3 Things to Say to an Atheist (with commentary)

By: Dean Tersigni
2016-08-03

When I see a post that I want to respond to, but don't have time right away, I bookmark it for later. Unfortunately, "later" may be over a year into the future. As such, I have no memory what drew me into this clickbait, but I assume it was a Facebook post by a religious family member. Anyway, on with the commentary!

What do you do with your Guilt?

Hey Muslims, want to know how to win over a Christian? Tell them that they don't really believe in Jesus, they secretly know that Allah is the one true god! What? You don't think that will work because it's incredibly insulting? Gosh, I wonder why this Christian preacher thinks that telling atheists that they secretly believe in his god is a good conversion tactic? Here's some free advice, even if your religion teaches you that everyone knows in their heart that your religion is the correct one, if you have any desire whatsoever to convert them, don't say it!

The author's description doesn't appear to have anything to do with his actual question, unless he's saying that all non-Christians should feel guilt because they aren't Christian (which I'm not willing to dismiss). Let me instead focus on what I hope he's asking. When a Christian feels guilty over doing something wrong, he will ask his god for forgiveness, and, assuming that he ask genuinely, he believes that his god forgives his wrongdoing, so the Christian doesn't need to feel guilty any more. Since atheists do not have a god to grant them forgiveness, how do they absolve their guilt?

Let's say the Christian backslides. He steals a car, takes it for a joyride, and ends up causing a terrible accident injuring several people. Then, feeling guilty for the awful things he did, the Christian prays to Jesus and asks for forgiveness and is genuinely sorry for what he did. Assuming his religion is correct, his god will forgive them, and even if he were to die that very moment, he would enter into Heaven cleared of all sin. A non-Christian will probably find this appalling and want to know, "What about the person who's car he wrecked? What about all the people he injured? If the car thief needs to ask forgiveness to anyone, it's to them!" Of course, most Christians will agree that people have an obligation to apologize to everyone they've wronged, and should offer reparations for damages. Atheists deal with their guilt in the same manner, they just skip praying to any gods. Once they've made amends to the people they've wronged, their guilt is absolved.

Where did the Universe Come From?

The author explains that he read about an astrophysicist who said that billions of years ago the universe exploded into being from nothingness. I doubt that the author read any such thing, and not just because pastors sometimes fabricate stories to make better sermons, but also because I can't imagine an astrophysicist giving such a infantile and incorrect description of the big bang. The big bang does not say that nothing exploded and became the universe. It doesn't even address the cause of the universe. It only explains the state of the universe 13.7 billion years ago, based on the current laws of physics and doesn't yet make any claims about what happened prior. The author's argument about a chair poofing into existence is nothing but a straw man.

But if you'd like an honest answer to your question, it's simple, "Nobody can demonstrate how it happened, and we may never be able to." This is by no means a satisfying answer, and I certainly want to know about what caused the universe (assuming it had a cause), but I'm not going to pretend to know something I don't. Furthermore, if you think that, just because someone can't give you a natural answer to your question, your supernatural answer is somehow made more likely, you're wrong. It doesn't do any good to claim to know something if you can't actually demonstrate your knowledge.

Can you prove there is no God?

The author immediately follows up the question with, "Of course the answer to this must be no," proving that he's not actually asking a question at all. I'm assuming he's under the false belief that you can't prove a negative, when in fact, you can. If someone told you, you can't prove that one plus one doesn't equal six, you could simply take a rock, put another rock next to it, and count two rocks. Presto, you've proved a negative. Likewise, you can make some similar proofs about gods. If someone tells me their god is always perfectly good and always perfectly evil, I can prove that their god doesn't exist because nothing can have those two properties at the same time.

You could also try a different approach. When asked, "Can you prove that God doesn't exist?" simply ask them, "What sort of proof would you accept?" Chances are, they haven't actually considered what would constitute an answer to their question. If, like the author, they say that it's impossible to prove their god doesn't exist, remind them that they can't prove that other gods like Zeus or Odin don't exist either, but just because they can't prove that they don't exist, it doesn't mean that they do exist. Rational people don't just believe in every conceivable idea, they require evidence.

The author goes on to ask questions about moral absolutes and justice, as if the mere existence of a god somehow solves that problem. Sorry, but if morality changes from the Old to New Testament, it isn't unchanging, is it? As examples of the ills of subjective morality he uses the evilness of Hitler and Stalin, but compared to the god of the bible, they're rank amateurs.

His Conclusion

The author concludes his "questions" by saying that nobody was ever argued into heaven (which implies his entire article is a waste of time.) He suggests praying for atheists instead and leaving their conversion up to God, but then reminds Christians that they should always be prepared to give reasons for their faith. Kind of sending mixed signals here; should they use reasonable arguments or should they leave it up to God?

This article just reeks of irony and would more accurately be titled, "3 Things NOT to Say to an Atheist," and, based on his answers, I kind of doubt he has ever actually asked someone from the atheist community any of these three questions.

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