Thoughts on the Atheist’s Dilemma

AK Haart, writes a thoughtful article over at OoL on the dilemma –  as he sees it –  that atheists face.

So where does that leave an atheist who feels inclined to enter the God debate? With an extremely serious dilemma I’d say, especially now the scientific method is such a crock. We can’t worship at that alter any longer, not without a cauterized sense of smell and some very large and ungainly blinkers.

He has a point about science. It has become so degraded that all we hear these days is “peer reviewed” tossed about as if it means something other than getting one’s mate to mark one’s homework. Real scientists –  those of the calibre of Newton and Darwin would publish their findings so that others could recreate them and test them independently. They produce theories that are falsifiable and share the outcomes of their attempts to do so.

My response to the dilemma, though, was a simple one –  for the most part, I choose to avoid it. Certainly in real life, you will find me very reticent on matters of belief although I do recall someone recognising my lack of belief at a wedding once. A kindred spirit noticed that Mrs L and I were not partaking of the ritual, but merely standing, mute, while it was going on. And that is primarily how I approach it. Live and let live.

That said, if someone chooses to preach, I will respond as I did once with some Jehovah’s Witnesses who happened to catch me unawares one morning. They gave up pretty quickly as my answers to their questions didn’t fit the script –  no, I don’t believe that we are all going to hell in a hand basket and no, I don’t believe that a lack of God in young peoples’ lives is a cause for concern (or something along those lines). I said to them, as I say to all those who would preach religion to me –  “If your God exists, please provide some evidence to support your assertion”.

The usual response to anyone venturing beyond this point is the inevitable tired rhetorical trick that quickly manifested themselves on Haart’s post –  a demand that I prove my case. Ho hum… No, I do not have to prove anything. I am making no claims as my lack of belief in deities, supernatural beings, unicorns, leprechauns and fairies at the bottom of the garden is the default position. Nor is the Bible evidence of such (the usual second line of attack). The Bible is a book consisting of a collection of writings over a period of centuries that was written by different people, drawing heavily on earlier myths and legends. It was then collected together and translated –  not to mention heavily edited –  in the 4th  Century by the Catholic Church. In so doing, they decided which scriptures to include and which to leave out. Also, translation from the original Aramaic or Greek to Latin would have involved the usual complications that come with translation of idioms in language. That it was translated again into English several centuries later merely compounds this problem.

So, we have a book –  some parts of which may have archaeological evidence to support some of the events related, but much which stands alone, written by people, yes, people, not gods –  often as not who were not first hand witnesses. This is not verifiable evidence unless there is a third party account or some other evidence to support it. Either way, it was written by a primitive people attempting to record the events that occurred in their history or to try and explain the world about them. As an exercise in anthropology, it makes fascinating reading. As the “Truth” well, frankly, pull the other one. It is no more evidence of the existence of god than is the Iliad evidence of existence of Zeus or the hieroglyphics are evidence of the existence of Ahmun.

This is merely an observation, nothing more –  a rejection of so-called evidence because it is not verifiable –  a word I repeatedly use despite it being ignored or not fully appreciated. Not believing in something requires no faith on my part as was posited (yet again –  and, no, atheism is not an expression of faith or religious belief, no matter how much people try to claim that it is), nor does it require me to provide evidence to support my position as I am not the one making any claims. “I don’t believe you” is not a positive statement –  it is a negative.

Some say that this position is agnosticism. It is not. It is the dictionary definition of atheism. The agnostic succumbs to Occam’s razor with the unfortunate side effect that he is in danger of slicing himself somewhere extremely uncomfortable. I don’t believe. This is a simple statement of fact. I do not need to prove it as I cannot prove a negative, nor do I plan to try.

Still, it is always interesting to see the same clichés trotted out along with the same tired assertions and the same rhetorical confidence tricks against an argument that says nothing more than “prove it”.

As for AK Haart’s dilemma, well, I don’t share it, because I am comfortable with what it is I don’t believe –  and I don’t believe that in 1st  Century Judea they had uncovered a miracle solution to necrosis.


