Previously I have written an article that lists and explains some Common Theistic Fallacies that are often brought up in arguments. As an atheist who is active in several online debate and discussion groups, they are things that I see with exceptional regularity.
However, it is unfair to think that it is only the Theists that present faulty, or fallacious, arguments. Although atheism, being the Null Hypothesis/Neutral Position is the more logical position than belief, belief being an illogical conclusion, that does not mean that all of the arguments presented by atheists are logical, reasonable, or fair.
In this article I will list the arguments presented by atheists that we should stop using, and explain why.
Also, as a special feature I will be featuring the answer given to this question by Aron Ra, that I was lucky enough to be able to ask him, in person, when members of our team saw him give a talk.
Christianity was invented by Constantine in the fourth century.
This is an argument that seems to be mostly invented by Joseph Atwill. Atwill claims to have found evidence that Jesus was a character who was entirely invented by the Romans. There are many problems with his theory, included, but not limited to these. Firstly, there is zero actual evidence. While he claims to have found confessions, what he has actually done is draw comparisons between the work of Josephus, and the New Testament. Secondly, no matter what justification one might try to use, the rise of Christianity was demonstrably not a good thing for the Roman Empire.
The use of photos depicting starving children to make the point that God is not a loving or merciful one.
This tactic is nothing more than an Appeal To Emotion Fallacy. The use of pictures with the intent to make people feel guilty, or disturbed, adds nothing to the point that is trying to be argued. While the existence of these children is absolutely an argument against an Omnibenevolent God, the use of the pictures to support this argument is a cheap move, and reflects badly on an argument that is otherwise valid.
You must (believe/condone/support) X, because it’s in the (Bible/Quran/other).
This is a remarkably common argument online. “Well, the Bible condones slavery, so you must agree with it.” or “The Bible says that homosexuality is an abomination, so all Christians must hate gays.” This line of argument basically falls foul of the No True Scotsman Fallacy. A person can believe in and agree with the fundamental beliefs, without having to agree with every single ruling stated within. This will also be addressed later on in the Cherry Picking section.
Pointing out the “impossibility” of events described in the bible.
If you enter into a conversation about an omnipotent being, “impossible” loses all meaning. Pointing out that Mary could have only given birth to a girl if the conception was immaculate. Or pointing out problems like where all the water went to, or came from, in the Ark story. We are debating with people who believe in an Omnipotent being. A being who can create the Universe on a whim. The idea of expecting to convince them by raising an example of something that is physically impossible is a fruitless endeavour. If you’ve never experienced the feeling of ‘I may as well be banging my head against a wall’ in a debate, this is a sure fire way to get there.
Why are Adam and Eve depicted with bellybuttons if they were created?
It actually depresses me somewhat when I see intelligent people bringing up this argument. And it happens. A lot. Artists largely paint what they know, and when painting human figures they will quite often use a model. Even if they don’t use a model, you can almost guarantee that they learned how to paint people from using models in the past, or copying from existing pictures that used models. These models had bellybuttons, so the artist painted them. Humans have bellybuttons, Adam and Eve are humans (at least if you accept that they existed, of course) so they were painted as having them. It’s such an obvious thing, really.
The Problem Of Evil.
This isn’t to say that The Problem Of Evil is not a genuine concern when trying to justify, or refute, the existence of an Omnibenevolent and Omnipotent God. The problem is that it is an argument that any Christian who spends time debating already has a list of rebuttals to. Whether this is the normal Mysterious Ways cop out answer, or whether it is a more in depth approach like “Well we’re looking at things from a human understanding of what is good, and from the limited time frame of what humans can understand. Perhaps the amount of evil and bad that exists now is the minimum amount that is necessary to achieve the greatest good on a larger time scale.”
Nonsense Questions “If God can do anything, can he create a rock so heavy that he can’t lift it?”
I can’t stand Nonsense Questions. They achieve nothing other than to make the person raising them seem immature. Most theists with even a modicum of smarts won’t even bother addressing them. The problem with the quoted question in particular in that it is a logically absurd question. It is dealt with by the Logical Absolute Law Of Non Contradiction. The Rock is defined as being too heavy to lift, if it can be lifted, it is not that Rock, it is then something else. I understand what people are trying to achieve with this question, they are trying to show a hole in omnipotence. But you may as well ask ‘Can God make a square circle?’ or ‘Can God make a bent straight line?’
You can’t prove a negative.
