Why I’m An Atheist – #1: Unbelievable Stories:

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When you’ve heard the stories of the bible all your life you tend to take them at face value. You assume they’re true without any critical analysis. You may dissect them for what god is trying to communicate to you during your morning devotionals, or for what you think god is trying to tell the people of your congregation, but you never question the story you’re actually analyzing. If you’re a Christian your presupposition is that the Bible is God’s Word. Therefore it’s true. But what if your presupposition is false? What if the stories aren’t true? What I’m arguing is that the stories of the Bible are so ridiculous that they cannot be true. In my opinion you have to resort to sloppy thinking to believe that they are. To demonstrate this I’ll tell you a tale from another religion. You may know it. It’s the story of Joseph Smith the founder of Mormonism.

A long time ago in the year 1827, an angel named Moroni appeared to Joe Smith and told him about golden tablets that were buried in the country side. Eventually after many attempts Joe was able to find these tablets and read the hiroglyphics encoded onto them with the help of special glasses given to him by the angel Moroni. Eventually the plates and the glasses would be lost. The translation of the plates would become the book of Mormon used by the church of Latter Day Saints all over America.

The story sounds ridiculous right? There’s angels, hidden treasure, decoder glasses, and nothing about the story can be proven (sorry Mormon readers…you know its true ). It’s totally unbelievable that anything like this could happen, (and harder to believe that you could lose golden plates…I wouldn’t let those babies out of my sight!) but it serves as the foundation of Mormonism. Any Evangelical or Catholic Christian would reject this story outright as being untrue, but would turn around and refuse to apply the same standard of reason to their own book. It happens all the time, Muslims reject most of the teachings of the old and new testaments, Christians reject the Quaran. What we see as ridiculous stories in their book, we embrace in our own. Even when they’re very similar.

All this to say that the Bible has a lot of unbelievable stories in it. First God makes man out of dirt and woman out of a rib, then a snake gets them to eat a fruit and that screws up the whole world. Next the world is flooded when god gets pissed off, but luckily all the animals (even dinosaurs according to some Evangelicals) come to Noah and he builds a giant boat that fits them all in, saving them from the torrential rains. Oh and there’s a guy getting swallowed by fish only to re-emerge to preach hellfire and brimstone, another guy who flies a chariot into Heaven, and another who splits a sea in two just by waving his staff in the air. There’s a donkey that talks, a little boy who kills a giant with a slingshot, and finally god’s son comes down to save the whole mess by being brutally murdered, coming back to life and then flying off into the sky like superman. Oh and don’t forget he’ll be back to toss all the people who doubted him and this book into hell.

These stories are so far fetched that if someone was telling you they saw them take place you would think they were nuts. We’ve just heard them repeated over and over again until we believed them, and afterwards turned off our brains. Think critically about the stories in the bible. They cannot be literally true. When was the last time you saw a talking donkey, a plague of frogs, or people coming back from the dead? I’m sorry, it just doesn’t happen. It’s nice to have something to believe in, but the stories of the bible have very little substantive basis for our belief.

Coming Soon: Part 2: We Don’t Get Our Morality From the Bible

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10 Responses

  1. It’s easy to talk with such certainty, but the reality is that you know little about what you are speaking of. Human logic only goes so far. A small dip into the world of science shows that to be true. Here’s the real question. If there WERE an all-powerful God, then wouldn’t it be reasonable that what you claim is unbelievable would not be unbelievable at all?

  2. Hey there! Thanks for commenting on my site!
    I think you’re right that its easy to talk with certainty. Christians do it all the time, and I also assume most know very little of what they are speaking of. Like I said in my other post I was a pastoral ministry major. I know the bible forwards and backwards. I think I know what I’m talking about as much as any pastor preaching in the pulpits today. And maybe more, as I frequently read (past tense), NT Wright, Tillich, C.S. Lewis, Pannenburg, Bonhoeffer, and Dallas Willard.
    I’d agree that human logic can only go so far, but there are a lot of things we can know with certainty in the world of science like the theory of gravity, evolution, how DNA works etc. And of course scientists are expanding on those theories every day. Science is discovering how the universe works. And even if you were to concede an all powerful God was behind it all, isn’t it a huge logical leap to conclude that that god must be loving and kind especially in light of what we see all around us everyday. 90 percent of all life that has ever existed on this planet has become extinct in the billions of years of this planets existence. Is a loving God behind that?
    It also seems a huge logical leap to conclude that snakes can talk and tempt.
    I think if there were an all powerful God the universe would look a lot different than it does. Why aren’t amputees limbs healed when they pray? Why do natural disasters kills hundreds of thousands of people?