Update: As an addendum to all of this, I would add, that even if believers could demonstrate the existence of their god, I would still not fall on my knees and worship him. Their holy book tells of a vindictive, murderous, vengeful and frankly petty tyrant. Worship someone so utterly lacking any form of moral compass? Like hell, I would. I’d sooner clap him in irons and string him from the nearest tree, for that is all that he would deserve. I have high standards of ethics and this god fails to come anywhere near them.


  1. Waste of time arguing. Best thing is to treat them with kindness, plant some seeds (like pointing out how many religions seem to have similar ceremonies at certain times of year and therefore how much they are based on human need) and hope some of them work it out eventually. The Dawkins approach ain’t converting anyone.

    The only thing I get involved in is when religion seeks to retain or extend state privileges. These people whining about how they can’t wear a cross to work. You work for someone, you follow their rules. Don’t like it? Go find another job.

  2. That was a bit of a heady discussion over at OOL. I though about commenting for a while but decided against it.
    As stated above, there is little point trying to convert the religious. An argument based on faith cannot often be swayed.
    I am happy with the dont pester me approach but I tend to beleive that religion is quite harmful rather than benign.

    • I’ve no desire to convert anyone. However, when the religious indulge in trickery and rhetorical shenanigans, I’ll certainly defend my position. It would be nice if, just for once, we could have a discussion that didn’t rely on circular arguments and logical fallacies – not to mention appreciation of the fact that one cannot prove a negative 😉

      • You cannot prove a negative. Yes, that baffles me a little. They are offering us the god to beleive in. Onus on proof is on them. Strange they don’t understand that, but they are beleiving something based on faith alone.

      • Agreed. I just got round to catching up with the discussion on OoL and your patience amazes me. Certain sections read like a debate with a Jehovah’s Witness.

        • Circular arguments and logical fallacies in abundance, I’m afraid.

          At one point James accused me of inventing the authors of Genesis, which bemused me somewhat. I am presuming that he was objecting to my suggestion that whoever they were, they were people, not god.

          It was, however, the same old, same old, from the religious. Ultimately they either can not or will not accept that their belief is a leap of faith with no evidence to substantiate their assertions and that others simply do not share it because it is just that – faith without proof.

  3. The more I hear and see of atheists,the more I believe.

    I cannot prove there is a God
    Non believers cnnot prove there is’nt
    As for those who put there faith in scientists..(…) help us all.

    The faithfull

    • Well, you’re easily persuaded. I have a nice beachfront condominium in the Gobi that I’d be willing to sell if you are interested…

    • De Profundis, the more I hear from the mentally ill the more I know they can’t prove there is a god.

      But why do you imagine I (or anyone else) needs to prove there is not one?

  4. Well “the scientific method” is emphatically NOT a crock, and the writer is a deluded liar.
    Said he, sitting in front of a DIGITAL COMPUTER connected by Braodband lines to the rest of the Planet, built on scientific knowledge.
    If the standard of debate is this low, why bother entering it?

    Also, there is a simple, falsifiable test:
    Proposition: No “god”, even if that “god” exists, is detectable.
    All the believer have to do is detect BigSkyFairy.
    In the meantime, the default assumption (no god) holds.
    Peculiarly, they won’t touch this one, I wonder why?

    “Faith” – DEFINED as belief without evidence.
    Well, you know hwere you can stick that.

    Proof of negative?
    You can’t disprove the existence of the Mystical Invisible Pionk Unicorn, or the tooth fairy, can you?
    Piss off!

      • No
        The scientific PRINCIPLE has not been corrupted.
        Some scientists may have been, personally corrupted, usually with LOTS of money.
        But the principle itself still holds.
        A properly produced sety of tested results are still valid.
        The guy plainly does NOT know what he’s talking about, OR he is shit-stirring for the sake of it – I really don’t know which.

  5. XX “If your God exists, please provide some evidence to support your assertion”. XX

    To which their normal response is “It sais so in the bible!” (Have these pratts never heard of “circular argument”?)

