I’ve been an atheist most of my life, and I find it very strange when people don’t understand.
So, this article will try to explain why I am an atheist.
First, we need to define what a “god” is. Incredibly, this first step annoys some people! When I ask people what they mean by “god”, they say things like “well, you know…” (no, I don’t), or “what do you mean?” (was I not clear?).
Let’s define a god based on the most common christian beliefs:
- Can create a whole universe in 7 days.
- Can create itself.
- Created life.
- Cares about every individual human that worships it.
Each one of these criteria is incredibly unlikely.
Seven Day Creation
The first one, “Can create a whole universe in 7 days right down to animals” is easily disproved.
By simply looking at the night sky, measuring the distance of stars and how the further stars are from us, the more their light is shifted to the red, we can measure the age of the universe pretty confidently to about 13.75 billion years.
That’s not 7 days. And if the religious apologists reply by starting “well when the bible says ‘days’, what it means is …” – stop right there. If the bible said “days”, then the bible meant “days”. Otherwise the bible is incorrect.
Next, we have “can create itself”.
Obviously, it is possible for something to come from nothing. This is self-evident.
Things that exist either existed forever, or they came into being from nothing.
The idea that everything that exists has always existed was believed for a very long time, but it causes a load of unanswered questions, such as why, after an eternity of existence, everything is not either compressed to a single un-moving point, or spread out to a completely uniform volume.
The idea that things can come from nothing causes a few questions as well, such as “how?”.
Combining the two, modern science shows that something can come from nothing, through a quantum effect called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and yet the sum total energy still equals zero. In other words, the universe is both eternal, and yet its material can have emerged a set length of time ago.
On the religious side, Christianity does not believe in an eternal universe. If the universe is eternal, it does not need a creator, and therefore there is no need for a god.
Christianity believes that something can be intentionally created from nothing. They say that God created himself from nothing (example 1), and then created the universe from nothing (example 2).
So, based on two explanations of how things can come from nothing, we have a choice of which to believe.
- God intentionally created God from nothing.
- God then created the universe from nothing.
- The universe emerged naturally from nothing.
Occam’s Razor suggests that when given the choice between two explanations, you should choose the one that is the least complex.
Even if there were no God, the universe would have created itself from nothing anyway. Quantum mechanics ensure this.
We do not need to invoke a god to create a universe.
Creation of Life
According to the bible, God simply created life one day. As simple as that.
And then after all of the animals were created, a human male was created. From clay.
And then a human female was created. From the male’s rib.
Compare that to the idea of evolution, where simple molecular reactions “evolve” over time through competition to eventually become the hugely diverse life-forms that cover the planet today.
I don’t even know why I need to explain this one. Seriously – created from clay? And a rib?
Evolution is the only viable explanation for life and its huge variety.
Everything else is fairy-tales.
Selectively Infinite Caring
Priests say that “God loves us, every one”, and then they claim that you will go to hell if you don’t worship him.
As an aside: in 1999, Pope John Paul II changed the Catholic church’s stance on Hell, demoting it from an actual place to a mere state of being. This changed 2000 years of supposedly infallible truth that Hell was a place.
I guess “infallible” doesn’t mean the same thing to me as it does to them.
Anyway – apparently, God sees everything and knows everything, and cares for all of his children, but only those that worship Jesus.
This means that, if the christian God exists, then every person that has never heard of Jesus, or that doesn’t believe he is the son of God, will be punished eternally.
Personally, if I created a universe (for example, a computerised simulation), I really don’t care about the individuals. I might find the civilisations interesting, but the individuals are not interesting.
Similarly, for someone studying ants does not find any individual ant interesting, but the colony would be fascinating. Even if they do focus on an individual ant, it’s not that specific ant that they are interested in, but the type of ant it is (soldier, queen, worker).
And even if any individual was interesting, why is their belief somehow a criteria for whether they should be rewarded or not?
Well, there it is.
So, I don’t believe in gods for the simple reason that I don’t see any compelling evidence that gods (of any type) exist.
Just a point: God is uncreated in Christian thought. That would just be an example of the kind of error that might indicate that while your conclusion may be valid, your method is perhaps flawed. 🙂
thanks Kevin. I would argue that this doesn’t change anything. By stating that God is eternal, yet the universe is finite, a few more questions are added – what was God doing for the eternity before he got around to creating the universe? how is it possible for something to exist forever with no beginning? Why would an eternal being create a universe in the first place? Is this the first universe that was created, or were there previous ones?
