Author Dan Arel
My focus is on the religious attack on science and the ill effects it has on our children, particularly in our educational system. Proper scientific education through free thought and critical thinking is key to our future. | @danarel
This week, Adam Reakes, host of the Herd Mentality Podcast, had a special episode titled “Attack of the Theists.” Adam generally has a panel of atheists on his show that discuss different topics, but has not had a theist on as of yet. Instead of bringing theists into a debate, he brought on two and let them explain their worldview with some great questioning from Adam.
While listening to the episode, I found myself giving rebuttals to their claims (or yelling them at my iPhone), and instead of just finding them on Twitter for a debate, I thought I would address their claims here, in a more lengthy response. So below are some of the claims they made, many paraphrased, and my rebuttals. If you wish to listen to this episode beforehand, it is episode 15, and can be found on iTunes, Android of listen to the Mp3 directly. I refer to the guests as “the guests” as they talked back and forth and agreed on most comments, but “the guests” are Shawn Ferguson @WaxAxiomatic and Phil Lost @PhilLostophy.
Atheists don’t understand theism in general, Christian theism in particular.
This claim fails rather quickly given that the majority of atheists they would encounter (in Canada, North America) are ex-christians. We come from the religion are were raised in it. It’s the teachings we learned that drove us to question these metaphysical presuppositions in the first place.
The claim is then made by the guests that ex-christian atheists are only atheists because when they asked their pastors the tough questions, they did not receive the correct answer. How can they know this to be true? Simply because the answer led to atheism? Are these two guests the only ones with the correct answers and other pastors are not as knowledgeable in order to save the youth from de-conversion?
I would argue many pastors do give the right answers, and the right answers are more than enough to swing someone away from blind faith.
Why doesn’t God rid the world of evil and suffering?
Here the guests claim that God is unable to rid the world of suffering because God cannot create a logical contradiction, so the fact that God has given us free will, means he cannot stop us from committing evil acts.
I think this can be addressed in two ways. First, why does evil exist? If you want to go on the premise that we have so called free will, that does not mean God had to create evil, he could have just as simply created humans with no knowledge of evil and we could have been free to do all the good acts we want. Secondly, it is more and more obvious each day that free will is nothing more than an illusion. The choices we make are not ours to freely make, we are victims of our own heredity and environment. So the blanket a statement and say that evil exists because free will exists fails once the notion of free will is dismissed.
When discussing suffering, the hosts are quick to say it’s up to us to end suffering, we have wealth and food and we should be distributing it to the poor and needy. We do have these tools, we could change our governments and use our wealth for the greater good, we could finally start taxing churches in the United States and feed the entire world with the nearly 100 billion dollars in revenue stream. But if God exists, why do we need to? How does free will account for starving children? I did not choose for them to starve. I don’t think the worlds collective majority did either. So are these starving and suffering people victim to a select few who are in power? Could God have done nothing to create a world where food was plentiful in all environments that humans occupy?
The churches around the world themselves have enough wealth to solve the hunger and suffering of billions of people, yet they do not. The guests point fingers at the Catholic church and claim they are evangelicals so they are not a part of the problem. Have they not seen evangelical churches around the world? Have they not seen the houses Joel Osteen lives in?
Poverty and suffering are exacerbated by the church for their failure to act and to call upon others to act in the name of God. Instead of thinking God created a world that allows such suffering to exist, they blame others and point fingers. When Adam tried to drill down to why these churches are not doing their part and are hoarding money, the guests quickly turned to the No True Scotsman fallacy and claimed that these are Christians not following God correctly, and once again, only the guests, and their particular religion have it correct.
When Adam asked the guest about claims by Christopher Hitchens that Mother Theresa helped keep the poor in poverty they outright deflected and simply attacked Hitchens and said he didn’t do anything. Hitchens, a man who made a living out of giving these victims of poverty a voice and standing up for them whenever he could did nothing? While Mother Theresa who worked directly for the wealthiest and most powerful organization on the planet did not fight to get that money, but instead relied on prayer? If either of those two did nothing, it was Mother Theresa who sat on billions up billions of dollars while she watched people die around her.
What is Hell?
Adam asked the guests about hell, and non believers and sinners being sent there. While both guests acknowledged they believe in hell, they claimed it was not the Dante’s inferno we have grown up knowing and that the bible is vague on hell and doesn’t mention the fire and burning. Well, I happen to own a few bibles:
“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
“Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44).
“And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit” (Revelation 9:2).
