Friday, December 20, 2013

Why I'm An Atheist

I've been feeling a bit compelled recently to write about why exactly it is that I'm an atheist and what reasons I have for being one. While I feel that this post was long overdue, an adequate justification for my atheism has been the product of a learning curve several years in the making. I know many others have written posts explaining why they aren't a Christian or why they aren't a Mormon, or a Muslim, etc., but technically I can't write a post like that because I was never myself a member of any religion. What I can do, is justify why I'm an atheist and why I think the naturalistic worldview best describes reality, and so here I want to put into a single post the main reasons why I personally am an atheist, and why I think you should be one too if you aren't already. I apologize for the length.

Atheism is Not an Emotional Position

Many theists like to portray atheism as purely an emotional position. They like to try and make it appear as if it's all just the result of emotional trauma like the tragic death of a loved one, or having been abused in a religious environment that leads one to reject god, rather than evidence and logical arguments. Their goal of course is to make atheism look like it isn't a logical position, but is instead rooted in an unjustified emotional reaction to life's difficulties. For me at least, nothing can be further from the truth. I could never live with a worldview that wasn't consistent with evidence. While there are indeed some people who've come to atheism due to traumatic life experiences, there are certainly good logical as well as evidential reasons for one to reject the existence of any kind of god and the veridicality of any one religion.

I personally think that all atheists who self identify as "free thinkers" and "skeptics" are in a way obligated to actively seek out good reasons as to why exactly it is that they are atheists. There are good and bad reasons to hold any position, whether or not those positions are correct. If atheists are to maintain the air of intellectual superiority against the rather feeble-mindedness of most theists who believe primarily due to cultural inculcation, faith, or ignorance, then it is the atheist's duty to justify their worldview for good intellectual reasons. This task is made immeasurably easier today due to the internet. For example, when I became "serious" about my atheism 4 or 5 years ago, I became obsessed with the arguments for and against god and I spent hours almost every day looking into them online. The over abundance of information online meant that there was never a shortage of reasons to evaluate all the opposing viewpoints.

So for me, my atheism has always been a logical and evidential position. I never had any traumatic experiences in my life that affected my worldview and I was never abused emotionally or physically in any environment, let alone a religious one. So in contrast to what many theists like to portray, atheism is not merely a reaction to abuse or trauma. That is an angle theists are trying to push to discredit atheism as an intellectual position. So with that said, let me now dive into the reasons why I'm an atheist and why I think atheism is much more tenable and much better supported than theism overall.

There Are Good Reasons to Think Atheism is True

In a nutshell, I'm an atheist because I think the world more beautifully conforms to the naturalistic worldview, and the arguments for theism all fail due to them being either being logically incoherent with one another, based on theistic presuppositions, or they contain premises that aren't demonstrably true or are flat out false. Let's compare what we know about the natural world and then use that to determine whether it makes better sense under atheism or theism.

1. The Traditional Omni-God is Incompatible With Evolution

The haphazard cruelty of evolution makes it impossible to accept the belief in a traditional omni-god who is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving. I've even formulated this into an argument. When you look at the full picture of evolution and you consider the 3.5 billion years during which this unfolding drama played out, when there were millions and millions of species that evolved only to be snuffed out and pushed into evolutionary dead ends, and during which time there was at least 5 mass extinctions in which some 70-95 percent of all the living species on earth at that time went extinct, I'm being asked by theists to believe that this was all part of a divine creator's plan who was sitting back and taking pleasure in watching millions of species (whose evolution he allegedly guided) get wiped out one after the other, and then starting all over again, and then wiped them out again and repeated this process over and over, until finally getting around to evolving human beings – which I'm told was the whole purpose of this cruel and clumsy process.

Am I to believe for example, that the meteor that ended the reign of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago that allowed mammals to evolve to be the dominant species was all part of god's ingenious plan that he hatched even before creating the earth? Am I also to believe that god did something like this at least 4 other times, each time with a different planetary-wide cataclysm that resulted in millions of species suffering and dying? And am I to believe that an all-knowing and all-loving deity also made it so that as this evolutionary process played out, consciousness would arise so that these miserable animals would become aware of their pain and suffering that god was causing? Just think about our hominid ancestors, who for about 6 million years consciously suffered and died from diseases, floods, droughts, famines, predators, and themselves, for absolutely no logically necessary reason before human beings even evolved. You would predict such a grim scenario under naturalism, but you certainly wouldn't under the "all-loving" watchful eye of a theistic god. This is perhaps one reason why so many theists today still reject evolution.

So we've got a problem here: An all-loving deity is logically incompatible with gratuitous conscious suffering. Given our evolutionary past and the suffering it required, god would have to be either incompetent, indifferent or intentionally cruel. Grant a creator and you must grant that. There's no logical way out of it. So honestly ask yourself, given the haphazard cruelty of our evolutionary past, what worldview does it make better sense under, theism or naturalism? The answer is obvious. It's naturalism. Thus, the traditional omni-god fails. And as per the logic of the ontological argument, the omni-god must be compatible with every possible world. If a world existed that is not compatible with such a being, that being cannot exist. That world is our world. So here the evidence clearly favors naturalism over theism by a long shot.

