How to Be an Atheist: Why Many Skeptics Aren't Skeptical Enough (with commentary)

By: Dean Tersigni
2016-07-15

A Christian named Mitch Stokes recently wrote a book called How to Be an Atheist: Why Many Skeptics Aren't Skeptical Enough in which he attempts to prove that atheists don't take a skeptical look at their own "faith" in science and morality. I read through several random sections and didn't find a single original thought, it's just tired Christian apologetics. For example, he points out that science is nothing but inferences made from what we perceive from our faulty senses, which means that science doesn't "know" anything, so scientific theories, like evolution, can be wrong, and while he doesn't have time to give evidence, believe him, evolution is definitely not true, and he should know, he holds five patents in aeroderivative gas turbine technology! But wait, there's more! Did you know that in a secular world view, people can't have free will, so they're just mindless robots which means that we can't say that any action is objectively good or bad, oh yes, and life has no meaning?

But what really strikes me about the book, and others of its ilk, is just how utterly clueless it is toward the world view of secular people. In an advertisement video for the book, Stokes asks some questions directed toward prominent atheists (I've paraphrased them so they can be answered by anyone), but they make it pretty clear that he's never had a talk with a single atheist or even had access to the Internet. Here are his show-stopper questions:

What's the point? Why do you care so much, and why should I? What drives you?

This is your big opener? First of all, the question isn't even coherent. What specific topic are you asking about? I'm willing to chalk this up to bad editing, but I can infer (heaven forbid, right?) at least two different questions that he may be asking, so I'll answer them both just in case.

He could be asking, "If God doesn't exist, what's the point of living?"

This question has been answered about a million times by atheists online, but Stokes specifically targeted Richard Dawkins with this question. To give you an idea of just how much research Stokes did on his book, the very first search result of this topic on Google links to an entire documentary by Richard Dawkins answering this very question. But if you prefer something pithy, consider a quote from Dan Barker, "Asking, 'If there is no God, what is the purpose of life?' is like asking, 'If there is no master, whose slave will I be?'"

A second interpretation to his questions could be, "If God doesn't exist, why do you care if people worship a non-existent deity?"

Now if this was Stokes' question, I can understand why he didn't know how Dawkins' would answer because I didn't find it on Google until the sixth search result! Again, this question has been answered about a million times on the Internet by other atheists. To me, this is like asking someone, "If unicorns don't exist, why do you care if I use your tax dollars to teach your children they're evil if they don't believe in unicorns?" The fact that Stokes still has to ask the question means that either he has never spoken to anyone in the atheist community, or he is presenting himself dishonestly.

If morality is subjective, doesn't that mean there are negative ramifications?

Stokes isn't really asking this as a question, but rather stating it as a point of fact, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and treat it as a question. Let's assume that morality is subjective, what does that mean for society? Absolutely nothing. Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all convinced that their religion is objective, but that hasn't stopped them from spending the last 1,500 years murdering each other for control of a small scrap of desert. The vast majority of people live their lives without knowing even the most basic concepts in the field of ethics, let alone how to differentiate between subjective and objective moral systems, and yet, they're still able to be productive members of society. While I certainly think that a good dose of ethics education would be beneficial, it is by no means necessary.

Atheists may argue that the solidarity of humanity is an objective moral basis, but the real question is, "Says who?"

Ah, the old, "Says who?" argument. This is the kind of challenging retort you'd expect from a doctor of philosophy. Yes, Mitch Stokes actually has a PhD, and he's really putting it to good use. I'm assuming he's trying to argue, "You claim that morality is based on the solidarity of humanity, but many people would disagree with you, and since people can't agree, it isn't objective." I've already responded to this question and many other critiques of objective secular morality, but a tldr version is: this argument is crap, secular morality is objective.

Wrap Up

The book's publisher, a company called "Crossway" that prints nothing but similar masturbatory works, thought that having the author bumble his way through a couple pseudo-questions was a stellar advertisement for their investment, which gives you an idea of the quality of their printing. If you want to read excerpts from the book or laugh at reviews that were obviously paid for (one even claims that the book converted the reader to Christianity!), take a look at its Amazon page.

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