A Question For Atheists

This is kind of a two-part question. I’m not trying to pick a fight or argue for my faith. I just want to understand more precisely where you’re coming from. My first question is more general. I see this among atheists and my agnostic friends. People deny the possibility of any deity’s existence because of the lack of some kind of proof. It occurred to me that I have no idea what kind of proof you’re looking for. Furthermore, it seems to me that, in many cases, not just in the case of spirituality, what constitutes proof is at least somewhat subjective. I would love to get a few different perspectives, so my question is, what would prove to you that God exists?

My second question is a little more personal, but less complicated. I’ve noticed that when atheists write posts or comments, here and in other places, they most frequently attack Christianity in particular. I assume this is partly because Christianity is one of the most prominent religions, if not the most prominent religion in the U.S. and in the West overall. My question here is, do you have an actual problem with Christianity specifically, or do you argue against it the most simply because of its prominence?

Admittedly, I do get tired of people only attacking my faith. However, it seems to me that your arguments would be stronger if you could make a case against multiple religions, and not just the one you know best or dislike the most. I would also like to add that many arguments against Christianity are, in fact, against bad behavior based on wrong interpretations of Jesus’ teaching. These are, in my opinion, justifiable, but misdirected. Like I said, I’m not trying to pick a fight. I really just want to understand.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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48 thoughts on “A Question For Atheists

  1. Hi. 🙂

    I really just want to answer question #2, since my answer is a bit different from a lot of what you’re getting here. I talk about a pretty narrow band of Christianity because I am working through how those beliefs have affected me and continue to affect me. I’m not out to prove that God doesn’t exist or anything like that, but I do find it helpful to talk about some of the things that have had an impact on my life.

  2. Something that has always fascinated me; the idea of being God’s Children. Our father in heaven. We call priests ‘Father”. Even nuns are referred to as sister or Mother Superior. Brother Michael. Sister Louise. One big family.
    It just fosters and encourages (nay, insists on it) the idea of God as the head of the church, the patriarch. “We are”. the minister or preacher thunders, “chidren of the creator. We do his bidding. We must obey God’s laws…!” Er. which ones?

    Our own roles are trivialized unless they are somehow linked to god. If we succeed, we praise god for helping. If we fail, we fail alone and god is sad. If a family member gets sick, we pray to god to heal them, to cure them of the creeping whatevers and if they get well anyway, god gets the credit. If they die, we blame ourselves for not praying hard enough. Excuse me? Or we justify the entire business as “part of God’s plan”.

    It’s all vague and so open to interpretation as to be meaningless. We make it up as we go along, and then say, God told me. End of discussion.

  3. 1. It would have to be something that could not possibly have a natural cause. Something that could not be explained with science, logic, confirmation bias, coincidence, etc. Something empirical and solid.

    2. I personally go after Christianity because it is the religion I grew up around and see in my day-to-day life. I don’t really have a particular problem with Christianity, if anything I prefer it to some other religions, such as Islam.

  4. 1. Proof for me would be like others have said, make an appearance every once in a while. 🙂

    2. I don’t think I have ever attacked a Christian but once someone finds out I’m an atheist, usually I am attacked or asked to defend my atheism. Then you have people like silenceofmind (and other bloggers) whose sole purpose of their blog is to attack atheism. I use to debate religious people a great deal and find when they don’t “convert” me, they start resorting to ad hominems. –it is usually at that point, when I am pushed, that I start fighting back.

    I would say, if you want to get to know an atheist, don’t listen to the opinion of someone who is not atheist. There are many religious people who will tell you how bad atheists are. Avoid them and just listen to the atheists 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment. I guess “attack” might not be the most accurate word. I’ve read a few atheist blogs that have pretty harshly criticized my faith, and I guess I sometimes see it as an attack because, for one thing, I don’t know the motivation behind the post. Part of it, too, is that to me, my faith is about an objective truth, and it bugs me when people try and reduce it to simply an emotional crutch. On the flip side, I simply have trouble wrapping my head around atheism, but it does really tick me off when people who call themselves Christian default to attacking or attempting to intimidate instead of trying to have a civilized conversation.

      1. Very often, a post about religion by an atheist is about some kind of religious privilege being afforded or promoted for very poor reasons… reasons that are not honest or accurate. In my own case, I post to demonstrate the pernicious effects of faith-based beliefs of which religion is the Mother Ship (because it advertises faith to be a virtue rather than the vice it is in all other human endeavors). Religious acceptance and privileging is a huge and ongoing problem that harms real people in real life every day and is in desperate need of loud and sustained public and literate criticism.

        So when you say that your faith is actually about an objective truth, you are asking to be criticized for false advertising. If you had access to an objective truth about anything, then reality itself would be your ally and you could use evidence-adduced facts to support the claim. You wouldn’t need faith. And so your claim could be treated as an honest one.