2. Religious Belief is a Product of the Brain

Many theists still wonder where their sense of "God" comes from. Why do almost all humans have a capacity to sense the awe and wonder commonly attributed to the divine? Evidence suggests that this is a neural-chemical process of the brain that has evolutionary underpinnings. Evolution has embedded the predilection to notice patterns and to invoke agents when there aren't any, in a phenomena known as patternicity and agenticity, respectively. Our hominid ancestors lived in a world of danger, and they weren't yet the top of the food chain. If a noise was heard in the grass it was better to assume it might be a dangerous predator than just the wind. If they were wrong, they made a false positive, that is they incorrectly thought something was there that actually wasn't, and no harm was done. If, however, they assumed it was just the wind and it turned out it was a predator, they made a false negative, that is they incorrectly assumed there wasn't something there when there was, and they likely lost their life as a result of it. So evolution has made it so that false positives are much better to have than false negatives. We experience this all the time. When we're walking down a dark, menacing looking street at night and we hear a noise, we tend to assume it's someone or something that might harm us – because we'll be more prepared and more likely to survive if we do. And nature gives us clear evidence that this is true. Just look at the behavior of animals who are at the bottom or middle of the food chain – they live in constant fear and paranoia and jump at the slightest noise or movement because of the evolutionary benefits of false positives.

What does all this mean? It means that seeing patterns and agents that aren't there is hardwired into our brains by evolution, and this forms the basis for why we tend to attribute random, natural events as being the product of intentional agents. This manifests itself into the belief in spirits, demons, angels, ghosts and gods. "The problem we face is that superstition and belief in magic are millions of years old," writes skeptic Michael Shermer in The Believing Brain, "whereas science, with its methods of controlling for intervening variables to circumvent false positives, is only a few hundred years old."[1] In addition, the neural-chemical transmitter dopamine may be one of the most important chemical elements of belief. It has often been called the "reward" drug because neurons release it when a received reward is determined to have been more than expected, and this reinforces the organism to repeat the behavior that lead to the firing of the neurons that produced the dopamine release.[2] This is why religious belief is ultimately emotional, not logical. Religions create rituals often in social contexts that are designed to bring about feel-good sensations which result from the release of pleasure chemicals like dopamine. This causes people to want to do that same behavior again and again. Just think of all the monks who are all trying to reach "nirvana" by repeating the same meditative ritual over and over again, or think of the way many theists will sometimes cry out emotionally as they all ritualistically pray and chant in unison. These experiences are incredibly powerful on an emotional level and this feel-good response is what often draws people into religions and cults and into perceiving what they'd often attribute to as being the "divine" or some "higher power," when really it's all in their brain. And the fact that this happens ubiquitously in various different religious as well as in secular contexts further demonstrates that it is the product of neural-chemical processes in the brain.

The theist might simply want to brush off these findings or say that god used evolution to put a sort of sensus divinitatis into human beings, but then we're back to the problem I mentioned above concerning the cruelty that evolution requires and its incompatibility with an all-loving, morally perfect deity. If god wanted to put a sense of the divine into us, he could have simply just put it into us using his supernatural power. There's no logically necessary reason why god would've had to use one of the most violent means available like evolution. So as it turns out, under naturalism, we not only have an explanation why people tend to believe and sense the presence of things that aren't there, we would actually expect it.

3. There is No Evidence for Free Will

First and foremost in many world religions (though not every version) is the idea that humans have libertarian free will. We are free, moral agents, it is believed, who make decisions uncorrupted by external determinants and we can be held accountable by god for those decisions. What is the evidence that theists provide that we have free will? It's common sense! That's often how it goes, although they will sometimes couple this notion with arguments that the mind must be separate from the body. I too once thought free will was paramount; we all basically do. It just seems so properly basic. But physics and neuroscience say otherwise. Neuroscientists using fMRI scans have repeatedly shown that our brains "decide" for us up to seven seconds before we become consciously aware of our decisions.[3] It appears then, that free will is really just an illusion and our conscious perception of having free will seems to actually be the moment we become aware of what our physical brains have already decided.

Of course it is true that not all theists believe we have libertarian free will, but the ones who do usually throw up a purely philosophical argument against determinism whereby they claim it's incompatible with the libertarian free will their theistic worldview requires. Yes it is incompatible, but so is evolution with young earth creationism, but that doesn't refute evolution. The only hope for the one who wishes to retain the notion of free will is in quantum indeterminacy. Many of the interpretations of quantum mechanics like the Copenhagen Interpretation, declare quantum events to be random and non- deterministic. However, others like the Many-worlds view are deterministic. No one knows for sure which interpretation is correct, but if quantum events are random and probabilistic, then what we call our "free will" is really just the result of a random quantum process that is probabilistically determined by the laws of quantum mechanics, and hardly anyone would call that free. As physicist Sean Carroll wrote on the subject, "The fact that quantum mechanics introduces a stochastic component into physical predictions doesn’t open the door for true libertarian free will."[4]

So let's now see if we can determine what worldview these findings make better sense under. If dualism were correct, our immaterial minds/souls would be consciously aware of our decisions before our physical brains registered them because dualists hold to the notion that the soul uses the physical brain to accomplish its will. Under naturalism, we'd expect our physical brains to indicate what our decisions will be before we are consciously aware of them, just as the data shows. So as far as what worldview better corresponds with the data from neuroscience on consciousness and decision making, it's clearly naturalism.


