Silly Things Atheists Say

I Wonder... painting by Je' Czaja
I Wonder…
painting by Je’ Czaja

I just read an article on an alternative news site titled, “Religion is important to understand.” The author has noticed that under obfuscating theological jargon, the religions of all humans have many things in common. I have noticed this, too. He lists several possible ‘explanations’ for the existence of this phenomenon, but leaves one out: There is a God to whom humans yearn to connect.

“That can’t be it!” the Enlightenment Man quickly responds. Yet the Enlightenment Man, if he can overcome his anti-religious bias, must admit that it is impossible to prove otherwise. Therefore it is possible that a God exists to whom humans yearn to connect.

At this point atheists (and I used to be one) will usually start listing everything that is wrong with the world as evidence that God does not exist. The list is made up, almost entirely, of evil things that humans do to each other. On Twitter last night, an atheist posted a picture of a tearful little girl with the caption: “I am better than your God because I would prevent the rape of children if I could.” Several fellow-travelers approved that message. I said, “Blame the rapist.” I mean, if there is no God, as you claim, then the rapist is solely to blame and what are you doing-right now in this godless world-to prevent the rape of children?

Richard Dawkins, leader of a worldwide anti-religion cult, is only doing half the job. He launches blistering attacks, Thesaurus on his knee, against the Christian’s God. His comments on Islam are very mild. He says he doesn’t know much about Islam. He doesn’t know much about Christianity, either, but that doesn’t stop him. Why then does he not attack Islam with his customary aggression?

Political correctness? Doesn’t want to be labeled an Islamaphobe? Or does he simply not want to be assassinated? Christians are a soft target; attacking them is like attacking a small child. They will turn the other cheek when attacked, while some Muslims will promptly take you out and Dawkins knows it.

The position that science is infallible, the source of all truth and that it will one day save us-is a religious belief. Science functions under the Induction Fallacy: If a thing has happened over and over, it will always happen that way. Although it is a fallacy, science presses on and it all works out pretty well in the end. But just a drop of humility is appropriate here, yes?

For those addicted to Reason, I offer a tidbit for consideration: Occam’s Razor: “If there are multiple possible explanations for an event or result, the simplest is almost always correct.” The simplest explanation for the ubiquity and persistence of the human concept of God is that there is a God to whom humans yearn to connect.

If we were merely evolved apes, where would we even get the idea that the world is unjust? Do baboons sit on the savannah munching grubs and ponder this? It has no survival value-in fact, humans have been known to lay down their lives fighting for justice.

No, we are more than grub-munchers-we seek love, we treasure truth, we might even cry when overwhelmed by the beauty of the London Symphony Orchestra; like I did, much to my embarrassment-but guess what? I looked around and wet cheeks glistened all over the auditorium.

THAT is the spiritual impulse. THAT is not going away.


  1. This is the best argument I’ve seen for the existence of a god. It’s simple enough to make sense, and doesn’t refer to the Bible being of any value or the possibility of the deity being benevolent.

    1. We all choose an Ultimate Value and it is, obviously, subjective-WE choose. I think that is fine, but of course, even if I didn’t think so, its just the way the world works. 🙂

      Thanks so much for your comment. My subjective view of ‘the diety’ is in my book, Lord of the Beasts-which I am posting here in installments for folks who are too broke to buy a copy. In hard times, we need to help one another.

  2. The razor states that one should proceed to simpler theories until simplicity can be traded for greater explanatory power. The simplest available theory need not be most accurate. Philosophers also point out that the exact meaning of simplest may be nuanced.

    The god hypothesis has been the preferred choice for most of human history, but we are now looking for theories with this greater explanatory power, which god-did-it does not provide. And everywhere we look for better explanations, there are non-god answers. On top of that, it can be argued that the idea that there is a god is very complicated, depending on your definition of god.

    A key aspect of Occam’s Razor is that, once you’ve determined some theory of reality to be true, or at least essentially true thanks to induction, it is no longer an assumption, and thereby makes things which previously relied on assuming it to be true that much simpler. This is why something as impressively complicated as the multiverse theory is considered very simple – it only requires one or two assumptions on top of reams of proven science. Perhaps less, now that evidence of inflation has been revealed.

    So what is more likely, that there is a single supernatural entity which humanity can’t seem to agree on, or that god belief is a relic of evolution thanks to overactive agency detection coupled with fear and wonder at the unknown?

