Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Atheism: Some Common Misconceptions

I've posted this before (or at least something similar) but it seems that there is a need for it again, based on comments and messages I have received from people over the last 24 hours or so. Below are responses to various ideas and beliefs I seem to continually have sent my way in response to either being an Atheist or commenting on something posted by a Theist.

  • Beyond the belief that deity(s) do not exist, Atheists do not share a common set of beliefs. Just as with every other group, Atheists have wide ranging views spanning the political, ideological, and philosophical spectrum. 
    Yes, I know that they aren't all Atheists.

  • As an Atheist, I am more than happy to reconsider my current views of deities if I am presented with new evidence contrary to my current understanding. However, an extraordinary claim (of which the existence of a deity is one) requires extraordinary evidence. For example, if you claim that there is a dragon living in your garage, then you had better come to me with better evidence than a charred marshmallow you swear his breath toasted for you last night.


  • Science can not answer all of life's questions (at least not at this point). However, this isn't evidence for the existence of God or any other deity. The inability to understand something is not a justification to insert God (or any other deity) into the gaps. http://youtu.be/HooeZrC76s0

  •  Atheists, in general, do not "hate" God and I certainly don't. Besides the notion of hating something I don't believe in being a bit ridiculous, I didn't depart from my Christianity and my former belief in God out of anger. I departed from it based on the accumulation of knowledge about a broad range of subjects and the realization that there is no evidence to justify a belief in God (or any other deity).

  • The Theory of Evolution does not explain either the origin of the Universe or the origin of life. These three items are not tied to one another. While they may share common evidence, each of them exists independent of the others.

  • The Theory of the "Big Bang" does not claim that the Universe arose from nothing. The majority of Atheists do not believe that the Universe arouse from nothing. I am perfectly content in acknowledging that I don't know what existed, if anything, before the Big Bang. Again though, not knowing something is not a justification for inserting a deity into the gap. 
    The Theory of the Big Bang explains the current Universe, not what existed before the Big Bang.

  • Even if the Theory of Evolution, Theory of the Big Bang, and various Theories associated with the origin of life were all disproven tomorrow, this would still not necessarily be evidence for a deity. Our understanding of the world around us is continually changing. Evidence contrary to currently held beliefs requires that those beliefs be adjusted based on the new evidence. Where religion ignores evidence that is contrary to beliefs, science embraces evidence contrary to beliefs and adjusts those beliefs accordingly. 

  • There are a number of logical fallacies associated with the argument that someone should "believe in God just to be on the safe side", commonly known as Pascal's Wager. I'm not going to list them all here but, such an argument is flawed for a great many reasons.

  • The "creation narrative" as laid out in The Book of Genesis is incompatible with all modern scientific understanding of how creation of the universe, solar system, earth, life, and speciation took place. Believing that the story is literally true requires ignoring scientific evidence to the contrary from the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, and many others. 

  • Scientists want to disprove theories, including the Theory of Evolution! The quickest way for a young grad student to become world famous and have unlimited access to grant money, for as long as she lives, would be for them to disprove a theory which is part of major public discourse, such as the Theory of Evolution or the Theory of the Big Bang. Scientists, in general, have far more motivation to prove that the current understanding of something is incorrect then they do to lie about something being correct. Nearly every famous scientist in history is famous for one of two reasons: 1) They discovered something new or 2) They disproved a prior understanding of something. Newton is famous for founding Newtonian Physics; Einstein is famous for disproving Newtonian Physics and giving us General Relativity.

I think that covers the big points that I hear most often. If I missed something or you disagree with something, feel free to let me know by commenting below.


theshe said...

Well put, sir. Your first and fourth points are key for me - I get so frustrated by "believers" pigeon-holing me into their misconceptions about evil atheists. Honestly, I tend not to be too open about my stance, being that I'm from a rural Bible Belt town where this could legitimately result in me being widely ostracized. I can't even discuss the matter with my parents, actually. That hurts - it hurts to know that they'd accept me no matter what sexuality I chose, no matter what lifestyle I chose, no matter what RELIGION I chose, so long as some belief were in the picture.

Trassin said...

Thanks, theshe!

I can relate a bit to the parent issue, although you certainly have it worse than me. I've tried discussing it with my parents before and my Mom tends to be somewhat accepting. My Dad however effectively ignores the fact that I'm an Atheist. It can definitely make things difficult at various times, especially around the holidays when I travel home to visit and my family wants me to take part in traditional Catholic activities.