I could go on and list several other arguments such as the problem with the soul, arguments from scale, the problem of evil, etc. but I want to be brief. Atheists are always asked, "What would convince you that god exists?" I can think of a few very easy ways I would be convinced that god existed that didn't even involve direct proof. If, for example, all of the scientific evidence pointed to an earth and universe that was less than 10,000 years old and there was no evidence for evolution, or, if all the scientific evidence pointed to a relatively small, geocentric-model of the universe with earth at the center and all the planets and stars revolving around it, then I would say that there would certainly have to be a god. In other words, god could have easily made a universe where atheism wouldn't even be able to get off the ground, or would quickly fall apart if it did. God could have created the world according to the account in Genesis, but he didn't. Instead, I'm being asked to believe that god purposely made the world appear exactly as it would if it were natural and he didn't exist.

I find this too hard to believe.

Given the evidence we have in support of naturalism over theism, I am left with only two plausible options: either atheism is true, or deism is true. A deistic god would generally be immune to most of the criticisms I have against a theistic god, but a deistic god could simply be an impersonal, immaterial force that generates universes. In a sense, we don't have any evidence of a deistic god so I'm inclined to believe no such being exists. A deist would probably say the universe itself is the evidence, but it is not at all certain that our universe needs a cause, let alone a supernatural one. (See my thoughts on deism here.) So I am very confident given the evidence we have that no theistic god exists.

There Are Good Reasons to Think Theism is False

All of the arguments for god ultimately fail in various different ways, and every religion ever created bares the unmistakable scars of having been man-made. The best "evidence" theists have traditionally had that god exists has been human ignorance. God is the ultimate placeholder of an explanation so long as something is unknown or mysteriously eludes us. One can always say, "God did it!" and make the ultimate cop out. The god of the gaps has been losing ground with each and every inch of human scientific and intellectual progress. Although, having mostly given up now trying to refute biological evolution, theists feel a lot safer using god to explain why there is something rather than nothing. Many scientists and philosophers, both atheists and theists, think science will never be able to answer this question, and so many theists think god will maintain a comfortable explanatory position in this ultimate of unknowns. Let me explain why I feel there are good reasons to think theism is false.

1. God is Not a Fully Coherent Concept

"God" never seemed like a coherent concept to me. Even when I was 6 years old it sounded like nonsense. The idea of a "necessary" being who knows everything and can do everything logically possible, yet is timeless and has free will sounded impossible. A being who is infinitely good and loving, yet designed a world with a hell for you to go to just in case you didn't take that leap of faith to believe in him sounded infinitely evil. A god who also conveniently doesn't give you proof that he exists and purposely made the world exactly as it would look if naturalism were true sounded deceptive. What a character! Some god concepts however are more loving than others, but given the problems with evolution that I mentioned above, a truly loving god is even less compatible with our world. An evil god would actually be better suited, but then you'd have to explain the problem of good.

How does a timeless god who knows everything freely choose to create our world and not some other world? God can't make decisions, because if he did that would require time, and he can't be indecisive because that would falsify his omniscience. So god must have the eternal desire and knowledge to create our world, say World X, and not some other world, say World Y, – meaning there was never a time god wanted to create World Y instead of World X; he always wanted to create World X. How then is the creation of World X freely decided by god if the creation of world Y or the forbearance to create any world never existed? And how does god create time, if prior to time existing literally nothing can happen?

William Lane Craig in a recent debate with Lawrence Krauss gives us an answer. "I would say that God exists timelessly with the intention that a physical world exist. And then there's an exercise of this causal power, um, that brings the universe into existence."[5] But Craig's answer misses something very important. God cannot merely exist with the intention to create a physical world, he has to exist with the intention to create our physical world because any deliberation to create World X over World Y or vice versa would require time and indecision, which god cannot have prior to creating the universe. Craig goes on to say, "But we shouldn't think of God as existing, twiddling his thumbs, from eternity and then 'deciding' to make a universe." But if that's true, if god's decision to make a universe always existed, then how did he decide to "exercise his causal power"? To create something requires at least two decisions. First is the decision on what to create, and second is the decision to act that brings about the creation. I can intend to write a book and never get around to it out of laziness unless I decide to act and exercise my causal power. If having the intention to create World X (our world) existing eternally absolves god from having to make the first decision (even though it opens up additional problems), then the second necessary decision to act on it still requires time and would logically require an antecedent state of indecision. But if however, you argue that god's decision to act was also preordained and existed eternally, as it must have in order to avoid problems with god's timelessness and omniscience, then god has no free will and our universe was determined since it would have been impossible that it didn't exist. These are some of the things that convince me that "god" is not a fully coherent concept.

