I ran across a YouTube video called “22 Reasons to STOP BELIEVING in God” by The Atheist Voice. Well, why not? It’s only 3 1/3 minutes long, and has nearly half a million views. So let’s go through these 22 reasons and see if any of them comes close to a GOOD REASON to stop believing in God.
NOTE: It turns out that “22 Reasons to STOP BELIEVING in God” really means “22 Reasons to STOP BEING A CHRISTIAN.” Maybe not surprising, but I thought I’d warn you.
NOTE: Reason 1 is pretty bad. It’s the sort of thing a freshman in a philosophy or theology class would say. But they go steadily downhill from there. You have been warned.
NOTE: I apologize for how long this is going to be. I didn’t realize that, while it’s a short video, it’s also a Gish Gallop. For those of you who don’t know what a Gish Gallop is, it’s the rhetorical technique of throwing out so many one-liners that your opponent is overwhelmed by them, since each one would take a lot more than one line to answer, and you get many—in this case 22—flung at you at high speed. This principle, noted by Charles Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi also applies here:
This imbalance between the ease of asserting something in one sentence and the need for a lengthy argument to refute the assertion, combined with the Gish Gallop, actually makes this little video rather time consuming to answer. Not difficult, but still time consuming.
Reason 1: If God knows everything we are going to do in the future, then we don’t have free will. But we do have free will.
Answer: This objection is somewhat sensible. It’s the kind of thing a freshman might come up with in a philosophy or theology class. The error here is the failure to grasp that God does not exist IN TIME. What this means (to keep it simple) is that God knows what you “will do” in the future because from God’s point of view YOU ARE DOING IT RIGHT NOW AND HE IS SEEING YOU DO IT. Now, it should be obvious that someone seeing you choose something doesn’t eliminate your free will. If I watch you order a Pepsi rather than a Coke, I don’t somehow control you. The error here is to mistakenly think of God as an entity in time, right now, but having knowledge, right now, of the future. However God is not in time, but eternal. To be eternal does not mean (and has never meant) “to endure throughout all time” but “to be outside time entirely.” If you want a philosophically rigorous account of this, I refer you to Boethius’ On The Consolation of Philosophy.
Reason 2: If God doesn’t know what we are going to do in the future, he isn’t omniscient.
Answer: God does know, so he is. Although I should note that, as with “omnipotent,” “omniscient” is a clearly defined term. It means “knows everything possible to know.” One “limit” for example on God’s knowledge is false things. God cannot “know” something which is false. If you do not have 33 brothers, God cannot “know” you have 33 brothers. Because knowledge, by definition, is of true things only. One rhetorical technique sometimes used by atheists is to redefine terms such as knowledge, and to pretend that it is possible to know false things, and then claim to impugn God’s omniscience if He fails to “know” false things. This is much more common in the case of omnipotence, which like omniscience, is well-defined: the ability to do anything possible to do. If a task is inherently contradictory, such as “give man free will while at the same time withholding free will from man”, one has NOT specified a task God is “unable” to do; one has merely said something self-contradictory, which is nonsense. Logically, saying “God cannot do [self-contradictory thing X]” is a cogent as God cannot do [nonsense word W].” And obviously, saying something like “God cannot farblefringersilize a vodvomormonort,” is hardly a strong proof that God is not omniscient—unless you are able to coherently define your terms. The proper response to the old freshman question “Can God make a stone so heavy He can’t lift it?” is to ask “What do you mean by the property ‘cannot by lifted by something that can lift anything’?” It’s really an appeal to an image concrete task (lifting a stone) which seems to make sense of the thing, but it’s logical form is “Can God do something He cannot do?” or “Can God do [meaningless because self-contradictory phrase]?” e.g. “Can God make a thing that is not what it is?” But God’s “inability” to do nonsense is not a limit to His power—because nonsense is not a something that it is possible to do.
Reason 3: God couldn’t stop a murder when there were only four people on earth.
Answer: Please tell me the freshman objection isn’t going to be the strongest one? God could have, didn’t, next. I will note that this is a very common atheist argument PATTERN: it assumes that God ‘would have done such and such’ or ‘if I were God I would have done such and such’—but of course no human being, not even atheists (even though they sometimes seem to think otherwise) are omniscient and infinitely wise. The theist, holding that God is all-knowing and all-good, holds that God always acts in the way that is best, even if the reasons for this are not apparent to us.
Reason 4: If we’re supposed to be God’s special creatures, then the universe is full of a lot of wasted space.
