Atheism, according to various nations’ census data/results, is growing as an identified belief system (yes, it is a belief and not some sort of faith – there is a very distinct difference) while the percentage of those that hold onto religious beliefs would appear to be shrinking. So why is the human race slowly but surely turning away from the various gods presented to us to throw our devotion to? Attempting to speak for all Atheists would be extremely arrogant and undoubtedly end up being inaccurate so here, instead, are the reasons I am a staunch Atheist.
First I should point out that I grew up in a religious environment; I attended a Lutheran primary school which (as witnessed by a recent teaching stint there) is still pretty fundamentalist in their beliefs (dinosaurs walking side by side with humans, for example). I then had my secondary/high school education at a Christian college which had regular religious classes, during this time I even had the habit of attending church with my family. I know the Christian doctrine pretty well, I know the bible and I have read it from cover to cover on more than one occasion during my life – therefore I can confidently say I am not coming from a position of ignorance by any stretch of the imagination.
A few of those reading this may be thinking, at this point, that I had some sort of traumatic experience related to the church and religion but that is false, my time there was certainly not overtly negative in any identifiable ways, though I never felt comfortable with the thought of the whole deal. I distinctly remember, as a child, being in church and wondering ‘Why? Why were all these adults who I respected standing around and singing about some guy they don’t know is there?’
That’s basically the start of it, I simply sat down one day and thought about the whole religion and god thing – this was about fourteen years ago. After all, rational analysing of any belief or faith system is imperative, else you have no foundation on which to build that system on and thus justify your opinion and that thinking served quite nicely as the foundation for a person re-examination of the entire Christian faith … and I came to find it severely wanting on numerous fronts.
To begin with, all available evidence points to the historical accounts within the bible to be very inaccurate. Geological evidence mixed with the laws of physics make the possibility of a global flood impossible – not only would it have been physically impossible for it to have occurred (it would have made the Earth incapable of supporting life for quite a long time) but it would have also left some sort of evidence/trace of it occurring, of which none can be found.
The exodus from Egypt is another classic tale from the bible which is often held is quite high esteem by believers but it also never happened. How do we know this? A casual objective look at the subject quickly spots some rather major flaws with the story; there are no records detailing any slave revolt, the death of a pharaoh or large numbers of military via flooding or any mention of various god delivered plagues (and the Egyptians were quite keen on keeping accurate records). Take into account that, if the bible story were true, then the number of slaves would have outnumbered actual Egyptian citizens and a slave revolt of that magnitude would have left Egypt in economic and social ruin – which would have appeared in records of nearby countries, yet there is not a single mention of any such event. Having a couple of million escaped slaves wandering through the desert for forty years would have, without any shred of doubt, left some evidence for those hard working and dedicated archaeologists to find (evidence of structures, dropped pottery, human remains, etc) and yet nothing has turned up despite numerous thorough examinations of the area.
The old testament is filled with events and people of which there is no proof for; cities which never existed, countries which never were, queens who were a fictional creation and so forth – mixed with inaccuracies in regards to times and locations of everything ranging from geography to battles. The bible even goes so far as to contradict itself numerous times, starting with Genesis and continuing the trend throughout the entire text – old and new testaments alike.
For detailed examples of the innumerable historical inaccuracies and contradictions within the bible, please refer to the following sources (far from a comprehensive list by any measure but they do make a nice starting point for further research):
Relating directly to the book of genesis, specifically the global flood and creation theory:
From this we have no choice but to conclude that the bible is a flawed document, without even considering the significant other factors such as the fallibility of the word-of-mouth passing of tales/folklore and translation errors. Parts of the Jewish community hold that large chunks of the Old Testament never happened and were written to serve as nothing more than a parable, since the Jewish pre-dates Christianity and supposedly it was those of the Jewish faith who wrote those passages, it is a stance which has to be considered. Since the bible is clearly and inarguably flawed then it can not be used as evidence to support the existence of god or justify the religious teachings therein.
So now that the bible is out as a citable reference in defence of god’s existence (though it can be used to indicate something else, see below), what else is there? Logic comes into play at this point to show that the ideas presented by most Christian faiths make no sense and are self contradictory (much like the bible itself). According to Christian faith god is omnipotent (all powerful, nothing is impossible for him), omniscient (he knows absolutely everything) and omnipresent (he’s everywhere at once) and yet all of these can be shown to be either logically impossible or proven false by the bible itself (yes, the bible is flawed but if it what certain religious folk cite as literal proof to support their claims then it can also be used for shooting them down).