2. The Arguments for God Fail

My atheism largely comes from working backwards – essentially, looking at the universe we live in, finding it incompatible with a theistic god, and then concluding that theism is false. That's generally what most atheists do. Theists on the other hand, often start at the beginning and say god is needed to get a universe first, and then once they've concluded that a god exists, they try and find ways to fit that god into our picture of the universe. It is there that I think they fail the worst, but this still leaves us with the origin of the universe itself. How did it get here, if not for a god to make it? We naturally think, especially in Western philosophy, that things must be made. If you want a cup of coffee, you've got to make one; if you want a car, you got to make one; if you want a computer, you've got to make one. Things don't just appear ready made for you out of thin air. Therefore, it seems to most people that the universe too would have to be made just like the coffee, the car and the computer are. This is what intuition tells us. But intuition fails us over and over again when dealing with how we explain the world. There is no known natural process that generates cups of coffee, cars or computers (although the laws of physics say such a random configuration of matter into them is technically possible, but extremely unlikely). There are however, known natural processes that can result in universes, stars, planets, life, and different species of life being "created" without any need to invoke the supernatural. Although the science is not set on the origin of the universe and the origin of life, there are no shortage of natural explanations given recent discoveries.

But the theists says, "That's nice, but how does the atheist explain nature itself? Nature cannot cause itself to exist." Presumably this is because nature would have to exist before it exists in order to create itself. But, if causes must necessarily precede their effects, as this objection holds to, then god cannot have created time, because in order to cause time to exist, time would have to exist before time began to exist. It's the same paradox. So how can it be resolved? We don't know if the origin of our universe is the absolute origin of time. In fact, if our universe belongs to a much greater multiverse, it probably isn't. The problems with causality and the notion of time beginning have lead me to believe that it is likely the case that the origin of time did not have a cause. The origin of time is simply like the end point on a number line when it hits the number "0". This means we must understand the nature of time. Special relativity strongly indicates that time is a fourth dimension like space and that we live in a 4D Minkowski spacetime block universe. There have been many philosophers and theologians (as well as scientists) who disagree with this interpretation, but the vast majority of physicists agree with the 4D model. Recently, new experimental evidence suggests that the universe is indeed static and that time "emerges" from quantum entanglement.[6] This could be the first verifiable evidence that the B-theory of time, for which we get the 4D block universe, is the correct interpretation of Special Relativity.

The block universe comes from the relativity of simultaneity and length contraction described within Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. Some say this is only due to our inability to measure "absolute time" due to limitations on our instruments but there are several paradoxes that cannot be resolved in Special Relativity without appealing to an actual relativity of simultaneity, such as the ladder paradox and its many variations. In all, the evidence comes down much stronger in the case for a 4D block universe as opposed to Newtonian time that many A-theorists hold to. If so, that means the block universe simply has an end in which time appears to "begin" but really is just a low point in entropy as described by the second law of thermodynamics. The mere existence of such paradoxes, and of relativity itself is not, to me, what you would expect to find in a theistic universe. The Newtonian notions of absolute space and absolute time would be expected if theism were true, not a universe where space and time are relative. The Kalam Cosmological Argument relies entirely on 4D spacetime being false and so it must presuppose the A-theory of time to be true. This is one of the main reasons why it fails: it is intuitively based on a notion of time that science has ruled to be false.

Furthermore, the first premise of the KCA, that everything that begins to exist requires a cause, actually negates free will. If my actions and intentions are require causes, then they're causally determined. To say that my soul causes them only pushes the cause back one step. What caused the soul to cause my thoughts? You'd get a regress of causes going back at least to the big bang, which is essentially what determinism gives you. So either the KCA is false, or there is no free will. It's a dichotomy for the theist. The only hope left for the theist is to posit the Cosmological Argument from Contingency, which says the universe is contingent and therefore requires an explanation, and that that explanation is god. This argument presupposes the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which cannot be justified without assuming it first. I don't think there's anything wrong with asking as many questions as we can, but I am prepared to accept that the eternal block universe we live in may be a brute fact. I would add to this that overall, given the evidence we have, the naturalistic hypothesis offers greater explanatory power than the theistic hypothesis, and so I would argue that brute facts of existence over the sufficient reasons required by theism is better justified. The theist after all cannot logically prove that there aren't any brute facts, and an eternal, static, block universe is about what we'd expect a brute fact of existence to look like.

The Fine-Tuning Argument I don't think gets off the ground because of the incompatibility of an omni-god with the unnecessary conscious suffering of evolution. It also makes it appear as if god himself must conform to the laws of physics and can only create a life-bearing universe just one way. If god can do anything, he should be able to create such a  universe an infinite number of ways, and even create ones that contained life but weren't fine tuned for it. Our universe is most likely part of an unbelievably vast multiverse, which most likely explains why the physical constants are said to be "fine tuned" the way they are. Even so, we have no idea what ranges they can take and presume their values can be infinite. I contend we have enough evidence from within the universe from the evidence I mentioned above that rules out any fine tuner, and I can confidently say that it is we who are fine tuned for the universe, not the other way around. Although I think it's probably the best arguments for god, the Fine-Tuning Argument gets it ass-backwards, as always, and since any such creator to our universe would have to be either incompetent, indifferent or cruel, it seems implausible to me how such a being would be capable of such exquisite fine tuning in the first place.

