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Mailbag: Atheists are Fools

By January 6, 2013

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From: Arv
Subject: Atheists are Fools
By the way, if anyones states there is no God, logic would seem to indicate you would have to be God to know that. Only God could know what is or isn't out there. If someone says there is no God out there, they are claiming knowledge they can't possibly have.

This is a very popular myth: atheists cannot say there is no god without being omniscient, which is a characteristic of a god. This argument rests upon a couple of common misunderstandings. First, it makes the mistake of assuming that an atheist, to be an atheist, must have certain knowledge that no God or gods exist. Second, even if an atheist denies the existence of some particular god or all possible gods, it is not necessary for the atheist to claim absolute certainty. Rationally justified beliefs can be, and often are, based upon evidence which falls short of absolute certainty.

Third, it is not true that it is impossible to prove a universal negative. Certainly there are some universal negatives which cannot be proven absolutely and so can only be held based upon the weight of omniscience -- for example, the claim "No swans are orange." We would have to know the contents of the entire universe in order to make such an assertion with certainty. However, such knowledge is not necessary in order to make other negative statements. Examples of this latter type include "no married bachelors exist" or "no round squares exist."

What's curious is that this myth is addressed on many atheism web sites; thus, if someone makes the claim without an explanation that indicates knowledge of the rebuttals, it's clear that they haven't done the slightest bit of research on the matter. They probably just heard it somewhere from a Christian apologist and are repeating it because it sounds good rather than because they found it rational and defensible.

I asked an agnostic once if he knew everything there was to know in the whole universe. He admitted, "No." I asked if he knew half of everything there is to know in the whole universe, again he replied, "No." I then asked if he did know half of everything to know in the whole universe if God could be in the half he didn't know about yet. He hesitantly repied, "Yes." An agnostic says, "I don't know if there is a God, and neither does anyone else." Maybe the agnostic doesn't know if there is a God but he can not know if there is anyone else who does. Again he is claiming knowledge he can't possibly have.

The best someone like that can do is just set their heart against God.

That's like setting one's heart against Zeus or fairies. After all, unless one is omniscient and knows everything there is not know in the whole universe, can they really claim that no fairies exist or that Zeus does not exist? They cannot, according to Arv's argument, so the best someone like that can do is set their heart against fairies and against Zeus. This, however, makes no sense whatsoever.

The reason why should be clear: we don't need to know the contents of the entire universe in order to dismiss the existence of some alleged beings or things. We might be mistaken, sure, but absolutely certainty with no possibility of being mistaken has never been a necessary standard for accepting or dismissing some claim. It would help, but it's not a standard people can normally (if ever) achieve and it's hypocritical to suddenly demand it when we come to the question of the existence of the Christian god.

Furthermore, upon what would Arv base a claim that his god does definitely exist? How can be he claiming knowledge that he could reasonably have? If "knowledge" is defined as "justified, true belief," how does one justify -- or perhaps I should say "verify" -- belief that a god exists? Even if we accept for the sake of argument that some entity does exist, how does one verify that it is a "god"?

The Bible says they are a fool, but at least they get their own national holiday, April 1st. Have a nice eternity.

What a nice Christian sentiment: calling others fools for daring to not agree with them. Arv insisted that "I didn't say atheists are fools, the Bible does," but that's simply an example of not taking responsibility for one's beliefs and statements.

The Bible is the source of the quote, but when someone repeats it in such a fashion they are expressing agreement with it and must take personal responsibility for that. If I quoted Hitler in such a manner, I couldn't pretend that accusations of anti-Semitism would be false simply by insisting "I didn't say it, Hitler did."

I take responsibility for what I say, whether the words are my own or were originally someone else's. Christians should do the same.

More selections from the Agnosticism / Atheism Mailbag...

Comments
July 15, 2007 at 10:18 am
(1) IsaacJ says:

The Bible says they are a fool, but at least they get their own national holiday, April 1st. Have a nice eternity.

I have to listen to a lot of stuff like this from time to time. But for me, the worst part is the excuses:

Arv insisted that “I didn’t say atheists are fools, the Bible does,” but that’s simply an example of not taking responsibility for one’s beliefs and statements.

I agree with Austin 100%. Arv–who just had to twist the “atheists are fools” line into an even greater insult with the April 1st business–is really saying:

“Don’t blame me for my truly awful and bigoted behavior. Blame God for my actions instead and let me off the hook. Okay?”

What was Austin thinking, blaming Arvin for his own bigotry and behavior? Besides, I’m sure God is more than happy to be Arv’s scapegoat if God exists. What are god’s for, if not the convenience of their believers? Very respectful.

This line is in the same vein as others I’ve heard.

But I have to force you to listen to my beliefs. Jesus commands us to preach to others. It’s in the Bible! Don’t blame me for being so disrespectful towards you!

If you really want to accomplish the task, God would have made it happen. He helps those who help themselves. Clearly your just not trying or he would have stepped in by now!

I don’t hate gays. I just hate what they do, what they say, and who they have relationships with. (In other words, pretty much everything about them) That’s why they shouldn’t be allowed to marry or have all the same civil rights that everyone else has. It bugs me. But hey, it’s in the Bible! Don’t call me a bigot just for agreeing with it.

When confronted with this sort of excuse, make it clear you aren’t going to put up with it or accept it. Make them take responsibility for themselves. That’s what we have to do. Why should they get a get out of jail free card if we don’t?