Let us start with omnipotent; the god of Christian belief is supposedly unstoppable and without peer, he is able to do anything and is all powerful. Unfortunately, various passages in the bible itself show this to be quite false – Judges 1:19 is a classic example, which states:
And the Lord was with Judah and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had chariots made of iron.
For an all powerful deity figure, being defeated by chariots of iron seems rather … well, weak. Was god out of thunderbolts that day? Was he unable to manifest some handy Abraham Tanks for Judah to use? Were his legions of Angels taking a sick day and unable to swoop down and kick some valley dweller butt on behalf of his loyal people? Regardless of the answer, that and other passages clearly show that if god exists then he is clearly not omnipotent. Another classic one is when the bible states that god is unable to lie … if he’s omnipotent than telling a simple white lie shouldn’t be a problem at all, the entire human race is quite capable of it after all.
Omniscient … this is where some simple logic comes in. Omniscient means that you basically know everything and anything even before you ask yourself any given question. There’s literally nothing you are not aware of, nothing which escapes your notice … I’m sure you get the general idea. The bible states quite clearly that god gave human kind free will, so that they might do as they wish. If you’re unable to instantly see the contradiction between the notions of omniscience and free will, I’ll try to join the dots for you. Free will works directly against the notion of predestination, that there’s a set future or destiny that we can’t avoid no matter what we might do simply because whatever we decide is a part of that destiny to begin with. If any being in the Universe is omniscient then that means they are already aware of what decisions any given being will make throughout their lives, which means that those decisions have already been made and are proverbially locked in and can’t be changed. If those decisions can’t be changed then free will is merely in illusion and doesn’t actually exist … so either god isn’t omniscient or free will is a con job and the bible (or god) is false.
Omnipresent … this one ties in a lot with omniscient and fails for the same reasons (if he’s everywhere then he must automatically know everything, which we can see doesn’t work). Additionally, the very idea of an organised church with set places for worships works against the philosophy of omnipresence. What is the point, other than dropping money into a collection plate, of going to a certain building at a certain time when god is everywhere and thus can hear your devotion/prayers/whatever no matter where you are? Surely just hearing the ‘good word’ from a preacher/paster/whatever isn’t enough since isn’t the bible meant to be all any good follower needs to sustain and grow in faith? What is the point of the term ‘House of God’ and having dedicated altars when god shouldn’t care where you make offerings/sacrifices/sing-a-longs to his name?
God is also supposed to be an all loving and universally forgiving force/being and yet this is evidently not so. How do we know this? It’s quite simple, really – the bible points out several times (in both testaments) that certain things need to be done in order to get in heaven/paradise after you snuff it and wander off the mortal world. You need to love god, finding him through Jesus, be humble, follow the commandments and so forth. If you don’t then you end up somewhere else, presumably somewhere not quite as nice as heaven … possibly something involving fire, demons, torture and general unpleasantness for eternity. Logically, therefore, if even one person ends up in the nasty place then obviously they haven’t been forgiven for whatever they may have done … ergo, that universal forgiveness does not exist.
It goes a bit further than that, however. If you break that line of reason down a bit and keep with the doctrine then things get very morally questionable to say the least. To make my point here, I’ll use an example: There’s a woman called Jane and she’s a really nice person. She’s kind and generous to a fault, helps the homeless and poor to the best of her ability and never hurts anyone. However, she doesn’t believe in a creator being/god and she does all these good deeds just because she’s a good person and doesn’t have the threat of eternal damnation hanging over her head. Sticking to church doctrine, poor Jane is going to hell/hades/the bad place when she dies despite being a great person who did her best to make the world a better place. That’s right; she’d be stuck with eternal damnation and torture without the possibility of parole or release simply because she didn’t kow-tow to god. If that fails to raise some serious questions about morality of religion/church/god in you then things are very wrong in the world. In short, if good people are allowed to suffer simply because of their lack of faith then any god who allows that isn’t worth worshipping in the first place … instead he deserves a slap across the back of head for being a morally bankrupt egomaniac. The argument could also be made that any sort of creator being that has the power to sense and stop evil/immoral acts but declines to do so is himself evil or, at best, amoral.