This is just a cop out, and it shows an amount of laziness that we really shouldn’t be allowing ourselves to slip in to. Can you prove a negative? In the context that this is being used in, no, you can’t (You can mathematically, but that’s a different thing entirely.) But we don’t need to prove a negative, we only need to prove the absence of a positive. “There’s an apple in that box” “I don’t believe you.” *Looks in box* “There is no apple in that box!” “Well you can’t prove that apples don’t exist!” “I don’t have to, I proved that it doesn’t exist where you said it does.”
We’re all atheists when we’re born (Implicit versus Explicit atheism).
Yes, we are. But what point are we really trying to make here? Surely the point that we need to be arguing is that atheism is the rational conclusion when examining the claims of a god? Saying that a baby is an atheist does nothing more for the argument than saying that a washing machine is an atheist! If someone or something is incapable of examining the proposition of a god, then it doesn’t matter whether they believe or not.
You’re almost as much of an atheist as me, I’ve just gone 1 god further.
Although this can be a very fun point to raise, especially if you like numbers, and are interested enough to work out the specific ratios and percentages that this means, it doesn’t do anything to address whether their specific god claim holds any validity. This ties in with another argument that I’ve heard a lot “They can’t all be right, but they can all be wrong.” But that doesn’t actually address whether they are wrong. Because it could be wrong, or because other people have been wrong in the past, has no bearing on whether they are actually wrong now.
You just Cherry Pick the parts you like.
This is one of “Well duh…” moments. Of course they do. They have NO choice. They are following a book that is riddled with contradictions, it is not physically or mentally possible to believe every single part of it. So what does that leave people with as an option? They will then pick out the parts that gel with who they are as a person. “Reading the bible does not dictate who one is as a person. Who one is as a person dictates how one reads the Bible.”
Aron Ra’s Answer.
As stated at the beginning of the article, I was lucky enough to get to ask Aron Ra this question in person. This is his answer.
Me “I just wanted to know, which atheist argument do you wish people would stop using? Either because it’s completely wrong, or entirely irrelevant to the argument itself”
Aron Ra “Wow, that’s such a long list.”
Me “Your top pick?”
Aron Ra “Well the one that I usually jump in on is when people say”Nobody says we came from monkeys, we have a common ancestor with monkeys.” And I have to jump in and say “No no no, we ARE monkeys.” Now this is not a popular opinion, but I’ve got it backed by science and I did a video on it. The title of the video is It Turns Out We Did Come From Monkeys and it goes into an in-depth explanation. Now this is one of those arguments where I was started out on the other side, and I had this argument with a systematist. It went on for three months. It was heated, it was angry, he was such a prick. I don’t know that I’d have conceded any faster if he’d been more polite, but it would have been a lot easier. I didn’t have to say “You know what, you asshole, you were right.” So I had to take the opposite position. Then I got into more heated conversations with people, and now I’m on the other side. And it’s every bit just as heated, but eventually I did prove the point so that nobody contested any more. Humans ARE monkeys. It’s not just that we are apes, we are also monkeys. Now if you want to prove that, if you describe what a monkey is, by all of the traits that are diagnostic of every kind of monkey there is, you will describe humans. And if you do a subcategory so that you’re only talking about Old World Monkeys, again you will describe humans. And if you do the subcategory of that, which is Apes, and subcategory Great Apes, again, you always describe people. So this was a great argument to have with a Creationist, you know “Define what a monkey is……Look at that, you defined people again!””
Any Logical Fallacies that are mentioned in this article are explained further here.
Comments on “Which Atheist Arguments Should We Stop Using?”
” A person can believe in and agree with the fundamental beliefs, without having to agree with every single ruling stated within.”
I would argue with this, especially when dealing with people who say things like, “I am against homosexuality because the Bible says it is wrong” or “If you don’t believe in God, then you have no moral compass for your actions”. If you believe your holy book was divinely inspired, then to disagree with ANY of it is to go against the will of the very Being that you consider to be the ultimate representative of your religion.
There are parts that are open to interpretation, of course. But Leviticus 25:44-46, the quote that condones slavery, is not one of them: “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.”
//If you believe your holy book was divinely inspired, then to disagree with ANY of it is to go against the will of the very Being that you consider to be the ultimate representative of your religion.//
Agreed. But not everyone who believes in God, or who believes that Christ is their saviour, believes that.
Which proves the bullet point that you are disagreeing with.
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