Why atheism?

Why am I an atheist? Since atheism is still a somewhat unusual point of view, let me be candid about why I believe no God exists.

Before proceeding, it is important to define God — otherwise no coherent discussion is possible. I define God as “the solitary, perfect, non-physical being who created the physical world.” By non-physical I mean “bodiless, not consisting of matter/energy (as those terms are used by physicists and other scientists).” Here then is an outline of my reasons for rejecting the existence of God, in order of importance:

A) In an argument to the best explanation, naturalism trumps supernaturalism.

My argument here is that a natural world view fits reality and is self-consistent. Supernaturalism (and therefore God) is not needed to explain existence and, more importantly, can’t explain it anyway. Whether we are attempting to account for the existence of human consciousness or the human body, of morality or the value of life, naturalism provides better explanations across the board. I’ve touched on some of these points in Why Are We Alive?, Does Life Have Meaning?, Thoughts, Feelings, & Faith, C. S. Lewis’ Moral Argument, Can General Atheism Be Proved?, The Key to Happiness, and An Irreverent Look at God, Sex, & Design. I’ve laid out the framework of the debate in What Atheists Have in Common and Naturalism’s Touchstone Proposition.

B) God Can’t Exist

B1 – The nature of the physical world makes a non-physical source impossible (the world isn’t something that could have been thought or imagined into existence)

My argument here is that the world is not informational in nature, and does not contain any mental substrate. If so it can’t be thought or conceived into existence. Furthermore, any attempt to define the nature of the physical world in a manner that avoids the impossibility of a creator results in a definition of the physical world which simply does not match reality (see reason A).

Note that a judgment about what physical existence is not lies at the heart of this second argument for atheism. The obvious issue for debate is whether this judgment about the nature of physical existence is correct and therefore whether it is possible for physical things to be conceived or thought into existence — ie, whether it is possible for essence to cause existence. It is my argument that essence is just explanation or description, and neither explanations nor descriptions can cause the physical existence of that which they describe. This represents a rejection of thousands of years of Western thought, yet is supported by modern science as well as arguments as old as the pre-Socratic Zeno of Elea. I have not written much on this yet, but will.

B2 – The nature of God makes creation of a physical world impossible (God has no means to create or interact with physical things)

I’ve introduced this argument in various forms previously. See God & Rocks, Thoughts & Trees, God’s Physical Problem and also Contingency and Necessity.

B3 – The nature of God is incompatible with the particular world we have (God is perfect but the world we have is imperfect)

The argument from perfection, also referred to as the problem of evil, was presented in Agnosticism Revisited and the Case for Atheism (this link should take you to the beginning of the perfection argument within that post).

C) There is insufficient evidence to believe in God or any supernatural world view

Many atheists start with C, implicitly assume A, and hardly touch B (except B3 when considering the problem of evil). Although I consider C the weakest of the three reasons for atheism, it has an important place — especially when considering imperfect gods and deities.

This is only an outline, of course. It’s gradually being fleshed out on this site.

This entry was posted in Articles Highlighted, Naturalism, Non-Existence Arguments. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Why atheism?

  1. Matthew says:

    “Many atheists start with C, implicitly assume A, and hardly touch B.”

    That’s why I like your site – it doesn’t assume anything, and it’s logical.

  2. Nausved says:

    For many years, I have felt that making a suitable argument against physical, imperfect gods–Zeus, for example–is a much more daunting task than making arguments against the other sort.

  3. skepticgriggsy says:

    Do discuss the ignostic challenge that God has no meaning and theists just guess at his attributes and why Ockham’ Razor is valid againt the use of God. Also the presumption is naturalism is common gound and is the demand for evidence and does not beg the question nor sandbags theists thereby. The presumption is that natural explanations and causes are efficient,necessary,pimary and sufficient.
    Fiath is the I just say so of credulity!

