If there is a god, wouldn’t faith be insulting to it?

Todays question comes from DK who asks…

Name: DK
Message: I have read enough of the questions and responses to gain a general understanding of why you have chosen to be an atheist…  In saying that, I do believe there is a God.  I was raised in a Christian home, and have been taught Biblical principles my entire life.  I am actually a student pastor at the church I attend, and I am in the process of creating a message series proving the existence of God through Biblical and physical evidence.  My belief, much like yours, is that Christians, as a whole, are viewed as ignorant and hypocritical, because their behavior and the claims they make personally, come from very little understanding of who God is and why they actually believe in him.  For most, Christianity is just what they were always taught was “the right thing to believe.”  Without a belief in God being built on a firm foundation of evidence, any belief you express in that regard, whether in word or deed, will lack conviction and lead to instability.  While I am still searching for all the answers, my conviction comes from having personally experienced God’s intervention in my life.  I am not referring to a sense of a being I have never seen that I have made a blind assumption is the presence of God; I am referring to him making a way for me in times when I, despite my greatest effort, could not accomplish something or meet a desperate need.  Ultimately, whether you believe in Christianity or science, Creation or Evolution, we will all be searching for answers until the day we die, some of which we may never be able to answer completely or even at all.  In an effort to gain a better understand of your perspective as an atheist, have you considered the possibility that you are attempting to justify your position from an intellectually finite perspective, when the answers we are all looking for come from an infinite origin?  The Bible says in Proverbs that men judge the outward appearance; God judges the heart.  While having enough understanding of God to be confident in your belief of Him is im!
portant, we can allow our relentless pursuit of understanding God through everything we see to push us away from Him when we don’t find all the answers, when the truth is, we will never have all the answers.  Even a scientist when he verifies a hypothesis understands that, while he may have uncovered a portion of the truth, there is still much left to discover.  Does that make his belief in his original findings any less true?  God does not expect us to have all the answers before we trust Him.  He only wants to bring us peace in the midst of uncertainty – to bring joy and hope to our hearts in a world that is in a constant state of moral decay.  He wants us to trust that if we believe in Him instead of working tirelessly to solve a problem on our own, He can help us through the trials we face.  However, He has given us the free will to choose whether we give Him the chance to do so.  I say these things not to preach at you, but from the first hand experience of, at one time, being in your shoes-of questioning the existence of God.  You cannot experience God’s true purpose until you stop trying to answer everything with your head, and give Him the opportunity to change your heart.  That is the choice He has given you.  What are your thoughts?

Great question and I want to get right to what’s bothering me about what you just said, in fact, it’s one of my biggest problems with the judeo-christian belief system.

It’s dishonest.

Let’s for a minute assume that there is a god and that it wants us to find it. How has it set things up for us to determine how everything else exists? What is the criteria for determining existence? In short, ( I go into greater detail here. ) it’s through objective, verifiable means. So why is it, then when religion comes around, it says that “god” wants us to find it not with the rational, the intelligence, and the brain that said god gave to us, but in a way that’s exactly the opposite? Remember, god through it’s creation has already taught us how to determine what exists and what doesn’t. So why ask it’s creations to toss that out the window? It’s like telling us that dirt is water, the sun is dark, things fall upwards, and that women get pregnant from kissing. We know it’s not how the world, ( which in this scenario has a god ) was set up.

If there is a god, faith would be insulting to it.

A lot of believers at this point like to tell me that faith is a test, and that we need to let go of everything that said god has already taught us, and believe in it despite all of that. Well isn’t that exactly what a person or organization who wants you to think that god is on their side would tell you since they can’t actually produce a god? They would try to convince you to stop thinking about it. After all, you’re human and can’t begin to understand the ways of god. They would tell you that it’s better to believe without evidence because it would show their god that you really trust it. They would show you places in the world that match places in their stories and try to use that as evidence. They would villainize anyone who didn’t agree with them, telling you how evil and immoral everyone else is, and how you need to convince them to believe as you do for their own sake. They would tell you that everything good in your life was given to you by their invisible, anti irrational criteria for a god. It’s insidious and it’s dishonest. I believe that it can be said that the only honest seekers of the divine are atheists.