The Moral Argument is just another failed attempt to make god into a required being. How can we have objective morality, it is asked, if there is no god? Thus it is argued that if god does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist, but they do, so god exists. Enter the Euthyphro Dilemma: Is something good because god commands it, or does god command it because it's good? The first part makes morality arbitrary, and the latter makes god irrelevant to what's good. The standard response is that god is the good – god is the ontological foundation of goodness because he is intrinsically loving, compassionate and fair, etc. But then we can ask, is god good because he has these properties or are these properties good because god has them? In order to avoid compromising god's sovereignty and admitting that these properties are good independently of god, the theist who wants to hold to the moral argument must say that these traits are good because god has them. But how is love, compassion, fairness or any other positive attribute good only because god has them? They would be good irrespective of god's existence, as would be evident by their effects. The theist would bear the burden of proof to demonstrate that they wouldn't be good without god, which I haven't yet seen anyone successfully achieve. Thus I say objective moral values exist independently of god. Duties on the other hand are more tricky. I simply don't believe in objective duties in the sense that they're issued from some kind of cosmic police officer. Duties arise primarily from social obligations, or obligations to principle. Under secular ethical systems, we need to appeal to reason to understand our obligations to one another, not commandments. Besides, the other major hurdle that divine command theory suffers from is the epistemic problem. That is, even if people believe in god, no one is going to fully agree on what god or what version of god is the correct one, or what commands are authentic and how to properly interpret them. You're going to be faced ultimately with moral relativism in practice, as is evident from the wide range of beliefs and practices of all religions. Thus the moral argument fails in theory and in practice.

The last major argument for god is the Ontological Argument. There are too many version of it to mention, but they all involve either claiming that if a maximally great being is possible, then it therefore must exist, or if a maximally great being is conceivable, it would be better for it to exist than not exist, and so it therefore exists. The OA fails for a number of reasons. First, given the logic backing up the OA, if god is by definition the greatest conceivable being, then I can easily conceive of a being greater than Yahweh, or Allah, or any other conceived deity, and so therefore none of these gods can exist. The OA therefore actually disproves the god of Abraham. Secondly, it presumes an objective standard by which maximal greatness can be determined and god can be measured up against, and therefore it undermined the moral argument. Thus the ontological and the moral arguments are actually incompatible with each other. And finally, I would add by saying that an omni-god is not logically compatible with the actual world, as I've argued above, and since a maximally great being must be compatible with every possible world, if it isn't compatible with one world it cannot exist.

I don't have the space here to critique all of the most prominent arguments for god, but I address most of them here, including the Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, Craig's argument that math proves god's existencepresuppositionalism and many others.

The bottom line with popular evidentialist arguments for god is this: The Kalam Cosmological Argument undermines the Moral Argument by undermining free will; the Ontological Argument undermines the Moral Argument by assuming that there's an objective standard of maximal greatness that exists independently of god, and the Moral Argument undermines the Ontological Argument by making it circular, in that god would turn out to be the standard by which god is being determined by. Hooray for apologetics!!

3. All Religions Appear Man-made

There isn't one single religion that has ever impressed me with a belief system and sacred text that resembled anything even remotely divinely inspired. They all appear to be the man-made products of the people living in their times. Religious texts are all internally inconsistent, they all fail to be corroborated by history and archaeology, and they all contain the flawed cosmology and superstition endemic of their day. The Bible isn't even consistent on why suffering exists, it's also extremely vague on the details of heaven and it contains several books in the New Testament that aren't even considered authentic (e.g. 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, etc.). Before I did research into the authenticity of the Bible, I thought most of its stories were at least historical to some extent. To my surprise, they weren't. Most of the Old Testament stories are entirely mythical and are backed up by no evidence at all, and what evidence we do have concerning the history of the Ancient Near East, falsifies the narrative.[7] The New Testament wasn't written by any eyewitnesses who could have known Jesus and bears numerous signs of interpolation, alteration, geographic errors, parallels with Near Eastern mythology, and appears to be in the genre of historical fiction. The Qur'an is filled with numerous contradictions and is inconsistent not only with science but with itself. And since it claims to be the literal word of god and not just inspired by god, it therefore must be false.