  4. Puneet says:

    A vast sea of various energy forms flowing around is discussed here, i.e., Energy beyond E = m × c2. Our scientist community has re-searched or discovered the various forms of energy already present in our surrounding environment. They have not only named them for the convenience of laymen (light, sound, heat, alpha, beta, gamma and other rays, etc.) but also defined certain properties and propagating rules of each for their sensible use by the common men as per the mental strengths and the demand of that era. The irony of this fact reflects when laymen start stealing, fighting or panelizing in the name of the same (say, e.g. light/electricity) and confined himself within his own-made trappings, own-generated sufferings, own meagerness for the properties gifted by nature. Moreover, we are fully occupied with copycatting: we actually use Colgate, wear Nikes, walk Woodland and watch American sitcoms. There is no harm in it but you need a set of values to channel your IInd energy (as mentioned below) to be one of the deserving humans or citizens out of your country’s large population. No person was ever honoured for what he received, honour has been the reward for what he gave.
    So go beyond discoveries, go beyond energies of this earth in your outer environment. Look within you. On this earth, there are two types of energy: (I) the energy that belongs to this earth only; this is transformed or transmutated from one form to another form in quest of the formation of energy equilibrium; (II) the second energy that does not belong to this earth and sometimes not even to this solar system, depending upon the honest call by humans either in groups, couple or single. This IInd energy has right or authority to rule on the various energy forms already existing on this earth. This lies inside human body which is covered by material forms or outer protective cover or a kind of the best system/machine/arrangement, i.e., look within you. This is the same statement told by your religious preachers but you become actually selective listener and selective reader and misled on your own. If you really want to see the power of IInd energy, then take notice of how unknowingly and comfortably you carry your all organs inside your body, your weight of some kilograms without even notice of any of them.
    But the moment you start realizing the presence of any organ or your weight, then you are with dis-ease, not in harmony of Ist energy by IInd kind of energy. The people around say, s/he is diseased and you run to consult a doctor to be in ease. We have devised our own ways to put a diseased person in ease: allopathy, homeopathy, ayurvedic pathy, Unanipathy and so on.
    The practical applications or reflections of Ist energy controlled by your IInd energy can be visualized in the following forms: various inventions performed by our scientist community (it is their way of energy transmutation), our civilized societies (most importantly, our “family system” and “education system” established by “Aryaans” to tap the wandering nature of early-men, and after that our various religious preachers are doing finishing work towards the same purpose). There are various kinds of social and religious rules and conducts, which are flourishing in different-different countries in various forms and colours all over the earth; you are in the middle – a spectator or follower (not defining what kind of spectator and on what level you are). Right at this moment, see all around you, there is a sea of various energy forms in your surrounding which is flowing (rivers, ponds, chemicals), floating (mind waves in form of telepathy, your TV programmes), blowing (air and all kind of rays), dissolving (recycling of natural resources), emerging (in form of institutions, art and business centres), reacting (constructive or destructive thinking processes, fission or fusion), destroying (in form of terrorist or anti-social elements and their acts), forming (various science institutions, businesses and trade centres), investing (all kind of transaction affairs, e.g. share and stock markets, increase in population), inventing (scientific inventions), drawing (artistic and cultural activities), singing (singers have their own way to put IInd energy over Ist energy), playing (sport players and musicians are physically channeling the same) and breathing (yogi with unity to understand all this). This all is happening around in the service of IInd energy that resides within you. All have devised their own ways of channeling IInd energy to control Ist energy; nobody is wrong because all are playing their role as per their developed mental strengths. The gatherings either in construction plans (as scientists in their conferences/proceedings, other responsible citizens in art exhibitions, music concerts, social/religious meetings or in business plans) or destruction plans (the gathering of anti-social elements) have a particular set of audience and are fine examples of the same. Eyes are yours to either see (through eyesight to feed yourself) or visualize (with a vision to help and strengthen others). Moreover, your tongue (speaking), eyes (seeing) and ears (listening) need something available all the time to be engaged someway or the other way but the choice is your own, free all time.
    When a human body thinks to take a decision and tries to control Ist energy by IInd energy, then a kind of revolution (Samundra Manthan between good (demigods) and evil (devils) values inside your body; your decisions are by-products and the destiny is the final product) happens inside his body for few seconds, or hours, depending upon the growth of his intellect and ultimately he reaches on one decision, and as concatenating process he takes certain decisions over a period of time. This subtle concatenating process automatically determines his destiny and destination further, but he is not aware that he has already decided for himself.
    In fact he tries to control Ist form of energy by IInd form which is inside. So in a way he decides himself his path to which later on he and his intimates label luck or misfortune. As he is gifted with the short memory of remembering things, so he is unable to account for or relate the kind of managed or mismanaged life he led last time that has already defined and, in fact, is continuously defining the energy aura around his physical body. There is an invisible energy aura around your physical body shaped further that is 6 months advance or ahead of your present time or physical age. There are three main ages associated with human body: (1) physical age; (2) mental age; and (3) aura age or intensity. An aura reader can tell you the challenges or problems you are going to face in near future (say, in coming 6 months) by reading your energy aura around your body which you have already shaped by yourself. In finally forming this aura around your body, nobody is with you, neither your religious preachers, parents, kinsmen, teachers or whosoever you have gathered around. So this way you alone decide/determine your lucky path yourself (nobody else is responsible, you are the owner, you only choose, you only compromise) by understanding, controlling and reacting to Ist energy around you by your IInd energy within you.

  5. Rastaban says:

    Four comments, and I haven’t acknowledged any of them yet. I feel bad about that, so here goes….

    Matthew — Thanks for the praise. I really do appreciate it.

    Nausved — As far as logical disproof of physical deities goes, I fully agree with you. The only argument that can be made against a being like Zeus is that there is just no evidence for him, and the things that Zeus is supposed to do (eg, cast lightning bolts down from heaven) have been adequately explained without him.