July 15, 2007 at 11:07 am
(2) tracieh says:

>They probably just heard it somewhere from a Christian apologist and are repeating it because it sounds good rather than because they found it rational and defensible.

I keep waiting to find out if I’ll ever outlive the embarrassment of having done JUST THAT for so many years as a Xian. I always make sure to remind myself, though, rather than forget it (which is pretty tempting at times!), because I WANT to be able to remember and relate to where apologists are coming from. It has been helpful to me in my dialogues with Xians and theists as an atheist.

>After all, unless one is omniscient and knows everything there is not know in the whole universe, can they really claim that no fairies exist or that Zeus does not exist?

This is my first-line response to the accusation “you can’t know there is no god.” Few apologists will claim it’s not reasonable to say there are no fairies.

I’ve noted this before, but just to say again: Their reply is often that there is “more evidence” for god than fairies. I disagree with this statement, BUT that’s not the important implication of the statement. The important implication is that when one begins to say that _any_ evidence is required to support belief (which is what how they’re justifying disregarding fairies while accepting god), then they’ve just negated their first premise: You can’t say X doesn’t exist unless you know everything.

They’re quite happy to say fairies don’t exist–and admit they don’t know everything. AND they can’t “prove” fairies don’t exist (which is another popular apologist failed argument to support the possibility of god: “You can’t prove god _doesn’t_ exist.”)

Their arguments seem to break down in every other situation EXCEPT in regard to their god, where suddenly the crap arguments they, themselves, rejected for fairies and Zeus become “valid” in their heads.

They reject the existence of _innumerable_ things–for the very same reasons atheists reject their god. And yet they seem bent on claiming the atheist is not being open-minded or rational with regard to the claim of their god’s existence. It’s inexplicable. And yet, I used to do the very same thing. *cringe*

>”I didn’t say atheists are fools, the Bible does,” but that’s simply an example of not taking responsibility for one’s beliefs and statements.

Absolutely. I’ve seen this ridiculous sentiment a million times. If they don’t agree with it–why are they bringing it up? And if they do agree with it–then they’re bringing it up to support their belief that I’m a fool. I have no idea why they can’t say: “Yes, I believe you are a fool, because I believe god said so. And I agree with whatever god says.” But that’s not what you’ll get. You’ll get: “I didn’t say it, god did.”

July 20, 2007 at 5:34 pm
(3) FrumiousBandersnark says:

I don’t need to know everything in the universe to know there is no God. I know just enough to know that God as we have defined Him, in whatever manner, could not possibly exist. The universe is neither entirely arbitrary or random; both conditions must exist in order for a supernatural being to exist. If there is a God, it is very different than anything intended, envisioned, or accepted by religion, organized or otherwise.

July 23, 2007 at 3:54 pm
(4) DamnRight says:

I too cringe when I read/hear these lame arguments… I was guilty for years of memorizing “Case for Christ” apologetics for ammo whenever needed… somehow they sounded so airtight at the time
… I also remember using the “there’s no such thing as an atheist, only agnostics”…however, I ended up doing some reading up on such things & actually went back & apologized…
… but, I do thank my pastor for having a study on the book of Revelations & showing the Ken Hamm videos (which I followed up with some internet searches)… these started me questioning the veracity of the biblical record… once the basis of my faith could no longer hold up to scrutiny, my faith dissolved…
… nothing to do with atheists brain-washing… I never even saw an atheist site or was exposed to atheist ideas until almost 1 year after my faith collapsed…
… I am now quite embarrassed to see so many of my previously rock solid arguments reduced to rubble by such readily available contra-arguments…
… when one realizes they’ve wasted almost 50 years of life with such nonsense, it makes one want to open some other minds… even a little light shed on the “holy book” shows it to be a man-made construct…

July 23, 2007 at 5:34 pm
(5) John Hanks says:

Everyone is a fool, particularly those who waste their time on substance on something as dull as religion (which is an allergic reaction to G-d)

July 24, 2007 at 3:39 am
(6) George says:

Why not have April 1 for national nonbeliever day. Very zazen. After all thou art that. A national holiday for ropeadopes.

Think about it.

I was on a fire today and got called on to diagnose a native american. I ended up flying him out because of his heart condition. god had nothing to do with the joy I had in doing what I could for his life. NOTHING. The integration of modern thought and factors is soooo far beyond religion to be laughable.

I know I’m going to die but there is this ineffable totally satisfying moment in between birth and a completely tragic ending which will leave a satisfied smile on my face knowing I’ve done well. Sail on Bodhisattva.

Ineffable

July 28, 2007 at 1:55 am
(7) Bob Howard says:

This is a common approach by Fundamentalists. In can be summed up in a couple of sentences “I say there is a god. If you can’t prove there isn’t then there is a god.” Of course this goes against the scientific approach that the person making a claim must be prepared to prove it.

January 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm
(8) tsahpina says:

no. uuu are the fool. its cos uuu state that u know whats out there. atheists stance is mostly that nobody knows and that its more psssible that theres nothing. science found nothing yet. so theres probably nothing there. scentists in the field and especially the nobel winners in the field are the most intelligent people on the globe. and almost all of them are atheists. uuu are the fool. not the nobel winners who say theres no good. u are twisting the possitions. how arrogant and stupid!

January 16, 2013 at 9:19 am
(9) JTL says:

Christians are the biggest fools I’ve ever seen.

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