There was one more thing that you said that bothers me. You said, “I am referring to him making a way for me in times when I, despite my greatest effort, could not accomplish something or meet a desperate need.” I hear this from time to time from believers, and it disturbs me not only because of the underline message of human devaluation, but because I can’t believe that a loving god would want it’s creation to think so low of itself. I go into deeper explanation in my post titled “How do I overcome adversity without a god?

I hope this and the other two articles I mentioned here answered your question for you. If you have any further thoughts please feel free to use the comment section below.

Why are atheists so mean?

Peter wrote us this week and he has a few questions about atheists…

Dear Ask the Atheist,

1. What is the most common reason for atheists being so, and saying that God can’t exist? I’m not trying to sound ignorant, but coming from a Catholic school and having a friend who is struggling with whether he is atheist or not, I don’t really know.
2. Why do so many atheists take the opportunity to rip on Christianity? Not to evangelize, but as a Catholic I believe that God loves the sinner, even atheists. But it appears from the ones I’ve talked to that they are surprised that I’m a creationist, am not actively fighting homosexuality (I am against it, but more personal than religious), and in short not a bigot.
3. Going from 2. They’re also fond of ripping on Christianity, and say there’s no point in following anything in the Bible. Even if there is no Heaven or Hell, it doesn’t hurt for the Bible to have guiding factors. The Golden Rule is cited even secularly in public school systems, and almost all of the laws of civilized societies can be traced back somehow to the Bible. If this is so, then why do they say that everything as a whole is flawed?
I’m not trying to generalize atheists; I just would like to get a better understanding of this out of curiosity and to be a better friend to mine. If it is possible, I also would like to email a writer questions from my theology class as a sort of social experiment.
Thank you in advance,
Peter
Hi Peter, thanks for the questions. These questions have been answered here before, so if my answer doesn’t help you enough, feel free to use the search function. You’ll find more thoughts there.
First, an atheist is just a person without a belief in a god. Some atheists may make the claim that a god can’t exist, some may not, either way the only thing one atheist has to have in common with another is a lack of belief in a god or gods. That’s it. Anything else is just that persons opinion.
Whats the most common reason people become atheists? Simple. The lack of objective evidence for a god. It’s been my experience that most people who become atheist start with an inconsistency in their religious belief. For some it may be a historical claim or philosophical claim or a supernatural claim, whichever it is they usually find a problem that they realize can’t be dismissed off hand. For myself it was learning to be more objective and realizing that religion was highly subjective. Whichever way a person leaves their faith is their own journey. Each one is different.
Why do so many atheists take the opportunity to rip on Christianity? Well I can’t speak for all atheists, but I think it’s the same reason people rip on any belief system that harms others. To you, your religious belief probably centers around your personal salvation and the love of your god. You probably tend to dismiss all of the ugly parts of your religion like slavery, racism, women and children as property, sexual repression, child abuse, and worst of all, the concept that another can pay for the things that you have done wrong. Have you given up everything to follow Jesus? Do you still eat shrimp? Do you cut your hair? Do you wear clothes of different fibers? These are all things that your bible says are bad, yet you probably don’t follow them do you? I don’t point this out to say that you’re a hypocrite or anything like that. I point it out because you also see where you don’t agree with your religion, and yet you and millions of other believers ignore all of the bad things about it. The difference is between you and others is that some people no longer wish to ignore the bad things. These people most often become atheists. Sometimes these atheists speak out against what they consider to be harmful to others. They don’t want others to be hurt they way they were or fall into the same illogical ways of thinking that they fell into. Some are hurt so bad that they become angry with their past belief system and lash out against those who perpetuate it. Some atheists get past that stage, some do not.
Keep in mind, the difference between a militant atheist and a militant theists is broad. The worst a militant atheist will do is write a post in a forum or make a video. The worst a militant theist does is take away your rights or kill you.
Lastly, yes the bible does teach some good things. However none of it is unique to the bible. The golden rule you talk about is better known as the “social contract” and exists in any society with more then one person in it. Just because a religion has some good points to it doesn’t make it okay to tell someone who they can or can not love, or who they should kill, or how other people should live their lives. If the KKK did charity work would you consider them a good organization or would you still judge them on the merits of their teachings? If a group of child molesters taught that everyone should love each other would you praise them? Just because your religion may have some good things to teach in it says nothing to the truth of their claims.
I hope that answers your questions. Feel free to continue the discussion in the comment section below, and as always, thanks for asking.