Every attempt to try to twist the wording on certain verses to make it seem as if they contain scientific knowledge unknown at the time all fail. All so-called holy books contain obvious scientific inaccuracies that are often conveniently demoted to mere allegory or parable once their falsehood becomes apparent. If there was indeed an all-knowing creator who revealed himself, why would he do it in such a way that contained all the ignorance extant of that time? Why not include a few detailed verses about something like evolution, DNA or germs which no one knew about at that time? The excuses I've heard for this vary and are all laughable. Some theists say for example, that god wouldn't to give us too much evidence, because then we couldn't reject him. What?!? So god purposely makes his revelations ridiculous and unbelievable to test our faith? This is one of the stupidest excuses I've ever heard. It's just an apologetic attempt to make the religion unfalsifiable by arguing that the less evidence we have and the less plausible it sounds, the more it's got to be true. It's not worth any intelligent person's consideration.

Other religions like Hinduism, Mormonism and Scientology are self-evidently false to anyone with a decent education in science, philosophy and history. Buddhism and many other Eastern religions are less like religions and more like philosophies with a religious aspect, without a deity. Still, some versions of Buddhism for example contain absurd metaphysics like reincarnation that are obviously false. There are hundreds if not thousands of other world religions that share the same self-evident falsehood that Hinduism and Mormonism contains and many of them serve more as a cultural glue that bonds members of an ethnicity together, but nonetheless, all contain false beliefs left over from our superstitious nature. The only plausible worldview that contains a god to me is deism, but with deism you have a god without religion and so deism is not religious.

In Conclusion

If you've made it this far, congratulations! I didn't intend for this post to be so long. I think this post might serve best as a link I can give theists to when they ask me why I'm an atheist and I'm too lazy to write a response. I cannot go into all the reasons why I am an atheist here, but this covers most of the important ones. Christopher Hitchens said that atheism is the only position that doesn't give him cognitive dissonance. I agree. I could never be a theist, even if I created my own religion that was 'fine tuned' to my liking. No theistic position allows me such pleasure. So in conclusion I want to reiterate that my atheism is concluded entirely on the evidence, which is without a doubt more compatible with naturalism over theism. I enjoy debating with theists. I enjoy taking on the most serious challenges to atheism that exist and I relish in the opportunity to refute those challenges. So far I have not come across many that aren't made with the noticeable presupposition hidden within them that god already exists. In a sense, the theist believes in god based on a dopamine high that they get when they perform a ritual or hear an emotional religious story, and then they go out looking for ways to justify the existence of this god and their religion using unjustified leaps of logic and faith. The evidence clearly shows this to be true and thus it clearly shows theism to be false and that belief in god is a product of our minds.


1. Michael Shermer, The Believing Brain, (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2011) p. 63.

2. Ibid, p. 118

3. Tracking the Unconscious Generation of Free Decisions Using UItra-High Field fMRI

Bode S, He AH, Soon CS, Trampel R, Turner R, et al. (2011) Tracking the Unconscious Generation of Free Decisions Using UItra-High Field fMRI. PLoS ONE 6(6):e21612. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021612

4. Sean Carroll, "Free Will Is as Real as Baseball" Scientific American Link:

5. Debate, "Life, the Universe and Nothing: Why is there something rather than nothing?"


  1. I don't think you've provided a single reason to be an atheist. Some quick thoughts:

    1. God is not merely good he is the good. Being the good is compatible even with gratuitous conscious suffering. The problem of evil does not get off the ground. Your comments in the moral argument section indicate you don't understand what it means for God to be the good.

    2. Any particular alleged action by God would have to be judged on a case-by-case basis. Merely claiming it is a false positive of agent detection is to beg the question.

    3. Determinism or compatabilism, in respect to both humans and God, are both compatible with the existence of God.

    4. Mere naturalism (a difficult to define term) does not allow you to predict much of anything about the world. For example, you merely assume conscious suffering is "predicted" by naturalism, yet naturalism would be compatible with no life existing or with unconscious life. You make this error throughout the post. You are relying on the very intuition you criticize theists for employing. Metaphysical positions are not scientific hypotheses yet you treat them as such.

    5. Pre-modern theologians actually proposed ideas similar to relativity when considering questions about God. To say that relativity is not predicted on theism is another appeal to your intuition and is historically inaccurate.

    6. Outside of discussions about God, the principle of sufficient reason is used by all of us. It is evidenced by the success of finding reasons for the things we observe. The block universe is not what we would expect to be a brute fact because its essence is not existence.

  2. 1. Prove goodness cannot exist independently of god. Until you can, you're all talk. And now you're saying god is compatible with gratuitous conscious suffering. Really? And god is the good too? That's unbelievably illogical and the two make no sense whatsoever.

    2. Show me one piece of evidence that clearly determines an event in our universe was caused by god since you claim we're on a case-by-case basis.

    3. I said not all theists believe in free will. If you're a Calvinist for example, you don't believe in free will. But what evidence exists that Calvinism is true? Christianity would have to be true, and its foundation is built on sand.

    4. Naturalism makes plenty of predictions. If there was no god you would expect billions of years of cosmic and biological evolution to have occurred, you wouldn't predict that under theism. And you wouldn't predict millions of years of logically unnecessary suffering given an omni-god.

    5. Name them. And tell me how god is compatible with an eternal block universe that he cannot create or influence because it is eternal? Furthermore, it does not matter what theologians thought. They routinely pull ideas out of their ass. The writers and inventors of the monotheisms were committed to a presentist view of time, so they are certainly false.

