Bible Open

Challenge to Atheists 3

Printed below are responses to this challenge. (See part I) I present them as is with no comment. I only use first names, last initial and don't ask for e-mails, I don't release them. I present this page only to induce thought, not as an attack. Send in your response to lewis@sullivan-county.com. I will not post obscenities or proselytizing.

Challenge to Atheists 1
Challenge to Atheists 2
Challenge to Atheists 3
Challenge to Atheists 4
Challenge to Atheists 5


Does becoming an atheist make a person a better human being? I believe so. Atheists must undergo a tremendous amount of thoughtful introspection. Atheism frees the individual of mysticism, superstition, xenophobia, irrational Dogma, and religious prejudice. It also allows the atheist to work more towards improving the quality of life in this world, than to worry more about what might happen in the invisible "next" world.

Does not believing in god prompt or inspire a person to positive actions. Christianity (and other religions) can point to many, many people whose lives were changed for the better by adopting the faith. can atheism make the same claim? In short, if atheism is such a positive way to live what real good has it done? in short, if atheism is such a positive way to live what real good has it done? If you are arguing that religion has improved lives by giving them peace of mind and some sense of philosophy, it may be true in cases, but the claim is vague and unmeasurable in any meaningful and objective sense.

In truth, I know of no proof that religion inspires more positive action than secularism. And in fact, we do know that religion has inspired the Inquisition, Crusades, Holocaust and countless wars around the world. I think you'd have a difficult case to objectively demonstrate that the positive impact of religion is greater than the negative impact.

In comparison, let's look at what can be done in the absence of religion. While most people consider themselves religious, it is interesting to note that most charity work in the U.S. is done by secular, not religious, organizations. Think about the advances science has made in feeding people, in curing disease, in lengthening the human lifespan, in advancing technology, in understanding our world and our universe-deeds (independent of religion) that unquestionably and objectively improve the quality of life for billions of people around the world.

Certainly, most of these advances have been done during the past couple hundred years, during the age of science, reason and hard work, not during the preceding 1,500 years when religion was the dominant force in our lives and science was suppressed. By most every objective and measurable criterion, then, there has been many good works done in the world completely independent of any religion. Now, let's turn the question around.

When you look at the most religious time in Christian history, does that seem to you to have been the best time in which to live? When you look around the world today, do the most religious societies of the world seem like the best places in which to live today? I know how I'd answer these questions. I think we're better off in the least of religious societies. Can atheists point to examples of people who have had their lives positively changed? Virtually every atheist I know can tell you that his life improved when religion, irrational fear, and superstition was discarded. I know mine did.

Have any drug addicts given up their addictions as a result of discarding religion? While I, as an atheist, have never smoked, used drugs, or drunk alcohol, (like many atheists I know, and unlike most who would characterize themselves as religious), I can tell you as a medical person that drug addiction is more of a medical problem than a morality issue. Have any thieves stopped stealing and started earning an honest living as a result of becoming infidels? One would think from this biased question that one needs religion to be moral, ethical, and free from crime-despite the fact that many codes of morality in the world are secular in origin. But let's look at your assumption.

The 2001 ARIS (American Religious Identification Survey) found that 13% of the US population was non-religious. One holding your assumption might expect that 13% or more of the population of US prisons would also be non-religious. Yet the opposite is true. For example, in "The New Criminology," Max D. Schlapp and Edward E. Smith state that the ratio of convicts without religious training is about 1/10th of 1%. Another example is the work by W.T. Root, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, who found that in a survey of 1,916 prisoners, Unitarians, Agnostics, Atheists and Free-Thinkers were absent from penitentiaries, or nearly so. A third example, during a 10 year examination of inmates at Sing-Sing, it was found that of those executed for murder, 65% were Catholic, 26% were Protestants, 6% were Jewish, 2% were Pagan and less than 1/3 of 1% were non-religious. Being non-religious would appear to have an inverse relationship with being a criminal.

Have any abusive husbands stopped beating their wives as a result of abandoning a belief in God? I think the better question is why religious men would be beating their wives in the first place.

Can it even be called a "belief-system"? (After all it is really about a lack of belief - isn't it?) Atheism simply means discarding beliefs in superstition. It doesn't mean anarchy or no belief in any system of morality. In fact, most codes of conduct, codes of ethics, and codes of morality in the world today are not religious-based.

Proving that the Bible is flawed only proves that either the Christian God does not exist or that he has a high tolerance for incompetence and error in his sacred book. True.