Answer: This argument from the “bigness” of the universe is one of the worst possible arguments “not to believe in God.” First, it’s a non sequitur, insofar as we don’t actually know that the rest of the universe is “wasted” as opposed to FOR SOMETHING UNKNOWN TO US.
What is truly ridiculous is that this ridiculous argument is FELT (not reasoned, obviously) to have some sort of point. And I think it does have a kind of resonance with a certain kind of emotional attitude towards life and existence, and not a healthy one. I’m going to give this insipid argument far more reply than it deserves, because the replies are of much greater worth than the “objection”:
Here is G. K. Chesterton, from Orthodoxy:
Herbert Spencer would have been greatly annoyed if any one had called him an imperialist, and therefore it is highly regrettable that nobody did. But he was an imperialist of the lowest type. He popularized this contemptible notion that the size of the solar system ought to over-awe the spiritual dogma of man. Why should a man surrender his dignity to the solar system any more than to a whale? If mere size proves that man is not the image of God, then a whale may be the image of God; a somewhat formless image; what one might call an impressionist portrait. It is quite futile to argue that man is small compared to the cosmos; for man was always small compared to the nearest tree. But Herbert Spencer, in his headlong imperialism, would insist that we had in some way been conquered and annexed by the astronomical universe. He spoke about men and their ideals exactly as the most insolent Unionist talks about the Irish and their ideals. He turned mankind into a small nationality. And his evil influence can be seen even in the most spirited and honourable of later scientific authors; notably in the early romances of Mr. H.G. Wells. Many moralists have in an exaggerated way represented the earth as wicked. But Mr. Wells and his school made the heavens wicked. We should lift up our eyes to the stars from whence would come our ruin.
But the expansion of which I speak was much more evil than all this. I have remarked that the materialist, like the madman, is in prison; in the prison of one thought. These people seemed to think it singularly inspiring to keep on saying that the prison was very large. The size of this scientific universe gave one no novelty, no relief. The cosmos went on for ever, but not in its wildest constellation could there be anything really interesting; anything, for instance, such as forgiveness or free will. The grandeur or infinity of the secret of its cosmos added nothing to it. It was like telling a prisoner in Reading gaol that he would be glad to hear that the gaol now covered half the county. The warder would have nothing to show the man except more and more long corridors of stone lit by ghastly lights and empty of all that is human. So these expanders of the universe had nothing to show us except more and more infinite corridors of space lit by ghastly suns and empty of all that is divine.
In fairyland there had been a real law; a law that could be broken, for the definition of a law is something that can be broken. But the machinery of this cosmic prison was something that could not be broken; for we ourselves were only a part of its machinery. We were either unable to do things or we were destined to do them. The idea of the
mystical condition quite disappeared; one can neither have the firmness of keeping laws nor the fun of breaking them. The largeness of this universe had nothing of that freshness and airy outbreak which we have praised in the universe of the poet. This modern universe is literally an empire; that is, it is vast, but it is not free. One went into larger and larger windowless rooms, rooms big with Babylonian perspective; but one never found the smallest window or a whisper of outer air.
Their infernal parallels seemed to expand with distance; but for me all good things come to a point, swords for instance. So finding the boast of the big cosmos so unsatisfactory to my emotions I began to argue about it a little; and I soon found that the whole attitude was even shallower than could have been expected. According to these people the cosmos was one thing since it had one unbroken rule. Only (they would say) while it is one thing it is also the only thing there is. Why, then, should one worry particularly to call it large? There is nothing to compare it with. It would be just as sensible to call it small. A man may say, “I like this vast cosmos, with its throng of stars and its crowd of varied creatures.” But if it comes to that why should not a man say, “I like this cosy little cosmos, with its decent number of stars and as neat a provision of live stock as I wish to see”? One is as good as the other; they are both mere sentiments. It is mere sentiment to rejoice that the sun is larger than the earth; it is quite as sane a sentiment to rejoice that the sun is no larger than it is. A man chooses to have an emotion about the largeness of the world; why should he not choose to have an emotion about its smallness?