    6. Not at all, We routinely accept in our lives that things just happen by chance and have no objective purpose to them. Things just happen. Things just exist. Prove to me brute facts cannot exist.

    1. I don't think you provided a singe refutation in your 6 points.

    2. 1. That God is the good does not require proving that goodness cannot exist independently of God. God is the good because, as pure actuality, he perfectly conforms to his essence. The important point to note is that his being the good does not depend in any way on external entities. This is why suffering is not incompatible with God being the good.

      2. I don't need to provide evidence for God acting in the world to show that your argument in the "Religious Belief is a Product of the Brain" section is unsuccessful. A case-by-case argument for atheism would involve investigating alleged actions by God and providing a natural explanation for each. You don't do this (not that I expect you to in a single post).

      3. If theism does not require free will then the fact of determinism (if it is a fact) does not provide a reason for being an atheist. Free will, determinism, and compatibilism are all compatible with theism. They do not provide reasons for being an atheist.

      4. Please define naturalism while avoiding Hempel's dilemma. Then show the logical connection between the truth of naturalism and the age of the universe.

      5. Augustine and Aquinas, for example, thought of God as being outside of time and observing the universe in a block-like fashion. Assuming a block universe, God is the sustainer of the universe in existence as the first cause of an essentially ordered causal series. But the metaphysics of time involves much speculation so you are unwarranted in stating that presentism is "certainly false". Regardless, theism is an option on any view of time that I have come across. That is ultimately why this argument fails to support atheism.

      6. When things "just happen" in our lives there is still a reason, it is just that the reason is unknown to us. If my car just happens to break down I expect the mechanic to give some reason as to why it happened (even if it's speculation). If he said it's just a brute fact I'd find another mechanic.

      The PSR is inductively supported by every observation we make. Remember, you are trying to give reasons why you are an atheist. That brute facts are logically possible is not a strong argument that the universe is a brute fact. It's logically possible that God exists yet you aren't a theist. You don't seem to accept appeals to the possible from theists so it's only fair for theists not to accept appeals to the possible from an atheist.

    3. 1. My argument is that goodness exists independent of god. So without god we still have the good. Therefore the claim that objective moral values are grounded in god is false. If god conformed to his essence that doesn’t mean he’s good at all. We all conform to our essence. In fact, any such creator would have to be either incompetent, indifferent or cruel, given our universe. God’s goodness must be therefore be compatible with our universe, but it can’t be . You don’t understand my argument. If you’re saying that god is compatible with gratuitous suffering, then you’re saying that god could torture people for fun purely for entertainment. How do you reconcile that with “the good.”
      2. If you’re claiming that religious belief is not a product of the brain, but is a product of god, then yes you need to provide proof, or at least some evidence. Given evolution, we’d expect humans to be religious. My worldview explains why you believe in things that aren’t there.
      3. So do you subscribe to the theory of predestination?
      4. Metaphysical naturalism is roughly defined as “a worldview with a philosophical aspect which holds that there is nothing but natural elements, principles, and relations of the kind studied by the natural sciences” or “the thesis that nothing besides the natural world, or nature, exists”. Perhaps you should provide a definition of what the supernatural is. It would seem to me at least that the supernatural is in principle easily verifiable. For example, something that violated all the known laws of physics in such a way that would make it obvious that there was some kind of intelligence behind it would prove the supernatural, and convince me that it is real.
      5. Augustine and Aquinas didn’t write the Bible. Augustine as far as I know thought only the present existed. Existing outside of time and being dynamic is illogical. A timeless mind is by definition non functional. An eternal block universe needs no sustainer and you’re assuming the A-theory of time in imagining it. How can you cause an eternal universe? It always existed. What role would god play in such a universe without assuming a presentist theory on time? Check the source I gave that shows experimental evidence that the B-theory is true.
      6. False analogy. Obviously if a machine breaks there is a reason because machines have parts, and those parts can fail. I’m talking about random occurrences that have no objective purpose. Saying there is a purpose but we don’t know is a cop out. Anyone can make that claim about anything and conveniently add that they have no burden of proof.
      7. You have to define what you mean by “God”. I made the case that an omni-god is not logically possible. I never denied that some things have explanations, but I deny that everything does. I accept appeals to the possible from the theist if that possibility is logical and is supported by some evidence. If it is just a boldface assertion, as many religious claims are, then no I will not take it seriously.

  3. 1. My first point is a rebuttal to the problem of evil. It is not a defense of the moral argument. God's goodness is a result of his nature, not his actions.

    2. My second point is merely noting that claiming belief in God is a result of faulty agency detection is to beg the question.

    3. I'm agnostic in the free will debate. My point is that it does not impinge on God's existence or non-existence.

    4. Your first definition of naturalism fails to pass Hempel's dilemma. The second definition raises the question, what is natural? I make no natural/supernatural distinction so I can't provide a definition of either term. More importantly, you failed to give the logical connection between the truth of naturalism and the age of the universe (and many other of the alleged predictions of naturalism). Whether you intend to or not, these "predictions" sound like nothing more than your personal intuition.