  3. I think that most Christians (at least liberal Christians – which excludes most Mormons) would reply that the stories are meant to be understood as mythical folktales with greater meanings rather than historical documentation. I would think that if the stories aren’t meant to be taken seriously, then why should we believe that this “God” or “Jesus” or “Moroni” (or whatever) character should be any more real?

    Good start, I look forward to reading the rest of your series.

  4. Enjoyed your post.

    Most of the stories/beliefs that form religion are ridiculous. This always begs the question why do so many believe? I have some theories, but it’s still a mystery to me.

  5. First off, much of what you mentioned are exactly what you called them – “theories.” Though many are taught as fact, they are far from it.

    Second, SOME of the reasons I think we could assume that God is good are…

    1) We exist at all with a modicum of intellegence beyond that of a dog, dolphin, cat, etc. We have self-awareness – that’s far beyond evolutionary probabilities can even FATHOM to calculate. An impossibility with out a God of some kind.
    2) Our world is ideally suited for our form of life (carbon based). We know of no other planet, in any solar system that is so hospitable to life

    And finally, all of the “why” questions you posed point out something …Those kinds of questions are very “me”-centric, a flaw with us fallen human beings. They assume that “loving” actions automatically translate into the lover (in this case, God) ALWAYS doing what the loved (us, in this case) want or think is good on our level? That is a very flawed premise. My 4 year old doesn’t know what is best for her in most cases, I do. An amputee may have something “greater” coming in the future because of their disability, which they are not capable of knowing – but the loving God who rules all does.

  6. Hey everyone! Thanks for commenting! I want to reply to all of you but work has been overwhelming lately! I’ve been pulling 12 hour days at the airport. I probably won’t get a chance to update again until Sunday! Hope you’ll keep reading and commenting 🙂

  7. firstly. this whole logic thing. logic can just a bout prove anything u want it 2. look at the facts. god of the old testament use 2 appear b4 ppl all the time. y not the last 2000 years? religion was born from human fear. my personal theory. everyone deep down knows its all fallacious. but what drives them on is fear not faith. hell. death. evolution can be seen in the laboratory so i dnt know wat u are on about. a theory in science is not the same as the percieved definition. snakes dont talk. dinosaurs are 65 million years old at least. god exists. he sure does, in peoples minds. to me the word god is a figment of a theists mind propelled by fear

  8. furthermore i just want 2 ask one question. why is christianity the truth not islam, mormonism, scientology etc?

  9. Andrew, first let me say I am glad to be here in cyberspace with you. Dude, your my best bud, and I so enjoy our discussions. I hope you don’t mind me disagreeing with you here. So, without further ado, my post:

    It is all about faith; life that is. Reason is a tool of our human faith, whatever that faith may be, our reason is that tool. If I am a Christian, Buddhist, Shintoist, Atheist, Muslim, Jew, Pagan, and so on and so on and so on I have faith above reason. And the cool thing about life is the fact that each and every one of us has faith in something be it science, God, nature, or whatever. And most of us have varying degrees of faith in all sorts of things or more faith in a certain field for something than in others. So, faith and reason are not mutually exclusive propositions. They are different tools of humanity that perform different tasks; and whatever notion of reality you may hold, you can respect that this is most certainly the case.

    A good example of how faith works is in the case of medicine. I am a philosopher (and if ever there was something to be proud of…being a philosopher is not it). I know nothing of medicine. However, I have trust and faith that doctors know what is wrong with me when I am sick, and to have faith in their ability is to have faith in something I do not know or see. I am also a Christian. I am sick with problems in my head and soul that I know exist. I trust in experts to see the solution to my problem and give me a remedy for it. If you think you have found the remedy in some other faith (even if that faith is the non-existence of God), that is well and good. However, as of late, many atheists have gone about saying they believe in reason over faith.* Even if this were possible, it would be saying my reasoning or reasons are better than your reasoning or reasons. Yet Christians and Buddhists and what-have-you-ists all have reasons for their beliefs. The atheist has done nothing to discredit the theist, but has forced him or her to become more entrenched in their reasons or, worse for the person making the charge, explore the opposing reasons and discredit it.

