The archive is alive!

Welcome to the restored archive of the original Ask The Atheist. Represented here are over two years' worth of articles and discussions.

This site is fully moderated as always, and no new content or comments will be approved here. It's an archive. The current site is at the old URL, http://asktheatheist.com. Please submit all new questions to asktheREMOVE4SPAMatheist@gmail.com, and they will be answered there.

Thanks, and enjoy.

- SmartLX

Help me, I've been defeated by superior logic

Question:: 
God is love -- Love is blind -- Ray Charles is blind -- Therefore Ray Charles is God!!!!!
Atheist Answer: 

Funny one-liner. At least it's mathematically correct if each noun (and the adjective "blind") serves as a variable. Ray Charles certainly qualifies in some musical circles as a god. The big problem is that this argument can be used to "prove" contratictory things, like that Ray Charles, Roy Orbison and Stevie Wonder are all God.

"God is love" is used by Christians all along the spectrum, but for different reasons.

- Some fundamentalists and evangelists like Benny Hinn say God is love to establish that God is the only possible source of love, and therefore since love exists, He does too and we need Him.

- Some ultra-liberal Christians and some theologians say God is love as opposed to a bearded man in the sky. It's one way of making the concept of a god so nebulous that it's almost impossible to argue against it. They put God in poorly understood "places", such as emotions or fundamental physical laws, where it's hard to separate Him from what's real and observable. It's a defense mechanism.

- Pretty much everyone who says it is looking to give people the religious ecstasy that often comes from surrendering completely to faith. The phrase is a part of the larger message, "Come to us. Unburden yourself of all your worries and critical thoughts. Relax, let us in and God will take care of you, because from Him all good things come." Once you obey that, for better or worse, you're in the power of whoever told it to you.

"God is love" is a powerful phrase. Probably false in all respects, but powerful nonetheless.

- SmartLX

Are you too easy on yourself?

Question:: 
You've written some of the questions yourself. Are you throwing yourself softballs?
Atheist Answer: 

I don't think so. I don't always feel like waiting for topics to come to me before I address them, but I can't address them properly if I haven't expressed them correctly in the first place.

I do my best to avoid strawman versions of theist arguments, partly because many people like nothing better than to point these out. For questions where I take on arguments from elsewhere I try to quote them directly; I've quoted CARM, William Lane Craig, Ray Comfort and many others. When I have to paraphrase for length, I go as simple as I can to avoid muddying the issue. If people think I've excised something crucial, they're free to say so.

I'll be making fewer of my own questions in future, but for a good reason. If I have a thought which is worth sharing but isn't worth making a whole Q&A, it will now be tweeted. My personal ATA Twitter is separate from Jake's Twitter shown on the right.

Enjoy my new outlet. If you take issue with any of my tweets, bring it up back here and we'll talk about it.

- SmartLX

Need help for Houston radio show

Question:: 
I am going to be doing an Open Journal segment on KPFT radio and wanted some ideas and maybe a prominent local atheist to join me in the discussion on air. Does anyone have any ideas or contacts? Mark at danvilleman@hotmail.com Thanks
Atheist Answer: 

Not living anywhere near Houston I can't be of much help myself, but I'll do what I can starting with publishing this question. There, done.

You might be able to connect with "prominent" atheists in your area by contacting local atheist groups. Failing that, those groups would all be glad of some publicity and could each supply very knowledgeable spokespeople. Check out the Houston Freethought Alliance, whose front page has links to all other such Houston groups I was able to find.

If I were in your position, I'd do a piece on morality centred around the phrase, "You can be good without God." A lot of evangelists and other apologists argue that religion alone is holding society up with its moral guidelines, and that everything would collapse without it. This actually has no bearing on whether a god exists, but they use it anyway as an appeal to consequences. By outlining sensible secular systems of morals and ethics, you can help to dispel this idea.

YouTube has a fair few recordings of Richard Dawkins holding forth on many American radio stations. Though many of the callers are attempting to attack evolution, given that it's him, these recordings will still give you some idea of what you'll get if you take callers.

Good luck. Let us know what you do and how it goes.

