By Bob P
This is to illustrate a typical discussion with a fundamentalist. Any similarity to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. For obvious reasons, I have omitted the usual shouting, cursing and insulting that frequently results.
You: You're an atheist, is that right?
Me: Yes I am. I have been an atheist since 1951, I was 17 at that time.
You: Why don't you believe in God, everyone else does?
Me: I don't believe in your god or anyone else's god because all the gods are the creation of man's fertile imagination. Everyone does not believe as you do, there are an estimated 13-14% atheists in the US population, and much higher in other advanced countries. Additionally, there are many more gods than just the Christian god. Only 1/3 of the world is considered a 'Christian' nation and obviously not all of them are Christians. Additionally, there is no evidence that any god exists or have ever existed. For an advanced country, the USA has a disproportionately high percentage of fundamentalists.
You: I don't understand why anyone would want to be an atheist. Why do you want to be one?
Me: Everyone is an atheist to the other guy's god. If you don't believe in Amun-Ra, the sun god, then you too are an atheist. There is no term for anyone who doesn't believe in unicorns (A-corns?) but we atheists are labeled similarly to a demon or devil to fit the perceived image that religion creates. Every religion needs something to praise and something to demonize. Stephen Roberts says it all so eloquently*
You: You didn't answer my question, why do you WANT to be an atheist?
Me: I don't 'want' to be anything except honest. If a god can be proven to exist, I'll readily change my position, I'm not closed minded, however I do reject anything which can not be verified, falsified or replicated. I also reject anything that's termed 'magic' or miraculous, as that would require violating physical laws, something that has never been documented. True, atheism is a somewhat negative term meaning A=against Theism, but then I consider theism to be a negative. (Two negatives make a positive.)
You: Can you prove that God doesn't exist?
Me: I was waiting for this. No, it's illogical to prove that anything doesn't exist, I can't prove that unicorns don't exist, but I have no reason to believe they do. The burden of proof always lies with the claimant, not the skeptic. It's YOUR god so the burden of proof is in yours, not mine. If I professed that unicorns existed, you'd insist that I produce one or shut up, right?
But here's a thought I'll bet you never considered.....IF there were a REAL GOD who was concerned about humans, why are there so many different religions? Wouldn't a REAL god unify the world into a cohesive common religion? Perhaps if there were a REAL GOD, why would there be any need for religion, at all? Religions exist to tell you about the god they wished existed. A REAL GOD could tell you himself, obviating the need for religion. The fact that over 2500 gods have been identified is clear evidence that man makes the gods, not the other way around. By the way, who was the last man that God saw fit to speak to? Was it Noah or Moses?
You: Well, then what about love, can you prove that love doesn't exist?
Me: Ah, that old argument, eh? Well love is an emotion, hardly a reasonable comparison to the existence of a deity. I don't have to prove love, hate, fear, elation or any other emotion.
You: I get comfort from believing in God, He leadeth me down the paths I find so comforting. I know I'm going to meet him, one day. What do atheists believe in?
Me: I don't consider self delusion comforting at all, but I also know that's not a good answer for a 'believer'. I guess the desire to know reality trumps the comfort of 'faith' induced belief. I don't feel a need to be lead anymore. Religion is an addiction, if it provides comfort and satisfaction. I could say the same thing for alcohol and drugs, too. I'm amused by the different levels of 'believers', most Christians (luckily) just give religion lip service, but the 'true believers' are the fanatics like David Koresh, Jim Jones and Tim McVay who commit atrocities . Just what level of 'belief' is the 'correct' one? I observe that small doses are not only best, but are the most common.
You: I believe just what the bible says.......
Me: The bible is a hodge podge of poetry, nonsense, some good and it's a blood bath of murder and slaughter. I'm sure you're 'bible knowledge' is what you've been told, verbally. I suspect that you too are a 'cafeteria' Christian that chooses the parts you like while ignoring the murderous and bloody parts. It's obvious that few Christians, including you, have ever read their beloved Bible. Who wrote the bible? We have no evidence that it has any credibility at all. Nothing was written about Jesus until some 70-90 years after his alleged death. That sounds like an old wives tale.
You: Well, the bible was written by man but it was inspired by God, naturally some mistakes are to be expected.
Me: The irrefutable 'word of god' has flaws, you admit? I submit that if it contains even one flaw, it should all be subject to questioning.
You: OK, OK, so it has a few flaws, so what? I think it's a good thing for the morality it provides. Without religion we would have no 'moral compass." Everyone would run around murdering, raping and stealing, without religion.
Me: Not that OLD argument again!.......You believe that because the 'preechurs' have told you that. There is no basis to believe that believers are more moral than non believers. If one is moral simply because he expects a reward or the escape of punishment, I submit is not morality but a form of mental bondage. Is not an atheist who's moral without expecting a reward not more ethical than someone wanting a selfish reward or the escape of punishment?
You: I hear you, but I can't take a chance on going to hell, what if you're wrong? I'll play it safe and stay a believer.
Me: I somehow expected this answer so I'll answer with this thought. What you've posed is know as Pascal's wager. It states that if you believe and there is a God, you'll go to heaven but if there's no god then nothing was lost. If an atheist doesn't believe and there is a god, then he's doomed to hell, so it's a 'covered' bet. The problem is, this is based on the notion that merely saying you 'believe' will suffice one to glory. I'll not degrade my honesty or integrity by falling for such a shallow bet that has no more evidence than this.
You: I never heard all your arguments before, where do you come up with this stuff? I think you're going to go to hell.......
Me: If I do, at least, I'll be in the company of the world's greatest scientists, philosophers and thinkers. Who wants to be in a place that has no dogs, cats or birds, anyway?*
Me: Oh well.....I tried.
Bob P, Kansas City
* Some Christians maintain that only humans go to heaven, others claim that heaven furnishes it's own dogs, cats and birds. Other Christians claim the new testament replaces the old testament. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
*"I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
~ Historian Stephen Henry Roberts 1901-71
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Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)