    They normally become rather confused when I point out that the bottle of milk in my fridge does NOT prove I have a cow in the garden just because it has a picture of a cow on it.

    Another thing they appear not to be able to digest is “So what? It is not relevant in my life. “To which they reply “But the bible sais….”

    However, this is not particularly “religion” phenomena.

    Have you ever tried to get into the thick-bastard-who-latched-onto-you-at-the-bar’s skull that you are not interested in football, you have NO fucking IDEA who “Fred Bloggs” is that some supossed football club has just paid a couple of bob for. You are NOT fucking INTERSTED what a pile of wankers playing with their balls will win/loose/buy/sell “next season” (Whatever THAT may be.)?

    WITHOUT fail, they get that look on their face, which if a computer had a face, would put on when telling you “Does not compute, re-enable fluffy Teddy Bear, feed ants, redo from begining!” THEN ask “Well what team do you support then? You MUST support a team!?”

    It is a wonder the amount of casualty cases due to people having beer glasses donated to their faces is not MUCH higher.

    WHAT is the difference between the “football fan” and the “jesus fan”? Answer…..Fuck all, really. Both thick as twenty short planks, and must have H&S notices around them as they attempt to tie their shoe laces without injury to themselves, innocent passers by, or small fluffy horses.

    • Ah, yes, the football fan. I’ve lost count the amount of times someone has asked me which team I support and the “does not compute” look when I state that I have no interest in footballs so do not support any team.

  6. If a person is not honest, humble & hungry for the truth then there is no reason for JW’s to try & persuade them of ANYthing. What’s interesting though are people who are so much against the Bible itself when they’ve never even read it.

    • DTrent
      Many atheists, are like me, they know their bible/koran quite well, and are really annoyed by the perpetual lies (& blackmail) put around by the priests.
      What realy astounds me is the refusal of the believers to embrace the wider vision of the cosmos, from microbiology all the way up to astrophysics revealed by this “failed” science.
      They STILL won’t look throught the telescope to see the moons of Jupiter!

  7. DTrent
    Many atheists are so, like me, because they know their bible, or koran ….
    And are sick of the blackmailing lies peddled by the priests.
    And the point-blank refusal of the believers to embrace the glorious vision of the universe revealed by scientific exploration, in every sense.
    They STILL won’t look through the telescope to see the moons of Jupiter!

  8. Actually, having gone over, it is anything but a “thoughtful article” …
    The condemnation of science has no basis in fact.
    The writer is plainly deluded – as evidenced by his swallowing whole of the lies perpetuated by Exxon & the Koch Brothers, in his other posts.

    I mean what “atheists dilemma”?
    I don’t have a problem, but he obvioulsy does!

  9. Trying to reply to;

    XX DTrent says:
    April 12, 2012 at 19:03

    If a person is not honest, humble & hungry for the truth then there is no reason for JW’s to try & persuade them of ANYthing. What’s interesting though are people who are so much against the Bible itself when they’ve never even read it. XX

    But every “reply” button I try comes up with Tingey!!

    XX What’s interesting though are people who are so much against the Bible itself when they’ve never even read it. XX

    I don’t need to read “Mein Kampf” to know it is a crock of shite. You just have to observe the arseholes that have, and LIVE by it.

    (And I HAVE read BOTH, so up yours! :mrgreen: )

    • Actually, there is a point to be made about not having read the bible. You don’t need to have read it to draw certain deductions; that it was written by a primitive people attempting to document their beliefs and histories (and the telling became enhanced with each successive generation), that is has been translated at least twice and severely edited in the process; that is is not the product of supernatural beings. You do not need to have read it to reject the core argument of the religious; that god(s) exist. Such an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary evidence to support it and some ancient texts ain’t it. Not even close.

  10. I am an atheist and I have read the Bible from cover to cover. It is not divine. It was written by ignorant and superstitious barbarians. It has no relevance whatsoever to life in the twenty first century. DTrent, I suggest that you read it before accusing others of not having done so.

    • I’ve read it too. It was that in part which was responsible for my atheism. That and the silly “miracles” that could never have happened.

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