- SmartLX

First Cause Argument

Question:: 
Among the arguments for a god, the first cause argument stands out as one that seems to be more credible than any other arguments like the evolution denying argument for design. AKA "The eye was designed so people could see"...... Personally I would refute this by several routes. The first one would be that everything doesn't necessarily have a cause, like radioactive decay. Perhaps the acausal quantum fluctuations we see now had more of an effect in a singularity. The other argument I could propose would be that the universe is cyclic (big crunch, etc) but this doesn't seem to be the case. Perhaps another similar idea would be that we are merely the offspring of a parent universe with wildly different variables that allows for a spontaneous increase in the amount of total energy/matter. Anyways, how do you deal with the first cause argument?
Atheist Answer: 

Much the same way you do: by bringing up the other possibilities to beat the argument from ignorance. I go into a lot more detail in this earlier answer, and I've tackled it briefly in lots of others.

The argument from design I've answered here for a start.

- SmartLX

The Jesus dvd and rationality?

Question:: 
First, I would like to know about this dvd that is claiming that Jesus never existed? I don't want to waste money on buying it but I would be interested in seeing what it has to say. And i'm not about to submit a video that would ruin my chance for a possible place in eternity for a dvd, so another way to get the dvd would be nice. But beside that, I had a question about the whole blasphemy challenge and the rationality behind it all. Hypothetical question, i guess. Jesus is God or He isn't. So if you are athiest you still have a probability that if you are wrong about there not being a God you would still have a 50 percent change to still have eternal life. If there is no God then it wouldn't matter anyways. So if there is a God and you still had that 50 percent chance to still have eternity you have apparently just screwed yourself, making your once 50 percent to know 100, if the verse quoted on the site is interpreted right. I really hope it was interpreted wrong because I would want you to still have that 50 percent chance. So doing the blasphemy challenge, to me at least, seems like a pretty unrational thing to do. And about the Jesus thing. Do you athiests use science to prove everything about the universe and everything in it. If so how would you prove Jesus, or any other person in history that is now gone. I mean you can't prove scientifically that someone existed. That's why I wanted to know what the video was all about. I have a lot of other questions that would make this way to long so i'll leave you with that. Like I said earlier, I hope the whole blasphemy being an eternal sin isn't right. I would say pray but you wouldn't care as much that way, or would you? Are you offended by prayer? Sorry, i'll stop asking questions. Thanks!
Atheist Answer: 

You're talking about The God Who Wasn't There. It goes past atheism, which merely denies the resurrection as improbable without the existence of God, and examines all the documentation presented as evidence for even a historical man named Jesus.

The idea is to question all the unspoken assumptions that most Christian apologists make when arguing for the resurrection; it's easier for them to start with a real man than from scratch, but are they justified in doing so? I haven't seen the film either so I can't comment on its efficacy, but even if it falls flat it asks questions worth asking.

It's impossible to prove 100% that the deceased existed without physical evidence, human remains for example, but there are other ways to support it. Take the Roman emperors for example: their names and faces are on statues, busts and coins created during their lifetimes, and are visually consistent. Jesus has nothing like this; his only support is a set of documents, chief among them the Gospels, and the first of which were written well after his death. This is why these are so ferociously defended, but they are not above criticism and that's where the movie starts.

Your argument against the Blasphemy Challenge is exactly the reason why it exists, because you've restated Pascal's Wager with its major inherent flaw intact.

Here's the core of the problem: even if atheists are wrong, Christians are not necessarily right. If there is indeed a god, out of the thousands of gods humans have worshipped and the infinite number of gods we haven't even thought of yet, the chances that the real god is the Christian god exactly as described are not just miniscule but negligible.

By throwing in with any god, including Him, one has a far greater chance of offending some other god who happens to be the real one, and being forced to explain one's worship of a popular, well-liked but still false god. Atheists wouldn't have that problem, and might even receive credit for combating belief in false gods.

Even if the probability that there is a god and a Heaven is 0.5, you must multiply that by the probability given the assumption of a god that it's your particular one. To reach that 50 percent you mention, the second bit would have to be a certainty, and it is not. If there are just two other possible gods, then by worshipping yours you have a 1 in 6 chance of Heaven and a 1 in 3 chance of Hell. In fact there are an infinite number, so you're even worse off.

Taking the Blasphemy Challenge, therefore, is not a reckless act. It publicises one's acceptance that Christianity is a poor choice, and there is nothing to fear from renouncing it in what's intended to be an irreversible way.

I'm not offended by prayer, because I think it has no effect except a psychological one, and it mostly affects the praying person anyway.

This is a site built for answering questions, so go ahead and make more questions for us. If you have responses to the above, post a comment under this one. Keep in mind that formatting doesn't work in the question field, so it pays to keep new questions short.

- SmartLX

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