It happened that I had that emotion. When one is fond of anything one addresses it by diminutives, even if it is an elephant or a lifeguardsman. The reason is, that anything, however huge, that can be conceived of as complete, can be conceived of as small. If military moustaches did not suggest a sword or tusks a tail, then the object would be vast because it would be immeasurable. But the moment you can imagine a guardsman you can imagine a small guardsman. The moment you really see an elephant you can call it “Tiny.” If you can make a statue of a thing you can make a statuette of it. These people professed that the universe was one coherent thing; but they were not fond of the universe. But I was frightfully fond of the universe and wanted to address it by a diminutive. I often did so; and it never seemed to mind. Actually and in truth I did feel that these dim dogmas of vitality were better expressed by calling the world small than by calling it large. For about infinity there was a sort of carelessness which was the reverse of the fierce and pious care which I felt touching the pricelessness and the peril of life. They showed only a dreary waste; but I felt a sort of sacred thrift. For economy is far more romantic than extravagance. To them stars were an unending income of halfpence; but I felt about the golden sun and the silver moon as a schoolboy feels if he has one sovereign and one shilling.
And if Chesterton isn’t enough, I also refer the reader to John C. Wright’s blog post “Earth Looked so Small as to Make me Ashamed of Our Empire” and “Size Does Matter.” Enjoy!
Reason 5: The myth of a great flood and a virgin birth were around long before Jesus came around. Maybe those are just elements of an interesting story.
Answer: Christians have always known this.
A more interesting question is WHY certain stories and themes repeat themselves throughout the world’s mythology. To take things in order, the flood was not said to have happened at the time of Jesus, so it isn’t clear what why stories of a great flood pre-dating Jesus would be evidence against … what? Universal stories of a great flood may not be conclusive evidence FOR a great flood, but they sure as hell aren’t evidence AGAINST one. “Everyone, everywhere speaks of a certain event; therefore, this event did not happen.” This is a strange argument, at the least.
But the Christian account suggests that the myths and the mythological in general served as a kind of divine foreshadowing. Remember, Jesus is not in any way a “mythological” person, but a living, concrete, historical person. In Christ, myth becomes reality. Another way the virgin brith was foreshadowed was prophesy. That certain cosmically important events were foreseen or foreshadowed is not an argument that they didn’t happen.
The fundamental distinction that needs to be held on to is that Jesus is a historical person, not a myth.
I won’t, here, get into all the ways in which the “mythological stories that pre-date Jesus” are far less common that is often suggested. To take a simple example: it is almost certain that the parallels between Jesus and Krishna are a result of Hindu priests taking their tales from the Christians, and not the other way around (Krishna tales first appear around 600-800 AD).
And isn’t this supposed to be “22 Reasons to STOP BELIEVING in God”? It seems it is, in reality, “22 Reasons to STOP BEING A CHRISTIAN.”
Reason 6: Virgins can’t get pregnant.
Answer: Really? THIS is a “reason” to stop believing in God? Really?
God is all powerful. God can cause a virgin to become pregnant.
Oh, God. That freshman level objection you started with really is going to be the strongest one, isn’t it?
Reason 7: Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin: Christian. Barney Frank: Not a Christian.
Answer: So? St. Francis of Assisi: Christian. Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler: Not Christian. Also: Barney Frank? Not an atheist.
Reason 8: Christians disagree among themselves about some things, so Christianity is false.
Answer: Disagreement doesn’t prove no one is right. Scientists disagree with each other. Flat-earthers disagree that the earth is spherical: does that “prove” that all theories about the shape of the earth are false? Atheists disagree with other atheists; therefore atheism is false. See how convincing that is?
Reason 9: The Bible is full of contradictions.
Answer: No it isn’t. Learn how to read it properly. You didn’t give any examples, so I won’t attempt to refute any.
Reason 10: If God made us in His image, why do we have vestigial organs and body parts that often fail?
Answer: The Christian teaching is not and never has been that “made in the image of God” means God has a human body. He doesn’t. This question is just stupid.
Reason 11: 99.9% of all species are extinct. How many “do-overs” does God need?
Answer: So above re: the “wasted space” argument, since this is basically a “wasted species” argument. Lacking omniscience, why do you think this is not according to the divine plan? What percentage of species SHOULD BE extinct, according to you? “If God existed, no species would be extinct.” Is that the premise here? Why would you think that?
Reason 12: “God doesn’t exist because I said so.”
Answer: There’s just no bottom to this, is there?
Reason 13: The Holocaust.
Answer: Yes, we know God permits evil. Your point? Can you refute this claim, for example? It always seems to me like the argument from evil rests an inability to imagine something so good and perfect that would make any finite amount of evil worth it. But of course, that is precisely WHAT GOD IS.
Reason 14: The proof people give that God exists is often based on their personal experiences. “It’s the sort of proof we would NEVER take seriously if it were applied anywhere else.”
Answer: There are no impersonal experiences. ALL experience is personal experience. What else would it BE? What’s your point?