    5. I never claimed Augustine and Aquinas wrote the Bible. I noted that pre-modern theologians could think of ideas like relativity and the block universe and saw no conflict with their theism. The Wikipedia entry on "Eternalism" briefly mentions Augustine and Aquinas (and, arguably, Anselm) in relation to your view.

    Nor did I claim God exists outside of being or that his mind is identical to our mind.

    There may be some evidence for B-theory but it is not definitive. Why rest your atheism on something that is so uncertain and does not rule out God's existence in the first place?

    6. The PSR does not demand that there is an objective purpose so you aren't providing an objection to the Leibnizian cosmological argument. Moreover, the block universe is also composed of parts and thus in need of explanation. This is why God is said to be metaphysically simple, not composed of parts. This is known as the doctrine of divine simplicity. By God I mean Pure Act in the tradition of Aquinas.

  4. 1. I didn’t make the problem of evil in my post against god here. So you're utterly barking up the wrong tree. Pay attention. God’s nature must be compatible with his creation and actions. Given the unnecessary cruelty of evolution, there cannot be an all-loving god. Period.

    2. Begging what question? What's your explanation of my explanation? Oh that’s right; you don’t need to provide evidence.

    3. That there is no evidence for free will and a lot of evidence for determinism rules out many versions of god. No single argument I make is designed to disprove every possible concept of god. I made that clear in my post, you need to pay better attention.

    4. I don’t think Hempel’s dilemma is anything a naturalist like me has to worry about. We’ve been able to learn enough about nature and the laws of physics where we’d clearly be able to recognize a dramatic violation of them. Immaterial minds and gods are certainly not natural. The logical connection of naturalism is simple. Given naturalism, in which there must be a natural process that manifests all things, we’d expect billions of years of cosmic and biological evolution that appear to have no objective purpose to it. And that’s exactly what we see. Given theism we certainly wouldn’t expect a haphazard multi-billion year evolutionary process that required unnecessary suffering.

    5. I didn’t mean to imply that you said they wrote the bible, I meant to say that their thoughts on the nature of time are not important because the writers of the Bible assumed an A-theory. Some Christians think homosexuality or gay marriage or abortion is in no conflict with their theism. So what? Bottom line is this: a theist can rationalize in their own mind anything they want with their religion. Theists do it all the time.

    I really don’t see how god is compatible with an eternal block universe, especially the Christian god. And by the way, my atheism doesn’t rely on eternalism being true. You must have not actually read my post because I offer several arguments why atheism is true and why theism fails. I only offered eternalism to refute to Kalam cosmological argument, not to support all of my atheism.

    6. Yes the PSR does demand that there's an objective purpose to the universe. When applied to the universe it says the universe has an explanation and that explanation is god. You say god is the explanation right? OK explain how god is the explanation of an eternal block universe that wasn’t created ontologically? Don’t tell me he sustains it. That assumes the A-theory because the B-theory states every part of spacetime is eternal and static. If god existed his mind would be a part of his metaphysics and his mind is supposed to be the most complex thing in existence. It need not be composed of physical parts.

  5. Saying the cruelty of evolution rules out an all-loving God sounds like a version of the problem of evil. God, as Pure Act, is compatible with such things.

    Your attempt to connect naturalism to the age of the universe fails because it is conceivable that a naturalistic process could create life instantly or in a very short period of time.

    I'm not sure how you can determine what theory of time the writers of the Bible believed. I could just as easily say the writers of the Bible believed in relativity because they say a thousand years is like a day to the Lord. Either approach goes well beyond the textual evidence.

    The PSR applied to the universe merely states that a necessary entity (God) is the reason for the existence of contingent entities (like the universe). Saying God sustains the universe makes no assumption as to the truth of the A-theory or the B-theory of time. One can view the sustaining of the universe as eternal and static.

    Finally, it does seem that you heavily rely on eternalism to remain an atheist. For example, if A-theory proved correct, do you have any other refutation of the KCA or LCA? At best, you've provided reasons to be agnostic.

  6. God is logically compatible with the creation of gratuitous conscious suffering? Please explain.

    Conceivable? Yes. Actual? A lot harder to say. If a known natural process could create life instantly then that would work against the theist and support the atheist.

    When it comes to the theory of time in relation to god, I would essentially agree with William Lane Craig when he wrote, “The tenseless theory is theologically objectionable, since its claim that God and the universe co-exist tenselessly is incompatible with a robust doctrine of creatio ex nihilo.” And if a thousand years is a day for the lord, then god created the universe and waited 13.8 million years for humans to arrive.

    An eternal and static universe needs no supernatural sustainer. The existence of any such being would be redundant.

    If the A-theory is true we have other theories and arguments that attack the KCA and LCA. I outline some of them here:Refuting William Lane Craig: The Kalam Cosmological Argument. Basically, universes require no energy to be created and the idea of causality makes no sense before time. Thus it is far from certain that everything that begins to exist requires a cause.



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