Simplicity wins again, I think. Occam’s Razor suggests that if a God exists, it also had a beginning.
Kae, very interesting read, your approach, technically disproving point by point is a way to go, but I believe its not really the correct way. What was the Bible? , ,it was the book of it’s time, , ,
Humans are always looking for answers, even looking for questions. They want the questions that cannot, (or more importantly could not) be answered in some way, Where did we come from? Who made us? What is right what is wrong?, what’s god to eat? Why am I alive?
Place yourself, (or a perhaps a lesser person ) in that time, Old Testament 3000 BC, , , No SKYPE, No Facebook, No TV, No Radio, , , , , no penicillin, no band aid, no underwear, no shoes, , , , , ,no fridge, , no matches, , ,
That’s where the Bible came. What was is when it came out? a Guidebook, a way to live your life (average life span in 3000 BC: 37 years) Answers to many of the question many a man has, Answers to questions he hadn’t even thought of. 10 simple rules that pretty much covered the complexity of live, , , follow these rules, or guidelines if you will, and you’ll lead a healthy productive life, and probably be fairly happy. There were no other books about, , , there was no, , “www.theBibleIsBull.com, , this book was “The Word”, , it was written, It must be right, , , it was the “I saw it on TV, it must be true”, , ,of the 2990’s BC
Human greed got involved, “This is winner, , , let’s make a franchise out of this” and with globalization at a very early stage of existence, it was deemed a bad idea to have just one “Franchise”, , and other wee religions popped up world wide, , , all essentially spouting the same story, , a way of live to help you along life’s dogey path, , , , , Business is good, church makes much money, tells a good story, , throw in a couple of inter-religion wars, , , to keep the arguments going. , , start a few little sub-franchise’s, the war machine is a pretty good money spinner as well.
All’s going well for about 5000 years, , , we have a pretty good Status Quo going, , religion pretty much rules the planet, any non religious pagan tribes or peoples are wiped out, drugged, or worse “Educated” into what is accepted worldwide as “The Right” way to live. Keeping the same story going was pretty easy, , ,if questioned you’re a heretic, and burned alive, as a public skeptical , , that’ll keep a whole pile of people very quiet, , , specially those pesky understanding women, , burn the witches, , if you like a woman, just suppress her, for her own good, , , ,
Knowledge is power, , , the big mistake on the churches part was their arrogance, striking with Fear, to re-enforce faith was working for so long, they couldn’t believe that in 100 short years their story would fall apart Knowledge demands expansion, , the word therefore, is the churches undoing, , , now that we have found many of the real answers to may of the questions formerly answered in the 5000 year old biblical “Manual for Living” are, , well, , bullshit.
What is really very confusing for many is the fact that all the stories, all the parables, remain to be mostly good lessons in life, , , ,stories told to teach, told to inspire a good code of life, , , respect for one another, , , these stories remain good stories. Yes, Yes, there are a few really rotten ones in there, stories and lessons of 5000 years ago, that just don’t come up the standards of equality that most of us wish for. The Infallible truth was changed many time throughout history. As spiritual leaders, a church needs to lead, the churches are not leading. With the knowledge of factual information, these learned men need to realize, that they are not all powerful leaders any more. Religions in every part of the world must recognize that the massive change in social knowledge needs help, not dogma. They are perishing in the light of knowledge. The backlash of the evangelists is mighty and will last for quite a while, they are well funded, and have a still have a strong hold on most of the money, which to paraphrase a church’s teaching is “the root of all evil”
Mankind is rapidly destroying their small part of the universe, through greed. If we, as a species, could just realize that by treating our world with the respect it requires we will help us live a better life. Do unto others as you would do unto yourself.
my point was not to disprove the bible. you made up a website there, “www.thebibleisbull.com”, but there already is an equivalent, skepticsannotatedbible.com, which points out probably /every/ problem with the bible.
I know that pointing out these problems will not convince any truly faithful person, as they will simply wave away the problems and say the bible’s stories are allegories and not to be taken literally.
instead, I hoped to be a bit broader than that and discuss some attributes of God as described in general, and show that they were not really necessary for producing our world.