        Faith is used to impose beliefs on reality for reasons other than finding out anything knowable about it. By definition, this makes any faith-based claim about reality – including any claim about some knowable ‘objective truth’ – to be fully and wholly subjective and utterly dependent on the belief imported to it rather than adduced from reality for its support.

        In other words, I think you’ve fooled yourself and are trying to fool others into thinking your faith-based belief is from anywhere other than the faith-based belief you have imported.

        Your faith-based beliefs are not synonymous with but contrary to reality.

        This is but one example why religious belief is in need of criticism; it’s method to inform the claims it makes about reality, what it contains, how it has come to be, what mechanisms and agencies cause effects, and so on, is broken. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t produce knowledge. Religious belief produces no knowledge but supports ignorance about anything, anywhere, anytime yet is treated as if such belief is accompanied by something valuable, insightful, and worthwhile to contribute to some human concern.

        Really? I have yet to come across it.

        I think pretending that religious belief has any merit or authority or expertise beyond its own dogma regarding whatever subject it’s trying to impose itself is just another form of trying to advance ignorance and pernicious incredulity of the listening audience which, if accepted unconditionally, leads to widespread and pernicious gullibility that causes real harm to real people in real life. This harm is the main product of religious belief and it needs to be reduced not by force or violence but by advancing good reasons in place of poor ones.

        1. Religious belief does not hinder the quest for knowledge, scientific or otherwise. Furthermore, while some “religious” people and institutions are destructive, many others are responsible for the greatest charities in the world. On an individual level, religious belief is often proven to be beneficial to health and happiness. I will say no more since you seem to have no interest in having a polite discussion.

          1. Religious belief does not hinder the quest for knowledge, scientific or otherwise.
            This must be why it doesn’t matter more Americans believe in creationism than evolution. The two are perfectly compatible explanatory models.

            others (religious people and institutions) are responsible for the greatest charities in the world.

            This must be why we working towards not needing charities (a loss of about 100 billion dollars a year in lost tax revenue the US alone, not that a hundred billion could produce much charity…), why governments and governmental institutions are not sufficient to meet the needs of its people.

            On an individual level, religious belief is often proven to be beneficial to health and happiness.

            That explains the extraordinary benign value of Christian Science on all those individual dead children, all those individual Yazidi children, too. Faith healing and prayer works, kids…

            Polite discussion? Sure, but you are confusing legitimate criticism as ‘hostile’ rather than as a necessary baseline for the discussion in the first place.

      2. I’m all for civilized conversations! 🙂 Just like “Christians”, there are many different “Atheists”. Some Christians are nice, some nasty, some will defend their religion to no end, others can admit to some of their religions folly. (fat kids, skinny kid, kids who climb on rocks, lol)

        I can easily see how an atheist reacts when beaten down by a religious persons innuendo – and sometimes in return, an atheist can try to make a mockery out of religion.
        You mentioned Objective Truth and if that’s what you believe about your religion, it likely isn’t just atheism that might bug you, what about other religions that may differ from your own. I’ve been studying world religions on and off for the past few years and each one things their religion is the truth. It helped me to see that maybe my own worldview may not be the “truth” but it is what I am comfortable believing in.

        and obviously, atheism is pretty much the opposite of theism, so of course we are bound to disagree on things. Understanding and accepting our differences goes a long way.
        (I retyped this twice just in case something doesn’t make sense)

  5. I just wanted to say thanks for all the comments, everyone, especially everyone who took the time to write separate posts altogether. I would like to read and respond to those. I’m just going to be a little slow since I’m camping right now. 😍

  6. 1. If I could see God fly down and say “Hey guys I’m real and all the stuff in the Bible is real” (it’d also be nice if he cleared up all those confusions in there) Literally, that’s what would make me believe in God. If I saw him. You might say “well that’s what Jesus was,” but I’m well aware of the incredibly shady terms under which the Gospels were written (likely none by actual apostles, most 50+ years after the actual events at the earliest of estimates.) I think Jesus was a real guy that existed, but there’s no evidence that any of this stuff happened. So if God could fly down and prove himself that would be cool. If that’s asking too much, then maybe just anything at all. A miracle or something that can actually be seen? Weird how nobody sees God anymore now that there’s a camera in everyone’s pocket…

    2. I don’t like any religion. It’s just easiest to argue against the most prominent one in my area, the one I encounter the most. I could just as easily refute other holy texts or beliefs, but people seem to care most about their own, so it’s just a convenience thing. Some religions cause more harm than others, but I just end up debating Christians the most because I live in the USA. I think it’s a harmful religion, but all of them are.

  7. I was thinking today, you can’t physically prove God, no more than I can physically disprove him. A “belief system” is just that. A belief is an opinion, not a fact. Once you wrap yourself around that, it does get easier.

