Things You Shouldn't Say To An Atheist
James C. Rocks
Having debated many creationists and religious fundamentalists over the years (since the early nineties) I have, in my time, been accused of several rather stupid things and been asked some very daft questions. Thirty years equates to a significant level of debate experience, so it will surprise almost no one (on my side of the debate, at least) that I have answered most of them over time. It is said that there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers but, on the basis of some of these (and, yes, they are real) I would have to disagree.
- Where do you get your morality?
- Your life must be so empty.
- Why are you mad at god?
- You can't disprove god.
- What if you're wrong?
- You just have to have faith.
- Just open your heart.
- You were never really religious.
- What happened in your childhood?
- Have you read the bible?
- I'll pray for you.
- Do you worship the devil?
- You're not really an atheist, you must be an agnostic.
- Isn't atheism a religion?
- Why are you so angry?
- You just want to sin.
- You don't act like an atheist.
- When you're suffering you will call out to god.
- It's just a phase.
- I don't have enough faith to be an atheist.
- Have you heard about Jesus?
- Where will you go when you die?
- So, we all came from monkeys?
- Isn't evolution just a theory?
- Where did the universe come from?
- Where do the mountains come from?
- A lot of smart people are Christians.
- Why do you only pick on Christians?
- What will you teach your children?
- Do you eat babies?
Where do you get your morality?In my view humans have simply evolved to co-operate with each other ... our distant ancestors were, almost certainly, pack animals of some kind. Morals such as not murdering, stealing, lying etc. have continued to be regarded as acceptable within our culture simply because it is better for the pack (family, town, county, country, culture or whatever) that they do so. There are, of course, exceptions such as in times of war, in self-defence and, as an atheist, I fully recognise the logic of this. To kill another human without reason is a pointless waste of life and, in evolutionary terms, wrong ... all I would be doing would be reducing the genetic potential of my species. If I don't adhere to that and go around killing people as and when I liked then pretty soon someone is going to notice and they are going to either lock me away for a very long time or kill me to prevent me killing any more.
Your life must be so empty.No more than yours in fact I would argue my life has [potentially] even fuller than yours since I don't waste my time praying or otherwise acknowledging the existence of deity whose very existence is, at best, debatable and, given the lack of validatable evidence, probably non-existent.
Why are you mad at god?I'm not. I can't be mad at something I don't believe exists.
You can't disprove god.I don't need to disprove your god. In fact, given the fact that no currently accepted scientific explanation requires or requests the action of deity suggesting that no such worthy exists, the claim to the existence of deity is the extraordinary one so it is you that needs to prove your god; I can simply sit here drinking beer and watch while you try.
What if you're wrong?If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. That said I refuse to believe that any [hypothetical] god that supposedly loves its creation would punish that creation for using the brain it supposedly gave it in order to reason that its creator does not exist. If a god really existed why did it not leave clear, unambiguous evidence? To do anything else seems cruel, capricious and narcissistic.
You just have to have faith.I have faith, in family, friends and the logic and reason provided science.
Just open your heart.What? My heart is a pump. When I'm excited it pumps as bit faster, when I'm relaxing a bit slower. What has my heart got to do with anything?
You were never really religious.Er yes, I was. I was brought up a good Catholic and had absolutely no reason to believe anything else. That changed around the age of 13 when I started reading science fiction and dealing with the science it encompassed.
What happened in your childhood?Nothing much. No abuse, loving parents, the usual stuff ... oh, and I was exposed to science fiction and started watching early BBC science and technology programs.
Have you read the bible?Not all of it but quite a bit yes. It's fairly incoherent tome that makes little real sense and some fairly wild claims, a book written by superstitious and scientifically illiterate men a couple of millennia ago. That people believe such archaic rubbish now doesn't really say a lot of good things about them. Actually, it seems to me that in general atheists know more about the bible, Christianity and religions in general than the average Christian does.
I'll pray for you.Thx (I suppose) ... I hope your head gets better.
Do you worship the devil?I no more believe in your devil than I do in your god. As Marty Leipzig said, "It's YOUR bible, they're YOUR rules ... YOU burn in HELL!"
You're not really an atheist, you must be an agnostic.The vast majority of atheists appear to not claim certainty that there is no god so yes, you could argue that however I don't accept that atheism is as dissimilar from agnosticism as your question implies or even as most agnostics claim, I think they're both pretty much the same.
Isn't atheism a religion?Nope, not only is it effectively the absence of belief it carries none of the trappings typically associated with religions i.e. prayer, ceremony, unquestionable figures of authority, special religious days etc.
