Claim: Atheists don’t bear the burden of proof or have to justify their lack of belief in God, because it’s impossible to prove a negative.
Rebuttal: Not all negatives are unprovable; it depends upon scope. I can prove there are no unicorns in my garage, but I cannot prove there are no unicorns on a planet many light-years away. So the only time a negative cannot be proved is if the scope of the claim is infinite or otherwise unobservable.
Yet regardless of the scope, or whether the assertion is positive or negative, the one who makes the assertion carries the burden of proof. The atheist cannot escape this responsibility just because their claim is absurd or unfalsifiable or an infinite scope. It is no one else’s fault that atheism is based upon something that cannot be falsified or disproved.
If I were to claim that there are no mothballs on the forest moon of Endor, I could not escape the burden of proof just because I claimed a negative, or because no one has ever seen evidence of mothballs on Endor. And just as I would be foolish to make such an assertion, so also atheists are foolish to assert an unprovable negative for an infinite scope.
Claim: God can’t make a rock too big for him to lift, so God is self-contradictory and thus cannot exist.
Rebuttal: If God is disproved due to self-contradiction, then so is atheism, since it is defined by an impossible assertion. This particular claim is an absurdity, on the level of a round square, and thus a logical fallacy. That is, an absurdity cannot disprove anything at all. Either way, if both theism and atheism are self-contradictory, then neither is possible, which means atheism is no more rational than theism.
The Theory of Evolution (ToE) proves from another angle that atheism cannot be true due to internal contradiction. In spite of the claim of immunity from the question of origins since “evolution only means change”, the fact remains that the atheist must believe in abiogenesis, and cannot claim indifference or irrelevance to the problem. If ToE has no starting point it cannot exist. Otherwise, atheists must concede that God can exist in spite of lacking a starting point, unless they want to claim the physical universe is eternal— which is no different from belief in an eternal God.
Claim: Atheism is the absence of belief.
Rebuttal: Atheism asserts that no God exists; this is a belief. A true absence of belief would be agnosticism, where someone may have a personal conviction that something doesn’t exist yet still allow the possibility that they could be wrong. And in spite of whether a given individual atheist may claim that humanism is not the same as atheism, the Humanist Manifesto and related documents admit, proudly, that humanism is indeed a religion:
Humanist Charles F. Potter writes, “Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every American school is a school of humanism. What can a theistic Sunday school’s meeting for an hour once a week and teaching only a fraction of the children do to stem the tide of the five-day program of humanistic teaching?” (Charles F. Potter, “Humanism: A New Religion,” 1930)
John J. Dunphy, in his award winning essay, The Humanist (1983), illustrates this strategic focus, “The battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: A religion of humanity— utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to carry humanist values into wherever they teach. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new— the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism.”
Most who identify as humanists claim that it only means a desire to improve human interaction, but the quotes above are solidly humanist and anything but positive or tolerant. It is a blatant attack upon theism, especially Christianity. Perhaps the humanists and atheists need denominations to accommodate all the variations.
Claim: Belief in God is no different from belief in unicorns or Santa Clause. If you believe in one, you must believe in all. (a.k.a. “the Flying Spaghetti Monster” assertion)
Rebuttal: While people don’t identify themselves as “a-unicorns” or “a-Santas”, one must ask why anyone would self-identify as an “a-theist” if they were really all the same. The fact that it is only theism which is singled out proves that even atheists know there is a difference.
The difference is that there is evidence and logic to back up theism. Since we observe that matter “runs down”, then it cannot be either eternal or self-caused, requiring a First Cause outside of the laws of physics; that is, it must be supernatural by definition. And since there is indeed a difference, the theist is not at all obligated to believe in unicorns or Santa Clause. Thus it is fallacious to argue that every unprovable claim is on the same level of absurdity.
Furthermore, it is entirely rational to postulate a supernatural First Cause. The atheist, in contrast, mistakenly believes that any naturalist theory, no matter how counter-intuitive, is scientific by definition. But purely theoretical/mathematical physics has concluded that the moon isn’t there if nobody looks at it; how is this more rational than concluding that effects require causes? Rationality is not to be defined only by naturalists.
Claim: There is no evidence for the supernatural.
Rebuttal: It is the fallacy of “begging the question” to limit the definition of “evidence” to the purely natural, and then use that definition to deny any evidence exists for the supernatural. It is actually a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you calibrate a thermometer to measure in the range of zero to 50 degrees, you can’t use it as evidence that nothing ever gets below zero or above 50.
So in order for atheists to prove their assertion that there is no evidence for the supernatural, they would have to devise a way to both affirm and falsify (disprove) the claim. And as one of their own famously said, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. So since a purely naturalist philosophy can never observe the supernatural, it cannot be used to disprove it. Just as the negative assertion “there is no God” cannot be either proved or falsified, neither can the assertion “there is no evidence for the supernatural”.
Claim: Religion is a dangerous idea because it’s anti-science.
Rebuttal: This fallacious claim is due to the confusion of science with philosophy. Science has strict boundaries: it must observe, and it must repeat the observations. It can propose tests and theories, but it cannot call them proofs or facts without observation and repetition. It also cannot decide what the facts mean apart from a philosophical framework in which to interpret them. A single observation can be interpreted in many different ways, even among scientists with the same interpretive bias (philosophy or worldview). Scientists are human beings and not exempt or immune from faulty logic, bias, prejudice, jealousy, or falsifying data to protect one’s career or funding.
It is patently false that religion is anti-science. In fact, evolutionary bias is demonstrably anti-science in that it refuses to recognize where actual empirical science leaves off and philosophical bias begins. It redefines science to include its own philosophy, then expresses outrage that others reject this new definition. It also shows fear of being challenged or having the burden of proof, because it often uses the courts to prevent certain contradictory evidence from being made known. True science would only put the evidence to the test and not predetermine the results.