Pointing to the performance of the Christian church and other religions over the ages only proves that those organized religions were flawed and perhaps do not actually represent the Creator.

True. And that being devout doesn't insure that the individual has a sense of morality. Pointing to the evil in this world, the pointless deaths, the triumph of evil men, the violence in nature - this does not prove that god does not exist - only that he is absent from the scene or that he does not wish to intervene. True-though in this case, God's existence or non-existence has no meaning in our lives whatsoever.

Evolution does not necessarily pre-empt God - he could easily have used that method to produce the life diversity that we see on this earth. The whole idea of evolution is that it is a mechanism that doesn't require supernatural forces. If you're stating that a supernatural force have created a mechanism that doesn't require the supernatural force, it's possible, but an unsupportable contention.

It could easily be argued that life is designed to evolve on its own most of the time and yet be subject to intervention as God desires. If you're going to argue for supernatural intervention, then you have to support it with evidence.

Debunking or criticizing religion is mostly a negative activity. Being free of superstition and irrational fear is hardly negative.

It is a positive effort only when it frees people from a strangle-hold placed on them by too-authoritarian beliefs. Unfortunately, religion also adversely affects the atheist, in the form of misunderstanding, prejudice and hatred.

After the chains have been broken - then what? A void has been created. Is the person really any better off than before? Absolutely. Who wants to live in fear of a vengeful God? Who wants to believe they're unworthy of salvation? Who wants to waste time praying for magic when he can work towards a solution?

Atheism is an incomplete worldview? Only if you have a place in your life for irrational superstition and mysticism.

It does work in many day to day applications because it often does look like there is no God. The question is does God actually not exist or has God just gone off somewhere? Is God there but not intervening? If the concept of God involves one who is either unaware of what's going on (contradicting any supposed omniscience), aware but disinterested in humanity, (contradicting any supposed qualities about "goodness", or one with limited powers who cannot intervene, (contradicting any supposed qualities of omnipotence), then the concept of God, and the belief in Him, becomes more and more meaningless.

Thank you for allowing me to respond.
Dr. S. A. Schumacher
Canada - Wednesday, June 12, 2002 at 17:13:39 (PDT)


I won't rehash some of the excellent observations made in previous responses to your challenge. But I would like to question the relevancy of the challenge. From my perspective as a atheist, it means nothing whether or not being an atheist makes me a better person. Being an atheist means making an uncompromising commitment to the truth.

The truth, as I see it, is that there is no proof of God's existence. The effects of belief in a make-believe character such as God can be explained in many ways other than some proof that this character actually exists. Atheists will believe in God only when there is sufficient proof that he exists.

Even if it were true that believing in God made one better, atheists would not embrace that belief. Suppose I were to demonstrate to you that children that believed in Santa Clause were less "naughty" than those who were agnostic toward Santa. Would you then command that everyone believe in Santa, or proclaim that Santa must really exist? I have heard and read of numerous cases of convicts while in prison converting to Islam, where after they, supposedly, became much more moral and fulfilled persons.

Would these instances indicate that Allah is somehow better than their previous Christian god? Some scientists believe that belief in God has conferred an evolutionary advantage, so it became hardwired into most people's brains. The actual existence of a god and the behavior of those who believe in him are not linked in any way.

In my experience atheists are generally moral, upstanding people. I find nothing lacking in their world view. Those persons who have sudden religious conversions and embrace a disciplined and moral religious lifestyle aren't switching from atheism to belief, but rather always believed even if they weren't committed to their beliefs. In fact, it seems to be extremely rare for people to switch between atheism and belief.

It is so rare that I would hesitate to characterize what effect it might have upon their lives. But in any event, if some suddenly religious persons do experience better lives, it proves nothing relative to the existence of God. Likewise, the fact that atheists are generally righteous people in and of itself does not disprove God.

Atheists don't become atheists because they think that makes them any better or smarter or happier than others. They are atheists because they refuse to compromise their standards of intellectual honesty and truth. In other words, they call 'em as they see 'em.

Regards,
Pat


Atheism has changed my life for the better. I no longer need to tell people they're doomed to hell. I can appreciate other mythologies. I understand people better now that I don't see them as sinners. People who work with me have remarked again and again how calm I am now in the face of frustrations. I feel that the burden to please an unpleaseable god has been lifted. This has helped me to keep my wife close to her wayward daughter.

I would believe in Something if I ever saw any credible evidence. But fear of god is not a good reason for morality. Enlightened self interest is.

Rick