    But I think atheists often don’t appreciate that, as an hypothesis, God has a lot more going for it. God is an hypothesis that purports to explain why we see intelligence in everything we look at — why objects always seem to consist of properties, why the universe contains information (and apparently has from the beginning), why scientific laws are out there for scientists to discover. God is also employed as an explanation for human consciousness, on the assumption that it is something brain cells can’t account for.

    Atheists are right, I think, that God can’t serve as a proper scientific hypothesis since it can’t really be tested. Still, as a philosophical explanation of existence, the concept of God has legs and needs to be taken seriously. There are good intellectual reasons why nobody believes in Zeus today yet most do believe in God. Atheists need to provide a convincing alternative explanation for the things the God hypothesis attempts to explain. This is likely to be as much a philosophical explanation as a scientific one, but it has to fit the science we have.

    Skeptic — Unfortunately I don’t think the “presumption of naturalism” is common ground between atheists and theists. There are a number of things, like the intelligence scientists seem to find in the universe, that theists argue can’t be explained by an assumption of naturalism. How, the theist might argue, can intelligence get infused into the physical world before intelligent beings like humans come into existence? There must be a pre-existing intelligence, they reason, and that is what they mean by “God.”

    By the way, I love your statement that “faith is the I just say so of credulity” — so true.

    Puneet — Thanks for the lengthy comment. I appreciate the work you put into it, but I have to confess that all your auras, Ist and IInd energies make my head spin. I much prefer a traditional religious viewpoint like Christianity, which I can understand even if I can’t agree, to a new age religion I can’t understand. But maybe that’s a defect on my part.

  6. Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth says:

    I should stated that our comon ground is natural causess.
    Existence is the ultimate cause[cosmological], the greatest and necessary being[ the ontological] and through natural selection the “designer.”[ Dsign arguments beg the question of design and that God had us in mind.the teloeoligcal]. As Existence is all, God could not be transcendent but only immanent.
    Why would there be God rather than nothing? To answer that He is exempt while one ask why the Universe rathier than nothing, because of His attributes , begs the question and special pleads thusly. So, we can rightly ask what caused the causer and what desgined the designer without committing the fallacy of multiple questions that William Sahakian notes.
    Logic is the bane of theists.

  7. A Man. says:

    I wonder if anyone will read this but… you have no basis for the development of rational thought, emotion, and furthermore you are alive, that should posit enough evidence towards a different theory.

  8. Gabriel Edilberto Cruz y Lumanlan says:

    We are born animals, we are born worldly, we are Atheists!!

    you could call it in different names, but the philosophy is there. We are Atheists!!!

  9. Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth says:

    Iremain unchallenged!

  10. Rastaban says:

    Griggs – yes, you remain unchallenged! At least by me, since I agree with you.

    The cosmological argument is all about making God “exempt” from having a causal explanation. Theists like to argue that God is a “necessary” being rather than “contingent” the way physical things are. What does “necessary” mean here? If it means “logically required” then the argument assumes what it should instead be attempting to prove: that God is logically required.

    If instead “necessary” is taken to mean that, unlike physical things, God cannot be subjected to “cause and effect” descriptions, then the argument falls apart in a different way: if God cannot be subjected to cause and effect descriptions, then God cannot be described as causing the world. God cannot be the first cause, after all.

    Theists want to say that God is the sort of thing that cannot be caused, but can cause physical things. And they want to say that physical things must both cause and be caused. As you say, it just looks like special pleading. Theists think they’re justified because God is non-physical, non-local, and his manner of creating involves no “doing”, just “thinking”. Somehow God thinks logical coherent thoughts and the physical universe pops into existence from them. But I’m sorry, thoughts don’t work that way. No matter how logical or coherent a thought is, it can’t make anything physical pop into existence. A thought alone can’t achieve anything in the world until a body acts on the thought and “does” something.

    God, lacking any physical attribute, has no way to create a physical world. God may be the most “necessary” being in the world, but a bodiless being is powerless to create anything. It takes a body for that.

    Theists have taken God out of the causal chain, and then want to pretend that he can somehow be the first cause of the chain. But God can’t be, unless he’s also physical, therefore “contingent”, therefore subject to the question, “what caused God?”

    But anyway, causes are only descriptions. A causal explanation is only a pragmatically useful hypothesis. The entire attempt to argue from a causal chain begins with the mistaken notion that causes have real existence outside of our thoughts, and ends with the “principle of sufficient reason”. But the principle of sufficient reason is precisely what an atheistic natural worldview rejects. Matter makes mind; mind cannot make matter.

    Reason insufficiently describes the world, and can’t create a thing.

  11. Emily Tuang says:

    This is great article. enjoy my time when read it and looking forward to reading more.thanks!

  12. ekagrata says:

    i like this web site and i want to know more. please…

  13. Sarah Marie Lapointe says:

    I agree with all of these points.

    However, I agree with those who believe in Karma (do good things, good things will happen) because, although this has no proof, it is a good way for people to live a better life.

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