Christianity vs. Atheism
Disclaimer: If you're a christian, this dialogue is likely to upset you so you probably shouldn't read it. Please don't send me a bunch of e-mail about how I'm going to hell or whatnot. I'm happy for you that you find comfort in your faith. I don't...that's just the way it is. Sorry.
Okay, so I'm an atheist. Probably a reluctant atheist would be a better way of describing it. I like the concept of God, heaven, eternal life, and all that jazz, but there are some problems with it that I just can't get past. The primary argument is that this concept just doesn't pass the "reasonableness" test.
To understand what I mean by that, you need to know that I'm an engineer. Engineers are often tasked with figuring out problems of one sort or another. After working through a problem, an engineer will look at the answer he/she arrived at and ask, "Does this answer seem reasonable?" It's amazing how many stupid errors you can catch just by asking this question.
So say, for example, that you are faced with the following problem: A car leaves from L.A. travelling 60 mph heading towards New York. If New York is 2847 miles away, how long does it take to get there? So you run through the numbers and come up with an answer of 1.2 hours. Ask yourself...does that answer seem reasonable? No! Of course not! ...so there must be some problem with your calculation.
That's what I mean by the test of "reasonableness"
Here's a few difficulties that I can think of right now. Some are directly related to not passing the "reasonableness" test, and others are miscellaneous thoughts.
- A lot of friends have tried over the years to show proof how the earth must have come to be through creation. ...or how life must have been created (not evolved). The problem with this is that "proof" and "faith" are contradictory. You can't have both faith and proof. Look it up if don't believe me. ...and it says in the bible that the only way to God is through faith. (Galatians 3:11) I don't know that the big bang theory is right, or that evolution is what really happened, but it surely seems like a more reasonable explanation than creation. And trying to "prove" the christian point of view is pretty much a self-defeating tact, don't you think?
- Ok...moving on...Here's another thing that bothers me about christianity. Christians can't differentiate between "truth" and "fact". THERE IS A DIFFERENCE. Christians say God sent his son to earth and he died to pay for our sins, and that's the truth. Well, maybe...but is it factual? Let me use an example to illustrate the difference between truth and fact. Let's say one night, three people witness a hit-and-run. The policeman takes down each person's account of what happened. Witness #1 says it was a dark blue car. Witness #2 says it was a black car. Witness #3 says it was a dark green car. Were they all telling the truth? Yes! But none of their accounts are factual. In fact, the car was dark purple. ...so fact means exactly what happened...whereas truth involves human perception...which is fallible.
- Christians are not objective when it comes to christianity. I associate with some christians that are pretty smart people, but they can't seem to understand this. When a scientist comes up with a theory that explains some natural process and, later on, new evidence is found that contradicts the theory, the theory will either need to get revised or thrown out completely. When it comes to christianity, any evidence that contradicts the bible gets thrown out. By definition, a christian with faith simply cannot accept that they could be wrong. I'm an atheist and I can definitely accept the possibility that I might be wrong. Actually I hope I am. It's much more pleasing to think that there is life after death and all that, but it doesn't seem reasonable to me.
- The omnipotence card is just too convenient. No matter what logical arguments I can give, a christian can just say "...well God is all-powerful and all-knowing and he doesn't have to play by the rules of Physics or logic or anything else." Ok...if one assumes there is an omnipotent being out there, then sure...all bets are off. But it seems an awfully convenient method of arguing a point. Especially considering that this argument not only eliminates the need for proof, but also eliminates all possibility of ever getting any proof.
- You are all probably familiar with the Hubble telescope, right? Well, a while back, they used the Hubble for what NASA called their "Hubble Deep Field" (or HDF) study. For the HDF study, NASA engineers focused the Hubble on a tiny, unremarkable, section of sky. I'm talking a little, tiny section of sky...like a dime as seen from 75 feet away. They exposed the Hubble's sensors for several days and came up with an image that contained over 1,500 galaxies! How many stars are in a galaxy? I dunno, but it's gotta be in the millions. And if there are 1,500 galaxies in that little section of sky, how many stars does that add up to? A lot, that's for sure. Figuring every star has only one planet on average, we're talking about a lot of planets out there. That's a lot of freakin' planets. Why doesn't the bible talk about any of that? What about the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe? Why did God do so much less on Days 2 through 7 than he did on the first day? Was he tired? Maybe he should have rested on the second day instead of on the 7th. Frankly, I find it really pretty arrogant for us to think that we're so important as to warrant all this attention. It also doesn't pass my reasonableness test. Instead, it seems much more reasonable that the story of how the universe came into being was developed by people that didn't understand something and wanted a nice comfortable explanation. That's a trend that can be seen throughout history...as mankind understands more about himself and his environment, less and less things need to be explained as "God's will". If you follow this train of thought to it's logical conclusion, mankind will eventually understand all of the things that were once explained through divinity.
- This concept of God, heaven, and hell implies there is some kind of life after death. And that, in turn implies the existence of a "soul" of some kind...something that continues to exist after a person's body has died. So here are a few questions about that: Where is the soul? Is it located in one spot on the body or is it all spread out? So if a person loses an arm in an accident, do they lose part of their soul? I doubt many christians would say yes. Let's say they lose both arms and both legs...are they partly in heaven (or hell) at that point? What if someone dies, except for a tiny specimen of cells kept in a petri dish? Does their soul stay with that little clump of cells until the scientist-in-charge decides to destroy them? Only then can the person finally get to heaven? If you ask me, it makes much more sense that what makes a person who they are is their brain. If their brain is alive, the essence of that person is alive. As soon as the brain dies, the essence of that person is gone...regardless of whether their body is kept alive on life-support machines. The next question I would expect to get from a christian is "where do you think you go when you die?" Well first I'd like to point out that I think that question itself is flawed. It assumes that you go somewhere. I suspect the sad truth is that when a person dies, oblivion is what awaits. Nothing at all. So when I get asked, "where do you think you go when you die?", I usually answer, "either a coffin or an oven." Please don't misunderstand...I hope I'm wrong about this. After all, it'd be a terrible waste if all the great thinkers, artists, humanitarians, etc. are all consigned to oblivion upon death. I hope I'm wrong...but I don't think I am.
- Supposedly heaven is just for people. Well, anyone who has loved a dog should well know that they are far more deserving of going to heaven than just about anyone I know (myself included). And if there aren't any dogs in heaven, I think I'd rather not go.
- With respect to religion (or anything else for that matter), The strength that someone believes in something has nothing to do with whether their belief is reality.
- Likewise, the number of people that believe in the same thing also has nothing to do with whether their collective belief is reality. The breakdown of world population by religion goes something like this: Christians 33%, Muslims 21%, Hindus 16%, Buddhists, 6%, Other 12%. None of these hold a majority. This means that no matter what religion you adhere to, you're probably wrong. I make the case that, given some reasoned thought, they're all probably wrong. Oh, and let's be clear...atheism is not a religion any more than "not stamp collecting" is a hobby.
- Religion, itself, is a horribly evil institution. This applies to any religion...not just Christianity (although it is arguably among the worst). Throughout history religion has been used as a tool to extort, discriminate against, subjugate, and kill people all over the world...all while maintaining a feeling of glorious self-righteousness in so doing. It makes me want to gag.