This is part two of @NancyDrewPI‘s guest blog concerning arguments that perhaps, we as atheists should stop using when we debate with theists.
Part One can be found at GodlessMom.com.
4. Prove it/ No evidence for God:
Proof is a mathematical concept. Evidence =/= proof. Think of it more in terms of a courtroom: both sides enter their evidence, and the jury decides if the defendant is guilty or innocent.
When, say, a murder weapon is entered as evidence for the court to examine, the judge doesn’t stop the proceedings because there’s proof so the trial need not go on. There is evidence for both sides, and it is up to the jury to decide on which side the evidence weighs heavier. Something can even be evidence for both sides!
Present your own arguments and let the chips fall where they may. God is the defendant. We are the jury. Would he be found “guilty” of existing (beyond a reasonable doubt)?
Use positive arguments for the non-existence of God, such as divine hiddenness and the problem of evil or suffering.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Ugh, philosophy mumbo-jumbo”. Look, you can’t sit back with your arms crossed and say you just don’t believe theists’ claims and that’s that, then turn around and ask a theist why their God would allow needless suffering.
You are using an informal version of the argument from suffering. Yeah, philosophy can get really deep, and oftentimes it’s over my head as I don’t have a degree in the subject.
But there are a lot of really simple, effective arguments that you’re already using to conduct these thought experiments – you just don’t realise it. So get familiar with them and use them to have a greater effect.
5. Atheists make up < 1% of the prison population:
At a Catholic university and questioning my faith, I wanted to do my Criminal Justice undergrad thesis on religious affiliations in prison, with maybe a touch of rehabilitation vs incarceration thrown in.
Unfortunately, there is very little data on this subject. The .2% has been thrown around for a long time, but is uncorroborated and, if true, the numbers are from over a decade ago. The Friendly Atheist did request info from the federal government and got a number of .07%.
Again, this is self-reported, and doesn’t include “no preference” which would bump the number up to 17%. Many atheists don’t self-identify with the term “atheist”.
If many of those “no preference”s are atheists, it ruins the entire premise. Also, how many people “find God” in prison or use it to get out early on good behaviour?
If a theist presented you with this type of evidence, you’d probably dismiss it outright. Until a comprehensive study is done across state and federal prisons, I would avoid this argument as it is far too easy to discredit.
There are some fantastic stats and visual aids out there showing inverse correlation between religiosity and societal health. Do not forget that correlation =/= causation, but these can be used to show that countries that are more religious aren’t necessarily better off for it.
6. Comparing Jesus to Horus, Mithra, etc:
The meme I’m referring to is, of course, this one:
Popularised by the films Religulous with Bill Maher, and Zeitgeist, which is popular among conspiracy theorists as it also claims that 9/11 was an inside job.
A simple Google search makes it patently obvious how disputed these claims are. Many of these claims come from a book on comparative mythology by Gerald Massey, and is pretty much considered bullshit by the consensus of scholars.
The “facts” in the above meme are very specific, yet if you look into each of the gods above, you’ll find that it’s a stretch, to say the least.
I couldn’t find anything about Horus having 12 disciples. He wasn’t crucified, as crucifixion was a Roman form of torture and execution. It’s not just that Christians are objecting because they’re defensive about their beliefs. Atheists have taken these claims to task as well.
We atheists and skeptics must be careful to not fall prey to the same confirmation bias we accuse others of having. Of course Christianity has similarities to other myths.
Of course the creation story is a myth like any other creation myth. These are powerful arguments on their own. We don’t need to force Jesus into a fake template that all these gods are supposedly made from.
Comparing Yahweh to the other thousands of gods out there is something many believers have never thought to do, and getting them to think and question is a crucial first step.
Like what I have to say? Follow me on Twitter: @NancyDrewPI
Feel free to leave any comments below.