    Your opinion is that there is a god. cool I won’t argue an opinion, that way lies nuttiness. My opinion is that there is none. My particular belief system does not allow for divine intervention, and yours insists on it.

    Beyond that, what does it matter? Really…

    1. Thanks for this. I think I pretty much agree with you. I know people have tried to scientifically prove God, but I haven’t really looked into it at all because I figure, by necessity, their findings must be at least somewhat interlaced with bias, as well as more abstract ideas that are not strictly scientific. I guess what it all comes down to is what you’re willing to trust as truth/fact.

  8. No, quite the opposite. Proof needs to be objective. A kind of objective evidence that we can all access.
    Contradictory quotations from a book of short stories is far from good enough.

  9. You aren’t catering for the non-thinkers amongst us. I don’t believe in any gods. Or any possibility of gods. I also don’t spend my time thinking about it. Not relevant.

    I’m more interested in starving homeless people, animal abuse, and violence against women to start with. God doing much about that?

  10. I’ll post here in case you donlt fancy popping over.

    Proof is generally reserved for mathematics so I hear, and believers will often tell me that evidence is subjective and therefore open to interpretation; some think the earth is around 10,000 years old others, a few billion.

    So the only way I can answer this question is to ask one of my own:

    What was the evidence that convinced you, Flyingguineapig, – or any Christian for that matter – and maybe it will convince me as well?

  11. How we ask our questions very much determines the kind of answers we get (epistemology produces ontology). In this case, you’ve framed the first question in such a way as to deny yourself getting an honest answer.

    You say “I just want to understand more precisely where you’re coming from,” but then ask your first question using your own assumption that you presume you already know. You state as if true that “People (atheists) deny the possibility of any deity’s existence” and justify that denial “because of the lack of some kind of proof.”

    I’m going to stop you right there. This is not the case, so any answers to the follow up question about proof has nothing whatsoever to do with informing you where atheists are coming from; instead, you’ll get comments about what constitutes proof. That’s a different question.

    I don’t know what atheists you’re talking to, but I don’t of any who deny the possibility of gods or a god. The scope of the error of your assumption here is revealed when we know that even Richard Dawkins – what many believers consider the qua atheist – doesn’t deny the possibility. So you’ve framed your question incorrectly from the start.

    Sure, all people – theists and non theists alike – conclude that some beliefs are not worth investing any confidence in. You do the same thing. Someone tells you about a belief that they hold – say, that Santa Claus is real, that he really does have flying reindeer, that he really does distribute presents to children around the world every Christmas eve – and you have absolutely no problem deciding that you don’t share that literal belief. The reason isn’t because you deny anything; you simply have no compelling reason(s) to think it may be true.

    Atheists are no different. These are people who have no compelling reasons(s) to think your religious beliefs – or any they have ever encountered – may in fact be true.

    If theists would leave off at this point, we’d all get along famously. The problem is that theists don’t.

    Just look at the kind of vitriol people like SoM heap on atheists. Look at the accusations of moral decrepitude so many religious leaders say keeps some people from believing in their religious precepts, that there’s something wrong with them, that they are self-centered and arrogant and egotistical evil. Look at the constant vilification thrown at non believers from popes and imams and archbishops and medicine men. Non believers are people ‘we’ can’t trust. Look at the killings and tortures and imprisonments of non believers. Insert Santa Claus as the object of belief and realize the scope of the absurdity atheists must face on a daily basis for having no compelling reasons to share that belief… other than social and political and economic and familial reasons to go along to get along.

    And that’s before we even begin to consider the real world effects from the vast scope of religious privilege atheists must endure every day.

    If you want to understand more precisely where non believers are coming from, look no further than the lack of compelling reasons believers use to justify their own and understand the courage and intellectual honesty atheists must have to face down such hostile attitudes. Think about that and look anew at the quality of the reasons you use to not only hold your belief with confidence but that you presume justifies you going along with the ubiquitous religious privilege you afford it at a very real cost to all of us.

  12. I think the post was disingenuous. You said you didn’t want to argue, and only wanted to ‘understand’, but when someone answered, that’s the first thing you did. You argued that the person might have just missed what God was saying or just didn’t try hard enough to perceive or just didn’t believe what God was saying.
    This is why deconverts like me, not just atheists, are sometimes distrustful and sometimes diwn right offended by ‘I just want to understand’ posts like this that try to coyly come across as respectfully seeking answers but are in reality just Trolling exercises. Please, just stop. We’ve been where you are, alot of us have been much further down the rabbit hole than you are now. We’re not stupid or just not trying hard enough or just stubborn rebels rejecting ‘clear evidence’. These kinds of posts are offensive. Stop the Trolling, it’s not very respectful of our right not to believe what you still do. -kia

    1. Please believe me that I didn’t mean to be a troll. What you choose to believe or deny is your business. I was just making a suggestion from my point of view. I get that this is a sensitive subject so if I crossed a line, I really am sorry.

