An Atheist Answers Common Theist Questions
by Nova Taylor


Let me start off by stating why I am an atheist. I was raised in a fairly conservative Christian Presbyterian family. We prayed before dinner and went to church every week. My parents shunned gays, premarital sex, evolution, and even Dungeons and Dragons (the Harry Potter church outrage of the ‘70s). Over the course of several years, and with the occasional help of freethinking friends, I started doubting the finer points of the Bible (women’s subservience to men, a guide to slavery, bears righteously mauling kids, talking snakes, and so on), drifted into deism, finally settled into atheism and even joined S.U.R.E.: the freethinker group on campus.

Correct definitions are important, so I’ll give you mine. Atheism is the lack of belief in a God; that is, I do not believe in any gods that have been put forth. Atheism is different from anti-theism, which believes that there definitely is no God. Agnosticism is the belief that the existence of a God is unknowable, no matter what evidence on either side is ever given. Agnostics could be atheists (disbelieving posited gods, but not ruling out the belief in some God) or even theists (believing in a God but admitting they don’t know for sure). Then there’s the slew of freethinkers, rationalists, pantheists and so on. 

Since deconverting I have read and listened to atheist media as well as Christian apologetics; both of which have strengthened my non-faith. I have come across many misunderstandings Theists have about atheism, and believe that I should address some of the more common questions. 

Question 1: “Can you prove there isn’t a God?” It is not my burden to prove the nonexistence of God. It is the theist’s burden to show that there is any evidence for the incredible claim of an omni-potent, omni-present, omni-benevolent, supreme, transcendental being. When someone makes such an extraordinary claim, he or she is the person who needs to back it up with extraordinary evidence. And I’m sorry, but ancient texts don’t count as “evidence,” unless you want me to point out ancient texts that reference fairies, and claim that fairies actually exist. Let’s say I made my own huge claim, “We’re all living in the Matrix.” Then when anybody expressed doubt or disagreement or skepticism, I went on to rebut with, “Well you can’t prove we’re not living in the Matrix!,” would you roll over and reply, “Gee, I never thought of it like that, I guess we are living in the Matrix”? 

Question 2: “What if you’re wrong?” Ah, we have good old Pascal to thank for this poor but frequently cited argument. Pascal assumes that simple belief is enough to get you into heaven, but that is not the case. There are dozens of other religions besides Christianity including Judism, Hinduism, Zorastrian, Islam, Mormonism, Scientology, the Roman, Greek and Norse religions, and not to mention the countless schisms within the umbrella religion of Christianity, almost all with different ideas about heaven and how to get in. If someone picks the wrong religion, then that theist and I will be in the exact same hell-bound boat when we die. Then there is the assumption that belief leads to reward. But what if the God decided to reward rational disbelief and skepticism instead? Imagine that — heaven full of atheists and hell full of devout believers who just believed to cover their etherial asses. 

Then of course there is the assumption that being religious but wrong in life costs nothing. Pascal does not account for the fact that if the theist is wrong, he or she has lost time from the scant 80 or so years of their natural life worshiping, churching, preaching and prostelytizing for something that never existed. Seems like a pretty sad loss to me. 

Question 3: “Where did it all come from?” It’s a curious thing when people assume it’s better to believe in a cosmic creator without evidence than admit to themselves that they simply do not know, and perhaps can never know. It takes a strength of character to admit uncertainty; plugging in God is just a sort of safety blanket that provides comfort but answers nothing. Science cannot yet tell what happened before the Big Bang: whether matter was spontaneously created, whether it was a new universe life cycle of energy-matter that has always existed, or whether some other scenario is true. By accepting “God” as a presumed first cause, we limit our ability to discover more about the truth of the universe we live in. Imagine how far antibiotics would have come along if we had continued to accept “God” as the cause of disease. 

More importantly, if you posit a creator as the beginning of the universe, then you are simply answering life’s biggest real mystery using an even bigger mystery. Namely, where did this God — an infinitely powerful, infinitely intelligent transubstantial being — come from? Did something create God? Has God always existed? Did God create itself? If the theist posits that something (God) has always existed, then why can’t something else (the universe) also have always existed? 

Question 4: “How can you be moral without God?” This is based on a complete theist fallacy: that morality comes from God. If God is responsible for morals, does it just make stuff up and that turns us moral, or is God just passing along what’s intrinsically moral? I get my morals from the exact same place most theists do: my internal moral guide. Let us assume that a Christian theist, for example, truly does get his or her morality from the God of the Bible. Why don’t these theists stone unruly children, kill homosexuals, avoid shellfish, or advocate slavery? Why don’t theists follow examples laid out in the Bible and kill the firstborn of neighboring sinners or pillage neighboring towns gouging open pregnant women to prevent childbirth of heathens? These things are in the Old Testament Bible as promoted by God. Theists today don’t do these things not because the Old Testament is relavent (Jesus was there to restore the old laws), but because the theists realize that these things are immoral and wrong. The fact that they try to worm out of gleefully following Old Testament examples just shows how their own moral compass has told them not to do harmful things like those. Could you imagine the “morality” in a society where God’s laws were actually followed to the letter? 

Question 5: “Isn’t life without God meaningless?” Actually, if God and heaven existed, I’d imagine that an eternally perfect afterlife would make this mortal life pretty meaningless. Why would you bother with this miserable, dull life if you knew that heaven was waiting for you at the end? If you really believed in God and its heaven, wouldn’t you want to get there as quickly as possible? To an atheist who doesn’t believe or is unsure of an afterlife, there is nothing more precious than the life we have here on earth. We have meaning in our lives that we make for ourselves — contributing something to humanity, the earth or just those around us. If we were just pawns in some cosmic being’s ant farm, I could imagine nothing more meaningless.