Keeping with the logical and objective train of thought, there is a passage from another book which helps to highlight the logical absurdity of the existence of any sort of higher creator being. The book is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and though the book is a comedy, the logical basis of the following is still quite sound – read it and think about it.
“I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”
“But,” says Man, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. Q.E.D.”
“Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
If you correctly followed all the above text then you should have reached the conclusion that both a creator being and the bible are logically absurd and pretty irrational from an objective viewpoint. Please note those last two words, ‘objective viewpoint’, since that is central to reaching any sort of rational decision – you need to start from neutral ground when considering such things. If you start the assessment with your mind already made up and your beliefs known, you’ll get nowhere and learn nothing. In short, you use the evidence to form the belief and not the belief to find evidence.
Time to move along, this time to a lesser but still notable factor in regards to the choice of Atheism: The Church. Christian dogma (and please don’t feel like I’m picking on the Christian faith, it’s just the one I’m most familiar with – all other faiths I know of have just as little or less rationality behind them) is based on the premise that Christians are the chosen of god and everyone else would be well served by following their example. The Vatican, in particular, has managed to set itself up in spectacular fashion as being the paragon of devotion to god and yet it is that same organisation which is perhaps the greatest indulger in questionable acts that serves to turn rational people away from faith in a creator being.
For the supposed holy men of god and examples of the faith, the Vatican and others of faith have committed some of the worst atrocities in known history. Would any god allow the supposed epitome of devoted followers to commit such dire and appalling acts? Is any creator being who allows evil to be carried out in his name as morally abhorrent as those who do the deed? As the old saying goes ‘All that is required for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing’, which can just as easily be applied to any creator being as to normal human beings. So what are some of these evils that the faith has perpetrated upon the rest of the world? Such a list, if in detail, could go on for quite a long time so instead a quick list will suffice to get the point across:
The Crusades: In which countless people died, countries were invaded. One crusade involved approximately 50,000 children who marched off … and ended either being sold into slavery or dying long before they reached the supposed holy lands.
The Spanish Inquisition: Religious blessed torture and murder which had nations in fear due to the methods employed to force confessions of heresy wherein people were put to death in horrific fashion.
Language: Back in the 14th century, the church threatened anyone who had a non-Latin bible with death. Wycliffe, who translated the bible into English, so upset the Pope with the act that his remains were dug up 44 years after Wycliffe’s death, crushed and deposited in a river. Skip forward a handful of decades and the Catholic Church had people burned at the stake for daring to teach their children to say the Lord’s Prayer in English. Keep in mind that the mandatory Latin version of the Bible was a truly horrible translation of the Greek which it had come from. This habit of burning bibles kept going until at least the 16th century, where Bishops desperately sought to keep the first English version of the New Testament from being distributed.
Knowledge: Directly linked with the language examples, religious groups have often fought desperately to suppress new knowledge and understandings. Some of the best examples of upholding of ignorance range from jailing Galileo for heresy for disproving the church’s geocentric view of the universe right to the current day where evolution is denounced and the illogical intelligent design hypothesis promoted.
The Salem Witch Trials: A mixture of era-centred ignorance and religious fanaticism resulted in the recorded deaths of twenty people and imprisonment of approximately one hundred and fifty. A classic example of people using faith as an inappropriate answer to a problem better left to rational thinking.
World War II: Various elements of World War II are quite suspect; continued tales of ethnic cleansing blessed by the Catholic Priests of the Croatian region, stories of how the Vatican assisted Nazis flee from Europe, etc. The details of these stories remain obscure due to the Vatican’s continued refusal to open their archives yet it is clear some inappropriate actions were carried out.
Child Abuse: As a more recent example, numerous members of the priesthood in the 1990’s and early 2000’s were accused of inappropriate actions with minors of both genders. In an apparent bid to stop these men of faith facing trial, the church decided to reassign them to other parts of the country or the world rather than allow them to face due justice.
The list could go on and on but I think that small sample gives you a pretty clear indication that the supposed holy followers of god have done (and in some cases, continue doing so) some morally abhorrent deeds. Any god that allows these deeds done by his/her/its supposed followers is amoral at best and certainly not deserving of any sort of worship.
Therefore, the simple act of logical reasoning proves that there can be no god or other creator being and if one did exist then they would almost certainly be amoral and not worthy of worship anyhow. We are who we are and there is no one else available to show us the future, we must inspire ourselves and leave irrational myths and other fairytales behind in the dust so that we may be all that we can be.