How to defend your views as an Atheist
Sometimes you'll end up being in a discussion about religion that can quickly become a debate. If you're an atheist, then it's very likely that you already understand the reasons of why YOU have that viewpoint. But sometimes it can be difficult to really convey your reasoning and thought processes to another person in a way that they will understand, so it's good to have some key points on hand in case the
discussion ever comes up.
- You don't need to PROVE anything.
The "Burden of Proof", as it's called, is on the person making the claim. This means that the person making the claim that God exists must provide the evidence to support that claim. It's a logical fallacy to expect anyone to prove that anything doesn't exist. It's an impossibility, and the inability to prove something DOES NOT exist in NO way supports the argument that something DOES (this goes for God, fairies, Zeus, ghosts, aliens, etc...). You don't need to claim that there is definitely is NO God, you only have to claim that there is no reason to believe that there is one.
2.You don't NEED God.
This stems from the belief that many theists have that life doesn't make sense without God, or at the very least that life isn't worth living for if there isn't a God.
We are discovering more and more things about how the universe works, and we are finding that none of what we are finding requires a God to explain any of it. Sure, there are still a bunch more unanswered questions, even some really big unanswered questions, but this still doesn't mean we need God to answer them, because the process of scientific discovery has been, and continues to be, the best tool we have to understanding our world. People are afraid of not knowing, this is natural. But we can't let our fear of not knowing force us to accept an irrational or incomplete answer just to fill the void.
On the point that Life itself having meaning without God is an even bigger issue for some. This is really also saying that we don't need Religion, or trust in some sort of afterlife guarantee, in order to have meaning in our lives. I admit, the prospect that this life is the only one we get is a scary one, but is actually serves to GIVE life meaning. When you live life on the assumption that this is the only time we get, EVERYTHING matters. Happiness, community, family togetherness, art, the pursuit of knowledge, etc... all the things that people need in order to be fulfilled in life Physically, Emotionally, Mentally, and Spiritually, can all be achieved without God or religion.
3. But the Bible tells me so...
Many people will site that the Bible is the ultimate authority on everything from ethics to politics to family, and even to science (on the extreme end of things). As has been said MANY MANY times by so many people, the Bible is just a book, written by men. This one is hard to argue though, not because they make a good point about anything, but because it has such an irrational basis. It is because it is. And that's all there is to it. There's no argument or point being made, so there's no argument or point to really refute. All you can really do is try to make them think about why they believe in the Bible. Ask them if they were never told about the Bible, and they only now today had started to read it, would they still believe in it. Would it still make sense to them? 999 times out of 1000, they will say yes, as a knee jerk reaction, because saying no would be an acknowledgement of their indoctrination, which is a hard thing for people to accept right away. But at least you got them thinking about it, or at least tried.
4.There is no reason to accept God.
One common argument used by theists is what's called "Pascal's Wager" or "Pascal's Gambit". Basically, the argument is that given that we don't know whether or not there is a God with absolute certainty, you are given the alternative of either accepting or rejecting the notion. The consequence of rejecting the notion is one of two things; either nothing happens (if there is no God), or you go to Hell for rejecting God (if there actually is a God). The consequence of accepting the notion is; nothing happens (if there is no God), or you potentially go to Heaven (if there actually is a God).
While on the surface this may seem like a argument for accepting the existence of God, if for no other reason than to have a chance at winning the afterlife roulette, this argument has one major flaw. In logical terms, this is what is known as a "false dichotomy", or "artificial pairing". It's presenting something as having only two alternatives, when really there are a multitude of choices. It's assumes that there is just the Christian God, or no God at all, when we all know there are countless religions and countless gods among them.
Often times, when people ask me if I believe in God, my reply will be "Which God?”. This will either lead to a much larger discussion and debate, or typically just end right about there. If there are so many religions throughout the history of humanity, then it really doesn't matter which religion you believe. It's really a matter of which culture you were born into. And if it doesn't really matter which religions you are, then it doesn't really matter if you have one at all. All the ethics and virtues that can be learned from religion can just as easily be deduced through reason and observation.
When it comes down to it, you very simply only need to demonstrate that there is no reason to accept or assume that there is a God. Every positive benefit to believing in God, individually and collectively, can be achieved by people who don't believe in God. And if the only reason you believe in God is because you're afraid of going to Hell, just remember that one religions guideline to Heaven is another's guideline to Hell, so you're screwed either way.
- Remember to try to be polite and respectful, even if you don't respect the things the other person believes. Childish name calling and insults are not tools of reason, and are not characteristic of a rational person.
- You will likely not convince anyone to change what they believe, unless they were already on the fence (and even that’s unlikely to happen right away). The best you can hope for, if you aim is to convince other people of you view, is to present the ideas and reason to them so that they may come to these conclusions themselves. Some people may be open to these ideas, and just may not have encountered them before (especially if they were raised in a sheltered, religious household)
- Given the statement above about convincing other people, this really shouldn't be your aim at all. All it really leads to is frustration, are there is likely more fulfilling and productive things to do with that time and energy. If it is your thoughts that turning away from religion and superstition is a benefit to humanity, then good luck to you, and to each their own. But in writing this article I really only had the intention of helping people better defend their beliefs and arguments, rather than going on a mission to convert people.
- Several atheists that I know can and do come up with arguments and counterpoints to each and every flaw and point made by every major religion. While the depth of this much research and thoroughness is impressive to some, it's really going a little overboard for the most part. Like I've pointed out a few times, you don't need to be able to counter every point made by every religion when you can argue that you don't really need to have religion at all.