“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:14).
The bible is very clear what hell is and that non believers who do not throw themselves to their knees and worship this all loving God will end up. The bible is clear this place is of fire and eternal damnation. Hell is obviously a massive moral stumbling block for theism, an all loving religion that will torture you for eternity if you don’t like their God the right way.
The Fall and Morality
Nothing made my blood boil more than when the conversation turned to morality. The claim was made that we are born broken and we must accept God to fix our “nature” and to be able to do good deeds. Religion loves to imply we are broken and only God can fix us. Why would we need to be created broken in the first place? The guests attempt to fall back onto free will once again, the go-to deflection of placing any blame on their God, but as stated above, free will is easily dismantled and provides a weak argument for such claims.
It was stated that non believers can do a good deed, but they often do these deeds for selfish reasons, they want to feel good, or alleviate guilt. However, many atheists do good deeds very altruistically, in fact, we don’t believe in an eternal reward. So to claim atheists are selfish in their morality has to be one of the most demeaning comments I have heard in a long time.
So how would religion explain a man jumping into a river to save the lives of others if that mean does not believe that he will eternally rewarded if he was to die in this act? Atheist doctors around the world save lives of anyone that needs it, regardless of their personal beliefs or religious views, doctors have been known to save the lives of known criminals because it is simply their duty to do so and they take great pride in their work. So to say because they do not believe they are doing so selfishly?
If I give money to a charity because that charity does great things and I wish to help, I am only doing so selfishly? Yet, if I do these deeds, save lives, donate money, but believe I will be rewarded with heaven and eternal life, this is not selfish?
Philosopher Immanuel Kant stated moral acts are something you do because it is the right thing to do, not because you fear punishment or want a reward, your actions must not be teleological. So by this highly accepted definition of morality, a theists act cannot be moral if they are doing so because God is watching or they know these good deeds will secure them a place in heaven, they can only be a good, moral act if they do so simply because it is right. Their actions can be good, but they cannot be moral.
I do not wish to spend a great deal of time refuting all the erroneous biblical claims at the end of this podcast, but I do want to touch on a few claims.
Firstly, it is stated that “you cannot take anything out of the bible” when discussing morality, then in the next statement it is said that the bible is the word of God spoken through men on earth. So the bible is immoral or offers no moral guidance, yet it is divine?
When contradictions are mentioned, the guests offer pure deflection and say it would be too long a conversation. This is obvious, as to spend the time to list over 350 massive contradictions leaves you with a shoddy piece of literature that a 5 year old can poke holes in.
When Adam asks if it’s possible the scriptures could be all made up, they guests said “possible but not likely.” However, given what we know of history and anthropological evidence (such as archaeology) it is highly likely that the bible is purely made up. We know the great flood is a myth, we know that Adam and Eve did not exist, it is highly likely Jesus never existed as there is no non biblical historical evidence for his existence. In fact, there is no historical evidence for any of the major claims of the bible except in the bible itself.
Lastly, the guests stated that upon Jesus fulfilling the prophecies of the old testament, and raising from the dead he abolished the old laws and Christians are no longer held to any of the laws of the old testament. If this is so, please stop reciting the 10 commandments immediately.
Christianity as presented by these guests is a damaging worldview. It removes a persons self worth and says you are nothing without God, you are created as a damaged human and only God can fix you, though he is also responsible for making you damaged. It says your life is meaningless and your good deeds selfish unless you worship this creator. They want you to believe you have free will to do as you choose, but if you do not do as God chooses for you, you will burn in hell for eternity. It defies all scientific knowledge of morality and altruism and says that no matter how good you are as a person, you are not truly good without God. This insulting world view demeans all human life and makes us a slave to an imaginary creator. It belittles all sacrifices made by non-theists because their actions were inherently selfish due to a lack of belief. The Christian world view does nothing to improve the life of its followers that cannot be accomplished –and often accomplished better– in a secular world.
What are we left with? The guests present an argument that has failed the test of time, yet through their own form of tribalism, force, and fear have managed to keep this worldview in the lives of billions around the world. To hold Christianity as the ultimate truth and a viable worldview one must suspend reality and ignore all scientific evidence that demolishes its claims of divine creation and miracles and you must ignore historical evidence that contradicts the countless false claims of their own holy book that they alone claim is the infallible word of God. What you are left with when you remove all the falsehoods of the religion is a lust for power and control over mankind through promises of an afterlife and fear of eternal damnation.