What good amid these, O me, O life?

Hannah brings up a question that I hear asked by those who have been deconverted from their life of religion…

Name: Hannah
Message: OK, so I suspect you’re right and I hate it. I’ve never exactly believed in god although I have felt a sense of something greater, some sort of karma, and that I have a soul. Now I am told science disproves anything that isn’t material and I can’t bear it. The only things keeping me going through life are that my self-develoment and learning to cope with difficulties means something – which apparently it doesn’t – and that I would meet a certain person after this life one day. Which si also apparently not true. So now all the joy and interest in anything in life has gone for me. Apparently I am here to breed – well, I don’t want children. So what point do I have? I’m not big or important, and I won’t be remembered, all I had was myself and trying to accept certain lessons which would make me stronger for – whatever reincarnation follows – and apparently that doesn’t matter. What am I meant to do? There’s no point to me making all this effort and expending this energy learning things only for myself because it doesn’t matter. I might as well sleep and drink all day. Either option is completely equal in value.
How and why do you even bother to wake up every day? Sincere question. Although perhaps you are just stronger and better people. Should I assume I simply don’t matter as I am weak, and either way it makes no difference as intelligence and individuality is just a cruel quirk of accident rather than each individual meaning something and having some base essence which is, in fact, them, and is worthwhile and eternal and worth developing as it will retain?
I cannot tell you how much I loathe my atheist (ex) friends who have given me these things. They have destroyed my sense of self and my sense of worth and I can’t understand why they bother with life.

This is an excellent question Hannah and thank you for writing. You see, I was at one time exactly where you are now. I had left my faith and felt that I had nothing to cling on to in this world. What was the point if there is no after life? Why do good if there’s no reward? How could I justify personal development if my life was so finite? I struggled with these problems for a while, and when I thought all was lost, the answer came to me. I was reading one of my favorite poets, Walt Whitman and I came upon a poem of his that I had read before, but right at that moment, it struck a chord in me that has carried with me ever since. Here it is…..

O Me! O Life!

BY WALT WHITMAN

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
  Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
I’ve memorized this poem, and I love reciting it to those who will listen because I think it’s a powerful message. “What good amid these, O me, O life?” is something that I think we all ask ourselves, especially those who have left their faith and don’t know how to approach a life without a religion or a belief in a god telling them how to behave and act. One of the scariest parts of letting go of ones faith is the freedom that comes with it. A lot of people don’t know how to deal with it, and in fact a common argument against atheism is that people don’t know how to give their life meaning so it’s better to believe the lie of heaven then to give meaning to your own life. I couldn’t disagree more.
What Walt Whitman is trying to say in his poem is that life, not just your life, but everyone’s life, is a small part of the bigger story of humanity. That the meaning that you give your life will become a part of humanities great story, and that you have the opportunity to impact the story with your own verse. It might be a small verse, or it might be a big verse, that’s up to you to decide. Think about that for a minute. The size of the verse you contribute is up to you. There’s no god that has already decided your verse. There’s no fate to which you are destined. The verse that you contribute, the meaning of your life, is whatever you want it to be. There’s more power in that truth then in any god belief out there.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to suggest that this poem is the answer to your problems. What I’m saying is that if you’re looking for something to inspire your life, there is a lot of wisdom and beauty out there to be inspired by. If you want your life to matter, then make it matter. It’s really up to you.
Lastly, your question seemed to have a lot of futility towards life in it. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious about the way your life is going, then you might want to consider seeing a therapist. Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in a rut in our thinking and a good trained professional can help you figure out a new path to your life. Just a thought.
Thanks for the email, and I hoped my reply helped. As always, feel free to comment below.

Kevin’s letter to his parents.

I received an interesting email from Kevin. I wasn’t sure if he wanted me to answer this in private or if he wanted me to post it here because it seemed so private. However after I asked him, he said that he wanted both. So here’s his email, and my response afterwards.

Hello,

I was hoping that if you had the time, you would be willing to review this letter I have written for my parents. They already know about my atheism but have not accepted it. Therefore, I wrote this letter for them in the hope that they will understand. FYI, I am 16 and live with them. I read your blog everyday and enjoy it immensely. Keep up the good work. Thank you in advance.

