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Austin Cline

Mailbag: How Can You Not Believe?

By February 17, 2013

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From: "M.L.B."
Subject: None
I will pray for you. I truly believe that you are wrong. However, each of us must make their own way in life and your way is not mine. I do not begin to understand how anyone could not believe in God just look at your hands those fine bones and muscle could man make that? Again, I will pray for you whether you want me to or not it is my right to do so. May God bless you and somehow show you the way.

No, no humans are able to make bones and muscle - at least not yet. I also cannot make a rock, but do not immediately assume that a god did. My inability to make something does not justify the conclusion that, therefore, some higher intelligence did. That would be irrational, but it is perhaps the most basic assumption of the Argument to Design.

Faith is the key my friend. Have you ever read the Bible or history books where all things that are in the Bible are documented?

Faith is a key to many thing - war, terror, death, destruction. A lot of people have a faith that causes them to do good things, but there is absolutely nothing about faith which necessitates a good outcome. A lot of other people have a faith that causes them to do awful things - is their faith any less valid than anyone else's? No.

Some might argue that a faith should be judged by it's "fruits," but that is a rational test which contradicts the point of faith: to adopt a belief which cannot be defended via reason, logic, or evidence. If a belief can be subject t to tests of reason, then it isn't a faith anymore.

The faith of a Christian working in a soup kitchen is no better or worse than the faith of a Muslim terrorist participating in a suicide bombing. Both would be better off subjecting their beliefs to rational scrutiny - the volunteer would still find reasons to help the poor while the terrorist might find something less destructive to do with his time.

Yes, I've read claims that all things in the Bible are documented - they are false. Some things in the Bible have been documented in other sources, but many other things have not. Of course, bringing that up subjects biblical claims to rational scrutiny by seeing if there is any independent support. If everything in the Bible really were documented elsewhere, it wouldn't be possible to have faith in it, would it?

Two contradictory attitudes: one promoting the idea of faith while another promotes the idea of proof. I don't know why, but very often I encounter Christians who try to do both. Rarely do they try both simultaneously like this, but they still want to have it both ways.

More selections from the Agnosticism / Atheism Mailbag...

August 26, 2007 at 11:33 am
(1) Theodorus says:

M.L.B. wathever your name is will you pray for me and all of your friends because i play the accordion and i lost part of my finger and miss some notes.
If all of yuo together pray maby you sky daady will replace my finger, ha, ha, ha,

August 26, 2007 at 11:46 am
(2) Ron says:

Theodorus. It is Sunday morning. Why aren’t you in church??????

August 26, 2007 at 11:53 am
(3) Ron says:

Theodorus. BTW Your prayer has been answered. I play guitar. We can get together, and I will play the notes you can’t reach because of your missing finger. We can play amazing grace, and have the congregants standing in the pews. Isn’t that ironic? An atheist playing hymns for the congregation? Been there.

August 26, 2007 at 11:57 am
(4) Theodorus says:

To Ron,
I am not in church because i have no time because i try to find te notes I missed.

August 26, 2007 at 5:04 pm
(5) Jeremy says:

I do not begin to understand how anyone could not believe in God

This is indicative that not only has M.L.B. never tried to understand why he believes in the god he does, but why he does not believe in the gods that others may believe in.

August 26, 2007 at 5:40 pm
(6) Gotweirdness says:

At least he does recognize that each of us has to make our way own life. Of course for some of us that means having an absence of belief in a magical sky person to which praying to does well…nothing. I understand that people like MLB may mean well by praying for others though it seems to escape them that other people might find it insulting or offensive.

August 27, 2007 at 5:41 pm
(7) tracieh says:

I’ve often wondered why when people say we can see god all around us, they seem to point to “in the eyes of a child” or “in the beauty of a flower/sunset.” I wonder: Do you see god in that pile of dog crap next to that sidewalk? Or all that trash lying in the grass at the busstop next to the trash can?

It sounds facetious–but if we see god “all around us”–isn’t he in the the baby born without a brain? Or in that car crash that killed four teenagers? Or at that accident scene where that woman was struck and paralyzed by a drunk driver as she crossed the street?

How come this universal god only seems to be visible in _some_ parts of the universe? Why is it he’s missing only in the parts where we really could use a miracle sometimes? Why don’t they use ugly and misshappen things to show me their god? Does he not make those things? Is he only in the eyes of perfect faces? Or was he in the eyes of Theodore Bundy as he brutalized, raped and murdered those co-eds?

Oh, no…uh…god isn’t in _that_ part of his wonderfully designed creation now, is he?