Why are you so angry?As a general rule I'm not however it does irritate me, sometimes annoy me a great deal that things attributed to religion are considered good when they are obviously bad. And why is it, when you see news reports, someone says, "Oh he was a good Christian,"? Why doesn't anyone ever say oh he was a good atheist/secularist/humanist? What's so good about believing mythical tripe? The other thing that is annoying and can make me angry is when religious people try to change things or get special exceptions to practice their bigotry ... sometimes it surprises me I'm not angry all the bloody time.
You just want to sin.Nope. I reject the very concept. In principle, as long as no one else is harmed by actions, I believe I should be able to do anything I damned well please. In practice that's not so easy but yeah, if I want to watch porn or a thoroughly gross horror film or, perish the thought, a documentary discussing the lack of evidence for deity (all while drinking beer or hard spirits) then I can do so. None of those actions can be considered sinful or even all that bad unless you believe in mythical deity (I concede that drinking can be bad for one's health and over-imbibing/addiction to it can lead to undesirable social consequences).
You don't act like an atheist.How is an atheist supposed to act?
When you're suffering you will call out to god.Ah yes, the old atheist in a foxhole argument. First of all, given that I don't believe in your god or any other, would you be good enough to tell me which god I would pray to? Secondly, it is clearly not true that that would happen, there is a group of atheist soldiers (US I believe) who call themselves "atheists in foxholes", who have been under fire many times, in life threatening situations and have yet to request the intervention of deity. In essence this is a claim based on what YOU believe would be true and has little or no basis in reality.
It's just a phase.I suppose that's possible but it's worth pointing out that this particular phase has lasted for almost fifty years. Exactly how klong is a phase in this context?
I don't have enough faith to be an atheist.In my opinion it doesn't take faith to be an atheist, it typically takes intelligence and a reasoned outlook on the universe in which we live.
Have you heard about Jesus?Er, yes. Would you like me to tell you what they say about him? Actually, I don't believe he ever literally existed.
Where will you go when you die?Nowhere. I will die and that will be that. If I'm lucky my family will remember me with affection and some of my books might be remembered. Of course, I'm kinda hopeful they might find a way to digitally upload me but ...
So, we all came from monkeys?No, that's the creationist version of evolution that says that ... nowhere does the real theory of evolution state or even imply that is so.
Isn't evolution just a theory?A scientific theory implies little in the way of doubt or uncertainty as the word "theory" does when used in common place, everyday language ... in science a "theory" is "a system of ideas explaining something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the particular things to be explained (e.g. atomic theory or the theory of evolution); the exposition of the principles of a science etc.; a collection of propositions to illustrate the principles of a subject (e.g. probability theory or the theory of equations)." The Theory of Evolution is an attempt to explain the vast diversity of life and how it has evolved from a single common ancestor and in fact (common use) evolution is the only explanation accepted by the entire scientific community as explaining the development of the diversity of life around us today. When people say things like "it's just a theory" WRT to major scientific theories they simply demonstrate themselves to be ignorant of science and all it represents!
Where did the universe come from?I don't know. Perhaps it is part of a larger multiverse, one that has always existed and always will?
Where do the mountains come from?Do some reading, at least go look on Wikipedia for your own god's sake.
A lot of smart people are Christians.They are however, whilst I have no problem particular problem with the simple belief that there is a creator (I can merely disagree), I would argue that faith in an old book of such dubious authorship and statement is one step too far for anyone involved in the sciences. In essence my problem is scripture and all that follows from it, not the beliefs themselves.
Why do we only pick on Christians?As far as I know we don't, I know I don't however it has to be said that my greatest familiarity is with Christianity, after all I was one so that would probably lead to some degree of perceived targeting. However, don't get me wrong, right now I see Islam as the worst religion quite simply because their fundamentalists are so violent. Yes, Christian fundamentalists can also be violent but in pure numbers I believe Islam has it and then some.
What will you teach your children?My children are adults now, 29 and 24 and we have done our best to educate them and equip them for a future in British society even though we cannot be absolutely sure what that future will hold. As they were growing up, we both did our best to present "the other side" as neutrally as possible to them, in fact for nearly two years, I took my oldest daughter to the local Anglican church becoming friendly with parishioners and clergy. Two events I think changed that. The first was the recognition of neighbours of ours as very special parishioners, influential and important to that church ... the very same neighbours who had been conducting a campaign of hatred against us for the twenty-nine years we have lived near them and were later (after we had left) dismissed from the church for their excesses. The second was a more comical event one Christmas (which I still love BTW) when we went to the church to be presented with what I later called, a multimedia version of a Christmas service, I kept replacing words with inappropriate (to Christians) ones as I sang along and ultimately couldn't hold my sh** together it was so hysterically funny. Both my daughters are atheist, one strongly, the other just dismisses it as rubbish so I guess we haven't done too bad.
Do you eat babies?What a stupid question and the answer is no.