With regards, Kevin

Letter:
Dear Mom and Dad,

I would like you to know that I love you very much and I hope you love me. Recently, we have come into disputes of a religious nature.  You may not like my disbelief; I really do not mind. When I told you, I was hoping to be relieved of a great burden. Unfortunately, the burden remains because my loving parents have not accepted me.  The only thing I want for Christmas this year is your complete acceptance, not being forced to participate in something I do not believe in.  Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. If you cannot accept my beliefs or myself as a person, how sad that you cannot accept your own child for whom he is. Does your god not teach acceptance and tolerance of others, regardless of their faith (or lack thereof)? It is my hope that through this letter, you will reexamine the validity of your actions and realize they are not helping anyone and may even be detrimental to your goal and my well being.

Love,
Kevin

 

Well Kevin, first I think your letter is straight and to the point. You’re asking to be treated as an individual with a right to your personal autonomy, and that’s to be commended. You didn’t insult or bash their faith, and it seems you are trying to illicit a bit of respect that you think you deserve. I commend you on your efforts.

Now with that said, allow me to give you some insight to what your parents may be thinking. Obviously I don’t know for sure this is their thought process. I can only give you my insight as being the father of a teenager.

Adolescence is about discovering who you are. It’s about playing around with different perspectives and pushing your own boundaries in order to figure out the type of person you want to be in the future. Your parents know this. They expect it. So because of this they may not take your change as serious as you do. They expect you to one day feel one way and then the next day feel another. Their jobs as parents is to help you navigate this time in your life. So my advice to you would be this, give them the letter if that’s what you feel you need to do but don’t count on it changing anything. Their perspective isn’t something that you can change with just words. You have to show them that you are serious about this. That means studying not only the works of other atheists, but read the bible as well. Show them that this isn’t just a phase that you are going through. Keep in mind that you will find them being adversarial about this as well. They are probably afraid you are going down the wrong path and will want to set you straight. Don’t get upset with this. It’s a sign that your parents care about you. Respect that even if you don’t agree with their methods. If they want you to go to church, go to church. If they want you to talk to a minister, talk to one. Show them that you are open minded. The more you fight them, the more they will work harder on “fixing” you. Arm yourself with knowledge and ask lots of questions. Ask questions that get them to ask questions. Ask question after question after question. Eventually they will not only respect you for doing as they asked, but even better, they will be able to relate to you through their own questioning. Don’t bash them, instead get them to understand you.

I don’t know if that will help but I hope it does. Hopefully others will read this and give you some more advice in the comments. Thanks for sharing Kevin.

How to tell your date that you’re an atheist.

Taylor asks….

Name: Taylor
Message: So here is my question. I’ve been an atheist now for 4 or 5 years and I’ve just got back recently on the dating scene. I live in the stereotypical southern town where most everyone here and anywhere around me are very much ultra religious. I’ve had a few dates now with some girls and one of the first things they ask is where I go to church at. I answer truthfully bu it seems every time I tell them I am an atheist they are immediately judgmental. It seems the word atheist scares them more than what it really means. AKA Voldemort scares people more so than he who must not be named to people in harry potter. ( yes it’s a terrible comparison I know.) Is there anything I can say that conveys me being atheist with out implicitly telling as such?

Hi Taylor. There are of course different words you can use other then “atheist”. You could say “non believer” or “humanist” for example. If “atheist” is such a damaging word where you live then what you have to do is show people that you’re a decent person before you drop the A bomb on them. You could also try a different response. For example when asked what church you go to, you could reply with “I don’t go to any church right now because I haven’t found one that makes sense to me yet.” She will probably ask you what it is about it that doesn’t make sense and without bashing her faith, you can turn this into an opportunity to explain why you don’t believe yet. There’s a reason I used the word “yet” there.

When I used to work in sales one of the first things I learned was the “boat strategy”. The idea is that if you can get the other person to think that you are in the same boat that they are in, that they will be more open to listen to you. By using the word “yet” it allows the other person to think that at the very least that you are open minded and are willing to discuss the topic (which you should be). This in turn gives you the ability to ask questions of them (socratic form of argumentation) in order to lead them to your way of looking at things and not having them feel like you are attacking their faith. At the worst this may encourage your potential partner to preach to you constantly (which should be a warning sign anyway) or at best it will allow the two of you to discuss theism with a mutual respect ( a keeper!).