  13. Hey there! Sorry for the long-ish comment!

    Question 1: The short answer is objective, testable, non-testimonial evidence. Send down a flying puppy to cure childhood cancer and end world hunger simultaneously, and let people record it all on their mobile devices for later study. Maybe leave a giant message in the clouds that translates to everyone’s language and that even illiterate people could read, telling everyone why this adorable puppy harbinger came and did all this. Something like that would definitely get the ball rolling on believing in supernatural deities.

    Question 2: I pick on Christianity because it’s the religion I left, and it’s the predominant religion where I live. A lot of English speakers are Christian, so you’re going to find a lot of criticism in the English language aimed at Christianity. Moreover, you’re probably going to see specific criticism of specific things, and mostly I witness practices done by Christians. Blanket generalizations aren’t good criticisms because people will claim exceptions that don’t apply to them.

    I hope these answers help!

  14. First, proof of God? How about God? That would do it. Is there any proof at all? Second, I do not attack anyone or any religion–ever. However, others may point out problems, issues, inconsistencies, or fallacies. While you may see such things as attacks, I may not because I have no emotional dog in the fight. I am fairly sure that Islam is the most worrisome religion to most atheists. And keep in mind, if I were to discuss problems I see with your religion, it would be with you. Discussing the Jewish faith with you would be silly. How much would you care? When we say most atheists, we are usually wrong. We’re all over the map. Nine out of ten seldom discuss religion with religious people. It seems pointless to them. We have our trolls just like anyone. But few of us want to offend anyone.

    1. For the sake of argument, how exactly would you expect an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent being to prove himself to you? What if he’s tried to show you who he is, but you haven’t recognized him because you haven’t wanted to? Also, you’re right, most arguments against Christianity are not attacks, and yes, the issue is emotional for me. My point about discussing multiple religions had more to do with theism in general. What I mean is that, at least in my mind, you can’t disprove the existence of God unless you can prove that all faiths are wrong.

      1. I do not wish to argue. I was only trying to answer your question. Besides, if God is all of that, he or she will figure it out. How would you know that I have not wanted to? I am under no obligation to you or anyone to disprove anything. Am I. You believe. I don’t. Simple, right?

          1. Now that I read you about, I will share more with you. Most of my life, I have been a seeker. I have tried several Christian denominations and have practiced the faith for more years than you have walked the earth. Good luck in your writing.

      2. “how exactly would you expect an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent being to prove himself to you?”

        This wouldn’t be difficult for an “omniscient” god. It would know precisely what’s required to convince me of the truth of its existence. God instead chooses to be hidden. A hidden god is indistinguishable from a nonexistent one.

        1. If there were a god there would be no need for proof, or argument or anything else. Everyone would know. Everyone would be on the same page, and there would be no need for religions, or sacrifice, or anything else. My god would be your god, would be his god. Everywhere.

          1. There’s certainly unexplained paradoxes in today’s monotheism. First, an “omni” everything deity would be complete in all aspects and wouldn’t require the love and adoration of lesser beings. This kind of god wouldn’t create a situation pre-knowing a lesser outcome than the one intended. But it certainly falls in line with christianity’s dogma that a one true god would be the stereotypical self evident reality. Unfortunately, jehovah’s relatively new in the pantheon of all the other gods who came before him.

            1. yep, yep, and there would never have been the need for that pantheon of gods before him, either. God would just be. We wouldn’t need to justify him, or ourselves, or anything. And he would belong to everyone, not just Christians, who jealously guard him like kids (there we go again) saying “my daddy is better than YOUR daddy…”

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  15. The answer can be communicated in one sentence:

    When atheists speak of proof, they are referring to scientific proof.

    Unfortunately, modern science has proven the existence of God and atheist have absolutely no interest at all in understanding the proof.

    1. Something I hear a lot is that people are looking for “quantifiable” proof. I guess I don’t entirely know what that means. For example, I don’t think anyone would dispute the fact that dogs exist, but can you actually prove it? I guess that’s getting into pretty abstract theories that go beyond strictly observable science.

      1. Some things are quantifiable, other things are not.

        Science addresses both.

        For example, in molecular biology sometimes it is necessary only to prove that something is present, not quantization necessary.

        A pregnancy test is an example. The object of the test is to verify the presence or not of particular protein molecules.

        In other situations, knowing the exact amount, or concentration of a substance in a certain volume of liquid is required.

        Making baby formula or medicines or soft drinks for that matter, require exact quantization of ingredients.

        Since God is not quantifiable (yet, anyway), it is only necessary to prove that he exists.

        Science has done this by its own standards and methods.

        There are other ways to deduce God’s existence.

        These ways are done through reason which is THE way human beings are able to determine whether something is true or false.

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