September 5, 2007 at 12:38 pm
(8) tricia says:

I have studied the topic of religion for quite awhile 30+ years. I could never understand why I had to believe what I was told by someone of the “cloth”. Firstly, I was never given any reasons to believe – just that I was supposed to believe and have faith. Well, both of those words held very little substance for me. I decided to go back in time and see how the whole thing came together [in other words I did some research, and still am]. It was gratifying to say the least. What you find is the truths of mankind. What that means is there is no real truths but man made ideas and ideals given the time that they evolved within. It gave me a very clear picture of how mankind can force an unsuspecting person into a realm of illusion or delusion. Most religions won’t go back in time – and, will never tell the truth. Why? In some cases I don’t think they really know, or are afraid to find out. Studying to become a minister is all about the bible, once in awhile a tidbit might be thrown in regarding how the book came to be, but very limited. Studying the bible is again taught through the eyes of whoever is teaching [?] it.

People that claim to believe usually have no – or very little basis for their belief. They are not capable of reading the bible so they have everyone else do the interpretation. It then becomes a pitiful excuse for their being duped into someone’s imagination. It is the saddest most illogical thing on the face of this earth. The religions are all dead, they offer nothing to anyone who can think or reason on their own. There is absolutely no growth in any of the religions [the three major ones, especially]. You are led around by someone else’s belief system, and if you investigate it you find that it DOES NOT exist. To believe in such silly miracles, or talking donkeys, or vengeance given by that lord [?] is insane.

September 5, 2007 at 12:39 pm
(9) Brennus says:

Well I have read the bible-two or three times-and I cannot understand how anyone can believe such blatant nonsense. Of all the classical arguments for a god-which have been adequately answered in many books not the least of which is George Smith’s The Case Against God-the one argument against is the problem of evil. If prayer works-and it has been proven scientifically that is objectively in a double blind test-that it does not-how can a theist justify the destruction of churches during hurricanes and the like? Silly question I know but it infuriates me when I hear after some tragedy or another that people pray to god-didn’t seem to work prior to the tragedy did it?
Faith as Samuel Clement dryly noted is believing in something you know ain’t true.

September 5, 2007 at 12:50 pm
(10) FrumiousBandersnark says:


Nice conflation of the argument from incredulity and the argument from ignorance. “You can’t do X, therefore Y.”

The fact that we cannot (yet) manufacture replacement body parts of this type does not mean that there must be a supernatural agent that can do the same. The former has no relevance to the latter.

By the way, medical science can provide prosthetics that approximate hands for those who lost theirs. We can grow and harvest organs and certain appendages for transplant. We can even clone life forms (whether or not we should is a matter for another discussion).

The point is, we did not achieve these things through prayer and supplication; we achieved them by by adopting a rational and dare I say worldly view that the universe can be observed, measured, and to some degree understood. No god ever did anything for humanity that we did not do ourselves.

Science can show us more of the grandeur and beauty (as well as the ugly) of this universe than religion ever will.

September 5, 2007 at 1:03 pm
(11) sornord says:

How can I not believe in god(s)? Very simple: lack of evidence. MLB and those like him display the non-thinking, herd-mentality of sheep.

September 5, 2007 at 1:26 pm
(12) John Hanks says:

When you give up the skygod it is like putting on a new set of glasses. You can see a lot of things clearly. Protection rackets become vividly apparent.

September 5, 2007 at 3:18 pm
(13) Bob Howard says:

Anybody who wants to pray for me are welcome. It’s their time they are wasting.

September 5, 2007 at 6:04 pm
(14) Richard Thomas says:

“just look at your hands those fine bones and muscle could man make that?”

I would like to point out that yes, each of use made those fine bones. Starting as the zygote that defined our indviduality, each of us began a developmental program wholly contained within that zygote that over time, with cell division and differentiation, resulted in just those fine bones, muscles, nerves, etc. There is no evidence that anything outside, other than nutrients kindly supplied by our mothers, had any hand in it.

September 6, 2007 at 12:03 am
(15) Zack says:

Nothing fails like prayer.

September 6, 2007 at 6:41 pm
(16) RMHK says:

People believe in God because they are taught (brainwashed) from childhood to do so.
Tracieh, you are right. If God exists he is cruel and demented. Who wants to spend eternity with a guy like that?
People also believe because they want everlasting life.

February 27, 2013 at 10:21 am
(17) Marvin says:

“Is he only in the eyes of perfect faces?”

Tracie’s comment brought to mind another factor that the “perfection of nature” myth glosses over. If one looks, there are many examples of what could only be considered poor design in much of what we consider beautiful. Why, for example, would a perfect designer of animal life place the intake for air in such a way that it intersects with the intake for food and water? Wouldn’t an all-knowing and all-powerful creator realize the danger and be able to avoid it?

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