I wouldn’t dream of trying to disprove the bible to someone – those people that would listen are already atheists or on their way to atheism, and the others are not interested or are too set in their own beliefs to see the problems.
Philosophically, I agree that we all need to just get along (do unto others), but I wish people could realise that you don’t need religion to come to that conclusion.
My response below probably reads like that of an angry Christian. I’m not a Christian. But I do know plenty of them, as I’m sure do you. Your post reads a bit like you haven’t ever really listened to them on the topic. So, I guess I’m kinda offended on their behalf. Mind if I point a few Christian scholars at your post?
– I would argue that ‘can create the Universe in 7 days’ is not a common belief for modern Christians. I know quite a few Christians. I don’t know any who take that literally.
– “That’s not 7 days. And if the religious apologists reply by starting “well when the bible says ‘days’, what it means is …” – stop right there. If the bible said “days”, then the bible meant “days”. Otherwise the bible is incorrect.” The bible didn’t say ‘days’. The bible said some word or words in other languages which is / are generally translated into ‘days’ in English. And if the people of the time used that word to mean something other than literal days, it’s perfectly reasonable to say that wasn’t what the author meant either. Do you think that every Irish person who says ‘ages’ is talking about literal ages?
– RE ‘God created himself’, again, where are you getting this idea? My understanding from talking to Christians is that God exists outside of time, therefore talking about him starting to exist doesn’t make sense, because things can only start within time.
– Belief in evolution and belief in a Higher Power are not mutually exclusive. Even Christian beliefs and evolution are not mutually exclusive. Again, none of the Christians I know deny evolution.
– Why are you only arguing against Christianity anyway? Surely you know enough Pagans (if not people of other Faiths) to accept that Christianity and Atheism are not the only options? In fact, in the last point (when you mention the Pope) you sound like you’re only arguing against Roman Catholics. Maybe time to the blinkers off a little?
– Many, many Christians believe that the bible was inspired by God, but written by people. Since it was written by people, it’s naturally flawed. People are going to make stuff up, get stuff wrong, speak in metaphors and generally mess up getting God’s message across. That isn’t, in itself, an argument against the message.
– As for the last point, my own understanding of the subject is extremely limited. But as Ben Goldacre would say ‘I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that’.
The reason I use Roman Catholics in the arguments, is that this is the most common religious sect in Ireland, where I live. There is no point me providing examples from the Bhagavad Gita, or the Torah because 1) I’m not very familiar with them, and 2) neither would any of my usual readers be familiar with them.
You say that most people do not believe “day” means “day” in the Bible, that it’s just a mis-translation. Run a search in google for “how long is a day in the bible” and you’ll find that quite a lot of people literally believe it is 24 hours.
Even disregarding that, the order of creation is wrong anyway. Why were plants created before light? How did they survive?
I don’t mind who you point at the post. The post was my whimsical reaction to a question someone else asked. I don’t mind debating any of these points.
The word that was used for “day” is the hebrew “yom”. The word can mean day, period of time, period of lighted time. Yes, you could argue that in all cases, “period of time” is what is meant, but this doesn’t make sense, as what is the delimiter between each so-called period of time – why are there seven clearly delimited periods of time detailed? I believe that what was meant by “yom” was literally a 24-hour period. Anything else does not make contextual sense.
As for where I got the idea that Christians believe that God created himself – the answer is that every Christian I have asked gives this as the answer. Maybe it’s taught differently in different places (which means that some answers are not absolute…).
If evolution is true, then creation is false. As simple as that. If it is stated that God created all the animals, and created man from clay and woman from a rib, then either this is true, or it is false. Which is it?
Yes, you can believe in a higher power and evolution at the same time. In fact, I believe that if there were a God, then the most intelligent way they could create life without too much effort would be to initiate evolution. My point, though, was that for a very long time, religious people would point at life and claim it was proof of the existence of God (William Paley’s “watchmaker” analogy, for example), and yet we have a very simple explanation that does not require any sort of predetermined creation.
People believe that the bible is true. They hold it up as being absolute truth. One thing I really don’t understand, is that if the book is supposed to be the word of God, and to get a message across, then what is that message?
On your last point, I absolutely agree. It’s always more complicated. The points in my article were just a number of things that I wanted to talk about. There are many more reasons why I’m an atheist, but they’re not as interesting or straightforward.