    So, atheism stands on the same legs of faith that theism does; namely: faith. However, if we are to explore atheism’s claims of superior reasons, we are left with another problem. With atheist logic, God gets caught in several catch-22’s in the realms of miracles or interference. The Christian** believes in miracles because they make logical sense. If there is a God more powerful than the created world, and Who lives outside it, would He not want the world to function a certain way? Miracles happen when He makes the world sync more in tune with His will than it normally does. The Christian accepts that the world is sin sick and that reality is not operating as it should. (In fact this is the general consensus with ALL belief systems, the question is how to fix it.) A prime example would be with my braces I had put on my teeth when I was younger. I believe that only a lunatic would say that my teeth should be allowed to naturally grow the way they would, so we place things that shouldn’t go there on our teeth to straighten them out; namely: braces. Each and every day we manipulate every aspect of the world and ourselves to fix problems. Here begins one of the catch-22s God finds Himself in. If He is always interfering, than He is loathed for not allowing us to freely do anything. When He doesn’t interfere, He is judged as cold and heartless. (We usually base this on our own sense of timing, which isn’t as reliable as we pretend it is.) God cannot win in this scenario. And, upon further examination we come face to face with a frightening truth. If God did things on our timing (even assuming our timing was correct), we are left with a God who is weaker and more pathetic than us which is totally contrary to what we would expect God to be like. It would be as if aliens came to earth and were incapable of understanding simple machines such as the wheel or screw or inclined plane and couldn’t talk and were complete infantile in their reasoning. How could this be? It is completely illogical. If God can create things ex nihilo, he will be smart enough for miracles.

    The second catch-22 is that of miracles. I don’t know how the world was created. God could’ve taken seven days or it could be imagery to explain things. (The odd belief among some atheists or Christians or a plethora of adherents to other religions, that we must take everything in these books as literally true is both un-imaginitive and intellectually insulting. If we are capable of such things like imagery, why wouldn’t the ancients be? It is an intellectual arrogance nowadays to think ourselves knowing new secrets in the art of writing. The average American high schooler may know a great deal more about electricity and computers than people of the ancient world, but our knowledge in the humanities is always among equals.) However, let us assume that the Bible is in fact literally the case that…say…Moses parted the Red Sea and led the Israelites out of Egypt.

    Science says this is plausible. You see an island volcano blew up and the shock-waves would’ve clouded up the sky (plague of darkness), released iron into the water (turning the Nile red as blood and killing sea animals), and eventually drawing a bunch of water back up to it, and then releasing it back in a shallow enough body of water. Well, here is where the theists would be stymied, because the Red Sea isn’t shallow enough. But the Sea of Reeds is in fact that shallow, and usually is mistranslated as the Red Sea. So, science proves this event is plausible.

    Here an atheist would say that this proves that things can happen naturally without a God. This is the main philosophical problem that the atheist runs into. If a miracle is impossible to prove at the time, he or she says that the writers must have been liars or some such. However, when it becomes verifiable in a natural world, the atheist then says the event must have been true, but the people were mistaken for believing in God. This is extremely problematic for the atheist though, since while the conclusions have stayed the same, the propositions have not. Usually scientific atheists (since atheism has many different denominations) state that deductive reasoning is the only way to go, but here it would appear that the premises and conclusions are irrelevant because of the faith of the atheist.

    The point I am making is that the world is filled with beliefs. This is a key component to humanity. It is impossible to empirically prove or disprove the existence of God through this sort of reasoning unless your faith is in this reasoning, if not the point is moot. As one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century, Ludwig Wittgenstein put it: That which we cannot speak of we must pass over in silence. Logically we cannot prove or disprove God from this scientific standpoint anymore than I place a picture from a t.v. signal under a microscope in order to see the molecules in the actor’s flesh.

    Faith is usually seen as something that is always fighting against reason, yet this is complete foolishness since it is faith that propels reason. We believe there is a cure for cancer even though we don’t know where it is. We believe we can find some way to better power our vehicles, even though reason is quiet about this as well. To rid ourselves of faith is to rid ourselves of the engine of reason.

    *This is hardly possible, because to believe is to have faith and that violates the law of noncontradiction (~p ^ p : Not something and something at the same time).

    ** I will hereafter use Christian as my example, since I am a Christian and it will be less cumbersome than trying to use counter-examples from other faiths as well.

  10. I think All religion was started to control a population, Imagine a population without moral code, O wait thats Africa, and look were they are poor,sick, and people killing each other. I do agree with you.
    PS all wood thinks alike.

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