross-domain parenting, as held by many cultural epidemiologists, but rather have, in many cases, natural foundations in their own right” (qtd. in Bering 292).

    That’s it. I just felt an urge to share that with you. I think Bering’s study also proves why we can’t change another person’s mind about the existence of a “higher self” or whatever anyone wants to call it.

    =) have a beautiful day! Lisa~

    PS: anyone with comments or questions about my post can always reach me via e-mail at LisaRenee7610@gmail.com

  9. Always tired
    09

    I don’t know you personally, Nate, although you’ve definitely put my thoughts into words here! I agree completely with what you’ve said and feel like not enough people are looking at both sides. There is unfortunately no reasoning with some of my Atheist friends who dogmatically hide behind science without acknowledging the broader picture.

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