Remember that the best way to combat the bad rap that the word “atheist” seems to have with some people isn’t by presenting good arguments as to why you’re an atheist, it’s by being a good person. So make sure that you project yourself in a way that people will look at you with affection and respect. Go the extra mile to be kind. Do things like open doors for the elderly, use your manners, give of yourself without expecting reciprocation. This way when people find out that you’re an atheist it wont be, “OH! You’re an atheist?” but instead will be “Oh, YOU’RE an atheist??”

Thanks for the question Taylor. Feel free to reply using the comment section below, and to any other atheists out there, what would be your advice to Taylor? Any personal examples out there?

No atheists?

George asks an interesting question…

Name: George Thomas
Message: Hello there. I have a teacher that always says “There are no atheists” because anytime anyone’s life is at stake, they are gunna say “oh god or god please help.”  It really annoys me that he says this. The way I see it is that it’s kind of like a common expression to say “god.”  What do you think about this?

First, how does he know what people say when their life is at stake? From what my military friends have told me the most common words used under fire are, “shit” and “fuck”. Some people run when their life is at stake. Does this mean no one is brave? Even if there are atheists who call out to a god when they are scared, how does this mean that there are no atheists? Using his logic there are no christians because they fear death when under attack and a true christian would welcome the chance to be with his lord. Your teacher is ridiculous and prejudiced. Next time challenge him. Ask him how he knows what he claims? Ask him to show you proof of his claim.

Let us know how it goes. Thanks for the question!

Where do atheists think they get rights from?

Todays question comes from Lee who asks….

Name: lee
Message: Hello,

I have a religious/political question I’ve been wondering about the atheistic point of how on. The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–“, so in America, our rights are not then granted to us from the government but by God.

My question is, who does an atheist feel gives them their rights? Also, if athists don’t believe people where created equally, but evolved, doesn’t evolution directly teach that  things are getting at least physically better and therefore one generation would be better than another generation. What makes people equal in the eyes of an atheist?

Ps, I’m not trying to cause an argument or disrespect, I just don’t understand and can’t find an answer on Google. I really am interest to know who do artists think gives people their rights and where does equality come from?

Wow Lee. You’ve got some great questions there. Thanks for asking them.

First things first. There is no such thing as an “atheist world view” anymore then there is a world view based upon not believing in elves. It’s kind of hard to base a world view on something that you don’t believe in. I’m sure there’s lots of things that you don’t believe in and you wouldn’t subscribe a world view to any of them. Same thing with atheism. The only thing one atheist has to have in common with another atheist is a lack of belief in a god or gods. That’s it. Anything else an atheist believes about the world is their belief alone.

Now to answer your question about the Declaration of Independence, as I understand it, the architects of the declaration were careful to leave out any reference to “god”. Hence the word “creator” which can mean whatever you want it to. It can mean a god, or it can mean the earth, or the universe, or anything else that you would consider to have created you. Austine Cline, a long time writer for About.com said it best when he said…

what little is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence is only barely compatible with Christianity, the religion most people have in mind when making the above argument. The Declaration refers to “Nature’s God,” “Creator,” and “Divine Providence.” These are all terms used in the sort of deism which was common among many of those responsible for the American Revolution as well as the philosophers upon whom they relied for support. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, was himself a deist who was opposed to many traditional Christian doctrines, in particular beliefs about the supernatural.

One common misuse of the Declaration of Independence is to argue that it states that our rights come from God and, therefore, there are no legitimate interpretations of the rights in the Constitution that would be contrary to God. The first problem is that the Declaration of Independence refers to a “Creator” and not the Christian “God” meant by people making the argument. The second problem is that the “rights” mentioned in the Declaration of Independence are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” — none of which are “rights” discussed in the Constitution.

Let’s also keep in mind that the Declaration of Independence. is not a legal document which is designed to give or take away our rights. Read Austins article and you’ll get a better understanding.

So then, who, if not a god, does an atheist believe gives them rights? I obviously can’t speak for all atheists, but as for my own opinion I would say it’s the same group that gives all of us rights, namely society and by extension, the government. As I understand it’s the social contract which we use to extend our rights to each other. Hence why rights in one part of the world aren’t the same as in other parts. Society defines your rights based upon it’s culture and morality at the time. The USA was unique at the time of it’s creation because it wanted to get away from the idea of an autocracy given power by religion. So instead of rights given by religion, it focused on rights given by the people. This is the heart of democracy, that it’s the people who have the real power and that it is their right to exercise that power.