  3. I hope we can agree on a small philosophical point: if a particular evidence can sensibly be used in defence of two mutually exclusive views, the evidence is in support of neither.
    And with that in mind, I would like to argue that the similarity in the religious text is a grassroots emergence, and not a top down authority. All humans have evolved in a very particular environmental and social niche. The social niche is the one worth exploring. Socially, we evolved in a tribe that had to work cohesively, hence our teachings of love and tolerance and peace and cooperation. However, each tribe had to deal with other warring tribes. A tribe that could successfully overthrow another tribe will double its resources and up their odds on the evolutionary chart. Therefore, on top of peace and tolerance and love, we also get teachings of intolerance of “others”. This is part of human nature and religious texts.
    I would therefore argue that these messages, present in nearly all religions, are an explicable result of understood evolutionary psychology, and not of a universal yearning for a celestial father.
    There’s another reason I don’t think the issue is top down: rebellion. A majority of people rebel against top down nature, even when they would behave in unison with top down requests when left to their own devices.
    Occam’s razor comes in handy here. To assert that this “spiritual impulse” is the result of evolutionary psychology I have to make the simplest claim there is: none. All the claims of evolutionary psychology are already made and established, and this falls within the remit. God, alternatively, is not a simple assertion. God is a very complex assertion which depends on an undocumented style of existence, unchanging causality, self-causation, paradox resolution, omnipotence, omniscience etc. As you are a stand up philosopher, I’d recommend brushing up on Occam’s razor and precisely what is meant by “simple” in this context. Once you understand it (or remember it more precisely), you will have a powerful tool in your arsenal.

    As footnotes to your post, I personally don’t know what to make of your terse interpretation of human-caused suffering. Naturally caused suffering is also an important question against a loving God (but perfectly fine in the event of an Evil God). In the light of a Benevolent God, even human caused suffering has to come under scrutiny; if one person’s will is against another two people’s will, whose will does God support?
    Your assertion that people think science is infallible is mistaken.
    Your assertion that others believe induction leads to certainty is mistaken.
    If you want to know whether monkeys understand fairness, view:

    1. Thank you for your reply. Some people do think science is infallible and mock those who question the current scientific paradigms. You are not one of these, I gather.

      I don’t have a lot of use for religion, i.e. the human attempt to organize spirituality. In the end, a person has to experience for themselves the type of spiritual experience to which I refer. Direct personal experience, against which you can only argue that the person is wrong, deluded or haul in a scientific authority to explain it away.

      I have had some of these experiences and they changed me fundamentally-for the good. I do have a answer for the problem of evil but I try to not to talk about evil much here-we get too much of it hour by hour and we are exhausted by it.

      I prefer to be helpful, I would like to see people free of all constricting ideological boxes and open to new experiences and ideas.

      We think that the ideas we have are the result of reason, but I found that my faith in science and in human rationality were handed down to me.

      Question everything, as Einstein said, including our own core beliefs.

  4. “The simplest explanation for the ubiquity and persistence of the human concept of God is that there is a God to whom humans yearn to connect.”

    Errrrm, no. The “simplest” explanation is that humans have a disposition to see agency in all things; a skill (and curse) which enabled us to react faster to danger, real or imagined.

    1. Thank you for your comment.

      I don’t want people to think like me, I just want them to think. To do this, we must question everything-including your own assumptions.

      There may actually be a God.

      We don’t know. It is worth opening our minds to the possibility rather than continually reinforcing our own biases.

      1. I think you might have it backwards. Most people are led to believe there are gods from a very young age. They are not in a position however to question this information, and so years typically proceed before they can examine such notions with a curious, truthful eye. It is precisely by “opening our minds” that the gods are so easily and quickly revealed to be absurd cultural responses, and promptly jettisoned. That’s not to say these very primitive attempts to answer question should not be honoured for the cultural gems that they are. They are precious artifacts, but we must categorise them for what they are: creative anthropological responses. Nothing more. Nothing less.

      2. And you have been led to believe in rational scientific explanations for the world from an early age. So was I. At this stage of ‘civilization’ it takes courage to question THAT paradigm.

        Personal experience is what has convinced me. I am well aware that I cannot convince anyone who has not had a similar experience. But since I am nothing special, I suppose the type of experience I refer to is freely available to everyone.

        You are a much nicer atheist than I was-LOL. I finally admitted that I couldn’t KNOW there was no God, so I said I was agnostic. Then I thought well, maybe the Hindus or somebody has a better slant on the subject.

        I still admire their profound philosophy. But I am a generic Christian, a “none” not because of upbringing, or brainwashing or logic, but because of personal experiences.

        Blaise Pascal was a smart man, yes? He had a profound spiritual experience like I am talking about. There is something more than matter and the law of physics going on. Much more.