And about the “we’d never take it seriously,” that’s false. We have NO EVIDENCE WHATEVER that anyone besides ourself is CONSCIOUS—other than THEIR own personal experience that they are, and them telling us. It is no more UNREASONABLE to believe reports about experiences of God than it is to believe in other minds. And if you don’t believe in other minds, you are a manifestly irrational person who has ridiculous standards of belief, probably due to some sort of ideology.
In fact, the ONLY people I have ever heard DENY that other minds exist are atheists who have realized that our evidence for other minds is very similar to our evidence for God, and who (therefore) want to close that possible door. I really don’t believe them when they deny believing in other minds, not least because they are bothering to TELL ME, a presumably mindless automaton, all about it.
Reason 15: Too many of God’s followers, using Bible verses to support their beliefs, have made life worse for other people.
Answer: Many have. But how does that impugn the truth of Christianity? Christianity doesn’t teach that Christians will be good people. It teaches (1) they should be, and (2) most won’t be. Also, many Christians have lived lives of charity and service to their fellow man, due to their Christian faith. Do you really think the world would be a BETTER PLACE if Christianity with its commandments to love one’s neighbor and practice charity, did not exist?
Reason 16: “No matter what Ray Comfort says, God didn’t create bananas to look like this. They evolved this way without God’s help.”
Answer: Setting aside the fact that you correct YOURSELF, and note that bananas WERE INDEED engineered to be as they are, albeit by human beings, you offer no evidence that any case of evolution was “without God’s help.” How do you propose to prove that evolution is UNGUIDED? Seems like you are just question-beggingly assuming it. Most Christians don’t see a contradiction between evolution and Christianity—that’s only some loony Protestant fundamentalists. And yes, thinking all Christians are loony Protestant fundamentalists must be very comforting, because they are living straw men. But, sorry to tell you, eventually you’ll have to address serious and educated Christians, if you want to discredit Christianity, and not merely its lunatic fringe.
Reason 17: Every time science and religion go head to head, science wins.
Answer: When has this happened?
Reason 18: You don’t need God to be a good person.
Answer: Well, you do need God to have a good reason to be a good person, or a rationally coherent ground for your ethics. Also, atheism renders at least two virtues impossible: piety and faith. So, without God, you can’t be a fully good person. And even more, our ability to be good is limited, and at the end of the day, we are incapable of being good in an exemplary way, without God’s assistance, viz. divine grace. So, this is a half-truth. An atheist can be, for a given value of “good”, a relatively good person as far as natural human effort can accomplish, except for the virtues which his atheism actually prevents him from having. But no atheist can be holy, that is, a saint. So atheism does put a definite ceiling on how good you can be.
Reason 19: People have been saying that Jesus is coming back in their lifetime for many, many, many lifetimes.
Answer: Yes, they have. But Christian teaching is very clear that we do not know when Jesus will return. Again, human beings are highly fallible, which includes Christians, and are prone to overreach in their claims to know things—much like your claim to know, e.g. that evolution is unguided by God.
Reason 20: God works in mysterious ways is typically a euphemism for “stop asking hard questions.”
Answer: No, it isn’t. It’s a convenient expression for the rather obvious point that we are not in a position to evaluate, know, comprehend, or judge the actions of an infinite, all-powerful, all-knowing being. As I Christian I’m perfectly content to say “I don’t know” about many things. “I don’t know” seems to be the sane answer to “Why did God do X or not do Y?” So it’s more like “stop asking unanswerable questions, and expecting an answer.” Unanswerable questions are neither “hard” nor “easy.” They simply cannot be answered.
Reason 21: Natural disasters.
Answer: Again, God permits evil, including natural evils, such as natural disasters. We never said he didn’t. If your claim is “God as Christians understand God would not permit natural disasters” what’s your argument that He wouldn’t? How do you know? Where did you get the yardstick to measure the actions of an infinite being? This seem to be yet another variant on “I, atheist X, am in a position no know what God, an omniscient and all-wise being, would or would not do in situation S, and to make judgments on the basis of my knowledge.” But this premise is either false or you are, yourself, omniscient and all-wise.
Reason 22: You were made in God’s image—except for your foreskin, apparently; you need to cut that off.
Answer: Well, you managed to save the worst for last. Frankly, I didn’t think you could go lower than “God doesn’t exist because I said so” but this may have done.
I’m done, and I am now a dumber person for having gone through this. I hope you, readers, enjoyed it more than I did. My pain is over now, at least—for now.