Now lastly, your question about evolution. I think you may have a misunderstanding of what evolution is. Evolution is simply about adaptation to an environment. Somethings evolve and end up becoming stagnant, somethings evolve and continue on. As Sasha said in her comment to the article “Does evolution say that it’s okay to bully“..

Science is descriptive, not prescriptive. It’s a method to tell us what the world around us is like, not to tell us how we should behave.

So to think that because some atheists believe in evolution means that they don’t think that everyone is equal, is a non sequitur, meaning one doesn’t necessarily follow the other. Besides, equality isn’t about your physical state. We all share the same rights even though some people may be smarter or stronger or weaker or dumber. These rights are given by society equally so that we all start in the same spot and so that one person can’t proclaim dominance over another.

Well I hope that helped. As always Lee, feel free to let us know what you think by replying in the comment section below. Thanks again for the great questions.

Does evolution say its okay to bully?

Scott asks….

Hello, I am from Dallas and I go to a southern baptist school. Recently I had a project in my Logic and World Views class were I had to debate with another classmate on a controversial topic in today’s society, I choose the existence of god because I am an atheist and I wanted to try to convince my classmates that there is not supernatural being. After my debate my schools head master asked me “since evolution proposes that the fittest will survive and the week will die off, is it a good thing if a bigger boy was beating up a small boy?” I responded with no and said that his question was not relevant. But what is the right answer to this question or is there one? Thought you could help, Thanks!
Sent from my iPad

Hi Scott. Thanks for the question.

Your’e teacher doesn’t understand what evolution is. Evolution isn’t about the big beating the small. Some of the smallest things in the world, viruses, kill more people and animals then all of the wars combined. Evolution is about adaptation to an environment. Those that adapt the best go on to have more offspring then those who don’t. The concept isn’t that hard to grasp. I wont go into how it works, there are already enough posts here that answer that (use the search button at the top right hand side if you need to), but I will tell you what I would have said to your teacher.

Are you suggesting that viruses are more fit then humans since viruses have killed billions of people over all of time? Evolution is about adaptation to environments through mutation. Those mutations which benefit survival go on to have more offspring then those who dont. That’s what evolution is all about.

Keep in mind though Scott, that evolution says nothing about if a god exists or not. Many theists believe in evolution. They simply believe that it was god who used evolution to create all of the animals including humans. So if you’re using that to disprove god, I’d find another tactic. Keep trying though. There are some great books out there that can help you learn the basic arguments against the existence of gods. You can check out our book store above to see the top selling books. My all time favorite is George H Smith’s “Atheism: The Case Against God” it’s a heavy reading, but it is by far one of the most comprehensive books on atheism there is. If you want something a little lighter I would suggest Carl Sagans “The Demon Haunted World” or “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. Both are excellent books to start from.

Hope that answers your question Scott! As always, feel free to chime in using the comment section below.

Why do some believers find it so hard to accept evolution?

Ras is back with another question….

I know I came here before when I asked a question about martial arts. But I have another question that has been bothering me for some time and thought I might ask.

Why is it that some people still don’t admit the fact that evolution is scientifically true? Like why do they, even christians, think that evidence for god exists but that it remains obscured from public speculation and that the scientific knowledge we know is false? Like even though Talk.Origins tells a lot, there is a site called ‘True.Origin’ talking about creationism.

Why can’t those people admit they are wrong?

Hi Ras, good to have you back.

For years I’ve had a personal motto, “The hardest thing for anyone to do is to see things as they are, and not how they wished they would be.” What this has always meant to me is that quite often we insert our own bias into our perspective of the world around us and that it takes effort to remove that bias. It’s been my experience that only through thinking skeptically and relying on objective verifiable evidence, can we begin to get a clearer perspective on how things really are.

However that’s not an easy task, and unless you understand the value of being skeptical, even about the things that you think you know are true, you might find yourself holding on to ideas because they make you feel comfortable.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” — Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)

So imagine for a moment you’ve been raised to believe that there’s a sky daddy up in the clouds that created everything there is in just 7 days. You’ve been told this over and over. You’ve been given cute little stories as a child that were designed to make you feel loved and cared for. You were told over and over that you were special, that this sky daddy made this entire world for you and your brothers and sisters of humanity because he loved you immensely. You are special. He breathed life into you and made you separate from all of the other living creatures on the planet. You grow up to believe this your entire life and in return you give thanks to your sky daddy by praying to him, by giving to charities, by sacrificing your own needs and desires so that you can show him how grateful you are for everything that he’s given you. You love your sky daddy, and you believe that your sky daddy loves you too.

