- And why that’s so
It’s one of the hallmarks of thoughtful people that either they think long and hard about a problem before taking a position on it; or else they take a position first and subsequently rationalise it so that it can be defended. So it is that our atheist friends have, over the centuries, presented many arguments in favour of their atheism, all of which, in my opinion, leave a lot to be desired. In the following, I have listed nine of the more oft-repeated ones, along with a few words explaining why they are no good. I am not necessarily saying there are no good reasons to be an atheist; just that no such argument has been presented to date. The reader will notice a recurring theme; namely, the atheists’ insistence on certain kinds of (easily attackable) gods, followed by a statement why belief in them makes no sense.
1. There’s so much suffering in the world. This comes in many forms: There’s no justice in the world. Faith is rewarded to the same degree as unbelief. The resources are so unjustly distributed among people. If an omniscient, omnipotent and an all-good God doesn’t choose to prevent evil, He’s not all-good; if He is unable to prevent evil, He’s not omnipotent. All these arguments feature anthropomorphism – casting the deity in the image of man. While these are excellent reasons not to believe in an anthropomorphic God, they don’t quite do the job of invalidating the very concept of God. Good and evil are themes of mankind, not of God. Good and bad (like hot and cold, beneficial and harmful) are relative terms – when you enjoy a mutton chop it’s good for you, but not so good for the goat. An Absolute God cannot be judged according to something else.
2. Belief in God is an accident of birth. You would probably believe in Allah if you were born in Pakistan, probably in Jesus if born into a Christian family, in Krishna or Vishnu if born to a Hindu Brahmin. In much the same way as the Greeks believed in Zeus, or so the argument goes. The fallacy at play here is called the genetic fallacy: trying to invalidate a position by showing how a person came to hold it. The accident of birth theory – whether true or false – in no way invalidates all belief in God.
3. I am throwing in my lot with science. While science is wonderful in many respects, it’s a mistake to think that it addresses all aspects of humanity. The problem with the so-called reductionist approach (humans are nothing more than matter, spirituality being an illusion) is that physicists have been making ‘matter’ less and less material. They talk about events from which matter is derived by a logical construction. Matter itself has lost the ‘solidity’ and indubitability that it once enjoyed. Besides, there’s no matter-only explanation of consciousness yet. Probably there never will be.
4. How can one believe in flying gods and the like? Starting with the question of whether to believe (or not believe) in God means that one has already skipped a vital question; namely: what does one mean by the word ‘God’? It pays immensely if this is addressed and the childish concepts of gods are ruled out. Because the chances are that many theists don’t believe in those gods either. Of course, it’s another matter altogether if one is looking for the first excuse to embrace atheism.
5. Free will and belief in God are incompatible. Nobody can believe in responsibility and culpability of humans, and at the same time believe in an omniscient God. If God already knows what one is going to do, how is one free to do anything to change the future (which is already known to God)? Either we are automatons or are responsible for our actions; and the latter rules God out. The error in this form of argumentation is that it places God inside the framework of time. According to any sophisticated theistic concept, God is independent of time, and therefore it’s meaningless to apply words such as ‘future’ or ‘already’ to God. We don’t merely conform to the future known to God; instead, we play our part in making that future. And we don’t change the future – there’s only one future, to the realisation of which we contribute.
Now atheists can be found under most rocks and it’s no more fashionable because of being rare
6. Where’s the proof for the existence of God? What would be so special about a god who existed like everything else? (Existence can never quite be detached from the implications of space and time, coming into existence and someday going out of it.) God is Absolute (the most Basic) and is the reason for all existence. He is not a theorem that can be proved by starting from more basic assumptions. Any ‘logical’ argument that proposes to do so ends up proving the opposite – that is, His dependence on something – in the process undoing itself.
7. Theists usually behave horribly. This is text-book ad-hominem. This is like rejecting relativity on ‘grounds’ that Einstein abandoned his daughter. How a person behaves has no bearing on the validity (or otherwise) of his belief systems.
8. Theism causes strife. Sometimes it does. But, so does soccer. Not enough reason to cast aside either.
9. It’s cool to be an atheist. There was a time when being an atheist was cool; when merely by being an atheist one appeared sophisticated and enlightened. In many cases it had some justification too, because being an atheist was rare, and usually it wasn’t something inherited. Now atheists can be found under most rocks and it’s no more fashionable because of being rare.