  5. You claim that there is more than the laws of physics going on. But there is no evidence to support this.
    Spiritual experiences don’t demonstrate anything. Derren Brown has caused a religious experience in a person on purpose. That demonstrates that supernatural interferences aren’t needed.
    I have a friend who has a very clear Muslim experience: a spiritual experience clearly about Allah. What does Christianity or even generic theism have to say about this? Is this just temporal lobe epilepsy? If so, why aren’t all “spiritual experiences” but down to similar things?
    The idea that you can elevate an intelligent person and use their supernatural beliefs to support your own is simply ridiculous. There are many smart atheists and theists. Do you propose that we take all the atheists and theists and record the average IQ of the two groups and just believe which ever group records a higher IQ? I put it to you that this is a terrible method. Not only that, but given that only 9% of the National academy of Science actually self-identify as religious, I imagine that doing this would reveal your point about Pascal to be reliant on an outlier.
    Neil deGrasse Tyson has lectured on how religion stagnates people’s thinking. His best example was Newton, a far greater genius that Pascal. The lecture tried to express just how profound a genius Newton was: he invented calculus and solved the two body problem of celestial motion, all by the age of 26. When he moved on to the many body problem of celestial motion (explaining how the gravity of both the sun and Jupiter affect Earth) he struggled and put the whole dance of the planets down to God. Then Laplace came along and showed it was natural.
    Pascal shows similarly complacent thinking in some of his theology; his “wager” is probably the best known example of this lazy thinking. (
    So, yes, Pascal was a genius. What is your point?

    1. You use Newton! I’m sorry, that’s too funny. Newton was up to his wig in Alchemy and Magic! LOL. And Leibnitz did the calculus. Certain “science heroes” were promoted for political reasons. Dig a little deeper-with an open mind. Newton! LOL.

      Best wishes,

      1. My point is that what we think we know comes from testimony of others or sense data all of which COULD be wrong. We choose what we believe and that is rational since we must believe something to get through the day.

        But since that is true, a little humility, a little more tolerance for uncertainty is appropriate.

      2. The impression I’m getting–and I’m sorry this is condescending–is that you have no idea how you have got to the conclusion you’ve gotten to, and you will you any epistemology that can twist itself into the conclusion you already picked.

      3. You are incorrect. After YEARS of study-I realized that absolute certainty is unattainable.
        Take the story of the blind men and the elephant>the blind men each has part of the truth, none has all the truth. They could combine their information and get closer. This does not mean there is no such thing as truth>there really is an elephant.

        It’s the simple admission that I don’t know everything.

      4. Uncertainty does not get you to deism? You are talking about scepticism: being uncertain about positive assertions, of which deism is one.

      5. It led Spinoza to panentheism (if you’re a fan of jargon) When I read Spinoza I followed his proofs and had to laugh out loud. His conclusion, boiled down, is that everything is God! That has much in common with Hindu teachings and is even in the Christian doctrine of omnipresence. So, coming from every possible direction (Jewish/atheist/Hindu/Christian) they converge on the same idea. Then, predictably, organized religions from all directions will label them all heretics (yet more jargon)

  6. I’m curious what about Spinoza you found laugh out loud-able? Spinoza’s writings were in response to Descartes’ belief in the two substances, mind and body, which Spinoza found to be one too many (that’s the briefest summary I think that can be given). He believed that they were one substance united in a single divine being. A belief that is reflected not in the Hindu scriptures because they believe in free will, but in the Ancient Greek Stoic system of Zeno.

    Einstein’s comment was about the divinity of the cosmos, not that there was a personal involved god in everything.

    One more thing: it was addressed above but it is not “Science” which is infallible, because there is no “Science.” The method of hypothesis, experimentation, and theory is what is looked as being supreme but as a method it cannot be infallible.

    1. I laughed out loud at my own preconceptions on what he was going to say, because he said something totally different. I often laugh at my own foolishness, which provides a ready source of comedy.

      George Lakoff (cognitive researcher) says everyone has some ultimate value-God, life, love, nature, the summum bonum-something. My position is that it’s arrogant (and pointless) to mock someone else’s ultimate value.

      1. I’m genuinely curious as to what you thought he was going to say. This is a guy that says in the Ethics that all things are within god and that nothing can exist without, which seems to give us the logical bridge to his panentheism. Not to mention his incredulity at such things such as spirits and what not. I ask because I have been recently returning to his commentary on Ecclesiastes from his Theological-Political Tractatus.

        Sure, Lakoff, is right that everyone has some ultimate value, but while it may be pointless I don’t think it is arrogant to mock someone’s belief that money, or material possessions are the ultimate goal of life. Plato did that long before the advent of monotheism and it seems to be a valid point now as it was then.

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