Now imagine someone comes and tells you, even shows you, that the earth wasn’t made in just 7 days. That it took billions of years and that this planet is no more unique, no more special, than any other planet out there. Imagine then that this person tells you, even explains to you, that you are the same as every other living animal out there. That you and these animals share a common ancestry. That you weren’t created in a day but through millions of years of natural selection and random mutation. How do you think you would feel about this message? How do you think you would feel if someone told you that you weren’t special? Would you automatically accept this new truth, or would you struggle with it? Even to the point where you clung to hope so tightly, that you denied their claim in hopes that some evidence would show that they are wrong, and that you are indeed special?

For many theists, this is exactly how they see the message of evolution. They see it as an insult to the way, the reason, that they are special. They see it as being told that all of their prayers, their charity work, their sacrifices, all of it, was for nothing. For some, it’s a bitter pill that they simply can not, will not, swallow. It goes against everything that they’ve believed about themselves. It’s to much to accept. So they cling to the hope that the message is wrong. They try every trick, every argument they can to justify their belief that they are special. Even if it flies in the face of a mountain of evidence.

Seeing it from this perspective, it’s not hard to understand why some people deny evolution. It’s not an easy thing to accept. In my experience, the only way a person can let go of this way of thinking is if they love the truth more then they do the idea that they are special. For some believers, their way of thinking adopts evolution into their sky daddy mythos. They accept evolution but believe it was their sky daddy that started the whole thing. This allows them to continue to believe that they are special and at the same time accept the truth of science. For others, it becomes the straw that breaks the camels back. It becomes a gateway into the rejection of their sky daddy belief and into atheism.

So there you have it. I hope that answers your question for you, and as always, feel free to reply in the comment section below.

Something from nothing?

Got a question from Rick today who asks…

Name: Rick
Message: Do atheists believe that everything came from nothingness or do they believe that something has always been?

Great question Rick!

This is a common question that most atheists get from believers and it’s understandable why. Believers are taught that all things have a beginning and that beginning starts with their god. So when they meet an atheist one of the first things they ask is “If there is no god, how do you think everything got here?” to which the atheist will more often then not responds with “How did your god get here?” showing the inherent hypocrisy in the question. Most theists are taken aback from this question because to them, their god has always been, he has no beginning and he has no end, so the question seems as ridiculous to them as the original question does to the atheist.

To most atheists we’re happy with answering “I don’t know”. Which in my opinion is the most honest answer anyone can give from either side of the theological fence. Even if you believe that a god created everything, that doesn’t tell you how he did it. Imagine asking a waiter how your meal was prepared and he answers with “The chef made it”. That really doesn’t answer your question does it? If the waiter actually knew, he would either explain how the chef cooked everything, or would say “I don’t know, let me ask the chef.” and you would be satisfied with his answer. However since no one actually can go talk to god and find out how it was all done, believers are stuck in the same pot with atheists in their “I don’t know and neither do you” soup.

That aside, when we do find the answer it will likely come from science and not from religion. Today the best answer for how something can come from nothing comes from Lawrence M. Krauss who is an American theoretical physicist and cosmologist and who is the Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration and director of Arizona State University’s Origins Project. Wikipedia notes that he has been “Working mostly in theoretical physics, Krauss has published research on a great variety of topics within that field. His primary contribution is to cosmology, as he was one of the first physicists to suggest that most of the mass and energy of the universe resides in empty space, an idea now widely known as dark energy. Furthermore, Krauss has formulated a model in which the universe could have potentially come from “nothing”, as outlined in his 2012 book A Universe from Nothing. As his model agrees with experimental observation such as the shape of the universe and the energy density of the universe, it is referred to as a “plausible hypothesis

If you have the time, there’s a great video on youtube where Krauss explains in a lecture at Harvard how a universe can arise from nothing. It’s a long video, over an hour, but it’s worth the watch. (here)

Well Rick I hope that helps. Thanks for the great question and feel free to discuss it more in the comment section below.