Over the past week, I’ve gotten a few comments from readers asking me to explain/defend my atheist position. While I’m no expert in science or theology, I’m still an atheist, and my disbelief is the result of a lot of thought on the various arguments for an against the existence of a god. As I learn more, these reasons can change and hopefully solidify further, but for now, here are my most basic reasons why I don’t believe in God. (My reasons for disbelieving in the Abrahamic god and my reasons for disbelieving in a deist god differ, but I will try to tie them together.)
1. Lack of evidence
The lack-of-evidence argument for atheism is possibly the most famous, and although it is possibly overused by atheists and possibly over-attacked by theists, it is a substantial reason for not believing in God.
I believe that what you consider to be evidence depends on your own nature; it depends on your faith and your skepticism. The reason that some theists are so bothered by us saying “there is no evidence for the existence of a god” is because many of them consider everyday things to be evidence of god. What counts as evidence of a god varies for everyone; love, beauty, existence itself, for some, even the bible is good enough evidence.
As a skeptic though, the evidence that would convince me would be more substantial. If the Christian god were real, then I would expect to see God interfering in our lives in the same way that he did in the Old Testament, or I would expect answered prayers or direct interference. If this god existed, I would expect such clear evidence that it would be ridiculous for me not to believe. Of course, many Christians reading this will think “he’s right in front of your eyes, and it is ridiculous of you not to believe.” Consider this, my friend: what is clear evidence to you is not clear evidence to me. I need more.
Although belief in the Christian god would take more substantial evidence like in my examples above, the existence of a vague, unknown “deist god” or deity is harder to pinpoint. Such an ambiguous entity cannot be entirely proven or disproven, but to this end I will say this: a silent deity sure looks a whole lot like a deity that isn’t there at all. As a skeptic, I have no reason to believe that it is there, even if it is and cannot or does not show itself.
2. Lack of necessity
There are plenty of arguments for the existence of a god, some of the most prevalent among them being the arguments from morality, from design, and from beauty. Among these and the other theistic arguments that I’ve seen, I have yet to come across one that convinces me. One might say that I’m biased towards naturalism, but keep in mind that I was raised with a bias towards Christianity, and I came across atheism on my own with no one prompting me in its favor.
One of the most popular stances taken by apologists is “as an atheist, how do you account for (insert phenomenon here)?” A lot of what I have read and what I plan to read focuses on just this: how atheists can explain phenomena and why God isn’t the necessary explanation he once was thought to be. Although I have yet to extensively read about them, there are naturalistic explanations for things like the beginning of the universe, morality, and the illusion of an intelligently designed world. These explanations deem an all-powerful entity unnecessary.
3. Inherent contradictions
One of my greatest qualms with Christianity is the idea of a god that is all-present, all-perfect, and all-powerful. Inherently following these statements about their deity comes the problem of evil (or problem from amount of evil), the problem of unanswered prayer, and the problem of God’s inability to make people believe in him. To see more of my thoughts on this paradox, see my post Playing with Fire.
It’s worth noting that this reason deals only with my disbelief in the God of the Old Testament, but I’ve already mentioned my reason for not believing in a general deity who doesn’t claim to be all-present, all-perfect, and all-powerful. In any case, it’s rare to see atheists and deists arguing over a belief in an ambiguous entity, so it was worth including this argument that is specific towards the Abrahamic god.
4. My own skeptical nature
If you happen to be reading this post in order to be persuaded that there is no god, I’m afraid that this final reason will be least convincing. A big part of why I don’t believe is because to me, I personally find the existence of a god to be outrageous and impossible. One may call it a gut feeling; however, before you think “atheists always tell Christians that a gut feeling isn’t a good enough reason to believe, so why is it good enough for you?” keep in mind that it’s in combination with my other three reasons.
When I see something beautiful in nature, there is nothing in me at all that is inclined to attribute that beauty to a god. When I look up in the sky, I get no sense of a presence “out there” or that there’s Someone watching over me. When I think of some super-powerful detached mind snapping his fingers and setting the Big Bang into motion, I snicker. I see reason in reductionism, and the idea that there’s some incredible conscious being who can speak without a mouth or know without a brain or see without eyes merely strikes me as ludacris. I know that this isn’t much of an argument, but I was asked to explain why I’m an atheist, and at the end of the day, my gut instinct and my skeptical nature play a big part.
What are your reasons for belief or disbelief? Let me know in the comments!