rational atheism

Having spent a lot of time in debate, I have heard a number of fallacies and awful arguments being made by both sides. Admittedly, some of these were from myself on occasion and I don’t doubt it will happen again. Given these awful arguments and in the interest of fairness I thought I would make a shortlist of our[atheists]; worst arguements, the reasons why, and any links to explain in more detail.

Through writing this article, I realised it wasn’t such a shortlist and indeed thought a miniseries of articles might be better.

I realise as an atheist, I might get a lot of hate from fellow atheists about this article, especially the more ideological of us, but equally many of you are rational folks that do want to strive for accuracy and have good conversations with your fellow man, so I do hope this helps you.

Arguments About Holy Texts and Evidence.

In my first article in this series, I would like to address common arguments made against holy texts and about evidence. My primary use is going to be the Bible and God as it does seem this is the most common dialogue I see on the internet, but you can replace them with any deity or holy book.

There’s no evidence for God.

Poor show. Whilst I agree there is an overwhelming lack of credible and convincing evidence, some take arguments like the Kalam, or their particular holy texts, things they have dreamt and experienced as evidence for God. It might not be strong evidence, but it convinced them even if it didn’t you. Even if you decide “weak evidence” should not count as evidence at all, this statement does nothing to further the conversation.

Ask questions like, “what about this evidence convinced you of God’s existence?”

The Bible is the Claim, not the Evidence!

Claim vs Evidence

No, the Bible is the evidence, people make claims about the evidence. The evidence convinced them. It is very weak evidence, filled with holes, but is still evidence.

There are many types of evidence, or varying strength and credibility. The Bible is weak, and I found it unconvincing.

Consider a moment the difference between evidence and proof. Whilst some languages do not have separate words for this, let me explain. Proof is conclusive, evidence is indicative (though people draw conclusions from it). If the evidence has been shown to be valid and true, it becomes conclusive and therefore proof. The Bible indicates towards an end but is not conclusive.

If you genuinely want a conversation with this theist then accept it is evidence and have a discussion about it, what they find convincing, how they deal with parts that contradict others etc.

For more information on the types and strength of various forms of evidence, check THIS POST.

If the Bible is evidence for God, spiderman comics are evidence for spiderman!

I do understand the comparison, but this too is a bit of a silly argument. Comic books are written as fiction, we know the characters are not real even if it has real places in it. I know YOU think the Bible or whatever holy book is a work of fiction, but the people you are talking to do not.

If you have to write a comparison then perhaps use another religious text and say “what was it about the Vedas that convinced you Vishnu, Ganesh and Shiva were not real?”

Instead of having them feel like you are attacking the Bible and their faith you are enquiring as to what in other holy texts they found unbelievable.

You’re just cherry-picking from the Bible!

cherry picking

Yes, they are committing a fallacy by doing so, but rather than essentially pointing “fallacy” and getting their back up, would it not be better to say something like, “It is interesting you bring that up, does this passage not contradict that one?” you might even learn that SOME of the contradictions you think are there are not actually contradictions when you look at the context.

There’s no evidence outside the Bible other than a few things shown to be forgeries that Jesus even existed!

Whilst I think this point has some validity, theists will ignore the evidence that these external sources seem to be forgeries. I think it is likey Yeshua the man did exist in some form or another, and the Biblical Jesus is based on him or an amalgamation of characters.

From what I have been able to discover, it is likely that Jesus was trying to give more power to the underdog, and some pretty new wave ideas, was quite a kind and generous person with potentially slightly advanced medical knowledge, and all of this was made him seen as a terrorist by the Romans. Over time his exploits were mythicised.

Regardless of if you believe the biblical Jesus was based on someone real, or you are a Jesus mythicist, I don’t think Jesus mythicism helps the conversation.

You can read this post by Ryan where he examines the extrabiblical claims if you like, but it won’t do anything to help your conversation. I would personally try and avoid this conversation, but if you are asked by a theist if you think he is real I would answer with something like, “He might be based on someone who lived at the time or a character given to tell the story of events that happened at the time. I haven’t really seen anything that has convinced me he existed in anything more than the story but I am open to the fact he might have.”

Summary

Some of the arguments we make about the Bible are just wrong, others do not help further the conversation so are pointless making.

Remember; evidence is information pointing towards a conclusion and its validity. This is what the Bible does, even if poorly. People make claims about the evidence “this is true” or “it has no errors”. Just because the evidence is weak or you found it unconvincing doesn’t make it “not evidence”.

Every theist is a different human being with a different take on their beliefs. Where some take the creation story in genesis to be more metaphorical, others will see it as the actual sequence of events. If the latter is the case then, of course, you could point them towards posts like “The Bible is Inerrant Volume 1 – Genesis and Creation” but equally they are likely to be the sort to say the evidence is wrong and only God’s word hold’s truth. If that is the case, there is little point in holding the conversation but could you broach the situation differently? “What about the evidence of the age of the earth and sun as has been discovered by many scientists, even Christian scientists, do you find unconvincing?”

A soft respectful touch will at least give you a better conversation, and remember, when changing a mind, respect matters!

Additional Arguments

As I mentioned, this will be a miniseries of articles I will release, and over time I may add to these topics or add additional ones.

Kriss also wrote a post like this one a few years ago, with mostly different arguments to this called “Which atheist arguments should we stop using?

They were very relevant at the time, and some still very much are, but I feel at least many atheists have left most of these bad arguments behind and adopted new ones.