If being anti-science is dangerous, then hold naturalism to the same standard as any other philosophy or worldview. All ideas that inhibit, restrict, predetermine, or otherwise interfere with empirical science are equally dangerous. And there is plenty of evidence that naturalism, through academic bias and litigation, does all of those things. Fear that allowing free choice among students would lead them to reject a certain worldview is as far from science as any theistic religion.
As for true danger rather than mere philosophical disagreement, atheism has no justification for being against such dangerous things as violence, since it cannot base morality on anything but personal preference. So while atheism may not actively promote violence (though individuals sometimes do), it also cannot say why violence is wrong on any scientific or evolutionary basis. Some atheists may object that it’s only rational to preserve one’s society and promote health and safety, but these are not objective, universal, scientific arguments. Survival of the fittest is inherently selfish and has no motivation to give others a competitive advantage. Pregnancy and childbirth are high-mortality and high-maintenance activities, which are detrimental to personal survival. So altruism is the opposite of evolutionary philosophy, and cannot be justified objectively by atheism.
Some rhetorical questions for atheists
An obsession is when something or someone dominates a person’s mind. So what else can it be called when so many atheists spend large amounts of time and effort in Christian venues such as message boards and blogs, arguing and mocking incessantly? Who else spends more time on what they don’t believe than what they do believe? If all unprovable beliefs are the same, why don’t atheists put forth the same effort to combat belief in the tooth fairy or pink unicorns on Mars? Are Christians really any less consistent than atheists?
And why do atheists even care what anyone believes? If, as they claim, they are defined by not believing, then why is belief such an all-important matter to them?
Since all attempts at scapegoating Christians/theists are fallacious as shown above, and since atheists commit their share of crimes, then what good is atheism doing for society, and why does it matter since they say we are merely glorified pond scum?
Atheism believes that if God made people without free will, they are puppets he forces to sin and then sends them to hell for sinning. Yet atheism also believes that if God made people with free will, he should not have done so, since some people would choose to defy him and then be sent to hell.
Free will and not free will are mutually exclusive, so what would atheists have had God do? Create no one at all? If they’re telling God that he must only create people who will freely choose to obey him, that’s no different in principle from creating robots. If they’re telling God he’s not allowed to create anyone at all, they’re saying God is not sovereign, which by definition means he’s not God.
To atheists, this means that the very concept of God is irrational and God cannot exist. Yet they themselves believe that all physical matter somehow came into existence without any cause, since a physical cause begs the question and a non-physical cause can’t exist. That is undeniably irrational, yet they believe it must be true regardless. Thus the dispute between theism and atheism is between two irrational philosophies, and neither is more rational than the other.
Atheism operates on a double-standard by decreeing that any theistic belief is debunked if every one of its members can’t answer every single question, though atheists claim exemption from the same demand. It is far from a neutral or harmless belief, and even denies that it is a belief at all; it is not a failure to believe but a belief in non-existence. Atheism even has many zealots and activists, “priests” who are practically worshiped, and “holy books” they consider irrefutable. A great many atheists seem more sure of the existence of God than Christians, since they hate God and his followers so much and seem to enjoy mocking them. In fact, they want God to do two mutually-exclusive things: stay out of people’s lives, yet micromanage them so nothing bad happens.
Atheism is thus inherently negative and self-contradictory, it is defined by what it disbelieves and cannot prove, and it behaves exactly like the theists it claims to be superior to. It redefines terms such as “free thinking”, “rational”, and “scientific”, and then uses these novel definitions to vilify its opponents. It wants free speech for itself while forbidding it to others, whom it accuses of the very same thing. It is the very thing it claims to be against: a close-minded, irrational, fallacious, biased, zealous, activist philosophy. The fact that atheists take offense at such a description is the ironic proof that the charges are true, because if atheism were the absence of belief, there would be nothing to either attack or take offense about.
I see no quality in atheism to make it better than other philosophies. Not all theists practice rites of worship; not all theists have a holy book; not all theists are narrow-minded in any manner not equally applicable to atheists; not all theists teach violence or suppression. And if atheists are allowed to say they think they’re right and everyone else is wrong, then they must grant the same right to theists. And if theists are “ramming their beliefs down everyone’s throats” when they express their beliefs, then atheists are doing the same ramming when they express their disbeliefs. In theory or in practice, I see no reason not to call atheism a religion, since Buddhism for example is a religion without a god as well.
I also find it self-contradictory when atheists express belief in karma. It cannot be proved; it cannot be measured; its mechanism cannot be explained. Thus it is a blind faith, and one I find at least as irrational as any theistic faith. Who manages karma? Who weighs people’s lives? Who decides what they come back as? How does this return happen? How can anyone believe karma can be compared to some mindless physical process or chemical reaction, both of which happen to be highly complex and evidence of intelligent design? To think this all happens by unguided processes is clearly irrational. And why is God bad for not preventing evil, yet karma is good because evil people are being repaid for what they can’t remember doing in a past life?
There are some good, truly peaceful atheists. But as with professing Christians, such people are the minority. Both the atheist and the theist often live in conflict with their stated philosophy. Both use the no true Scotsman fallacy. Both undermine their own group by doing the very thing they label a fault in the other. Both make many irrational arguments and fail to take their claims to their logical conclusions. So again, there is nothing in atheism that can objectively and consistently be called superior or even preferable to theism, especially Christianity.
“The purpose of science is to investigate the unexplained, not to explain the uninvestigated.” ~Dr. Stephen Rorke