A while back my fundamentalist Christian aunt and I were going back and forth on Facebook over several issues such as evolution and gay marriage. One day she posted this weird open-verse poem called “Dear Atheist.” It is one of the most ignorant rants against atheism I have ever seen. Everything about it is so nonsensical that after reading it, I stopped being angry with my aunt and started feeling sorry for her.
I wrote a point-by-point response, but I decided not to share it on Facebook because it would only upset her, and I think she’s too far gone. So instead I’ll just share it here. I’m going to repost each part below, but you can find the original here.
“Why do you not believe? Why do you allow your senses to rule instead of your sense? Your eyes don’t see God, your ears don’t hear him, nor would your outstretched fingers find his form. But if God doesn’t exist, how is it that you do? If God doesn’t exist, why is there something rather than nothing?”
Why do I not believe? Because I see no reason to believe. You may as well ask why I don’t believe in bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. I should be asking you: Why do you believe?
I allow my senses to rule because there’s nothing else. If you have some sort of sixth sense then you should contact the James Randi Educational Foundation. You could win a million dollars! But you’re right to point out that my sense of sight, hearing and touch don’t detect god. Now we’re getting somewhere.
Why is there something rather than nothing? I don’t know. That is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in the history of philosophy. It’s also a mystery of physics, but many physicists have some plausible explanations as to how the universe might have come from nothing. Of course no one knows for sure, but neither do you. I could just as easily ask, “Before the universe began, why was there god instead of nothing?”
“Why do you not believe? You clamor for justice and robe yourself in rights. But your appeals for fairness and freedom carry no weight without a transcendent standard. Who are you to tell me what’s right and wrong? Are you my judge? Are you my god?”
But where do you get this “transcendent standard”? You can’t possibly say it’s within us because most people disagree about what’s right and wrong. And surely you don’t get it from the Bible, a book that endorses rape, slavery, and genocide. Besides, why should we follow that particular religious book when there are so many?
Morality is not a simple list of do’s and don’ts you get from your preacher. It’s a question of how to achieve the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of people. People have been debating it for millennia and over the last several centuries there have been many improvements (child labor laws, equal rights for women, and the abolition of slavery, to name a few), no thanks to religion.
“Why do you not believe? You gaze out into the night sky and your immaterial thoughts carry you deep into space. You reason an endless expanse and discern a limited comprehension. Is it not reasonable to conclude that a limitless being exists who knows something you can’t?”
No, that is not reasonable at all. Just because the universe is big and appears to go on forever doesn’t mean some sort of limitless being created it. When you sit at the beach and look out at the ocean, is it reasonable to conclude the existence of Poseidon?
“God is horrid, you say, if he even exists. Just look at what his supposed Word says. He’s capricious and cruel, sadistic and sullen. Are you his judge? Do you really believe a creature who can’t even explain his own existence, much less create another like him, who is beset with badness, imperfect in piety, negligible in knowledge, can call to account the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Maker of all that is? Can expect to fully comprehend his ways?”
So when I read the Bible story where God ordered Moses’ army to slaughter families and rape virgins, I’m supposed to trust that God knows best and not question it? Because I’m a fallible human being, I can’t make any moral judgments whatsoever? This type of thinking is one of the reasons there’s so much evil in the world.
“And what’s that about anyway? How can you argue against God’s character and actions if you don’t even believe he exists? You fashion an image of what God would look like if you were him, and then cast off as unbecoming or unreal (one or the other…it can’t be both) a God that doesn’t line up with your image, in essence declaring yourself god by decreeing everyone else an imposter.”
So you’re asking how I can argue against God’s character if I don’t believe he exists? Easy. It’s the same way I can argue against Darth Vader’s character. He doesn’t have to be real for me to call him evil. I’m not declaring myself god anymore than I’m declaring myself to be a Jedi.
“You elevate the scientific method as the supreme diviner of truth, but skip over the observation of evidence and go right to the conclusion based on your biased preconceptions and your materialistic worldview that precludes any consideration of the supernatural.”
The scientific method isn’t perfect, but it is the best tool for discovering truth that we have. How do I know this? Because I’m using a computer right now! Also, I find it ironic that you are accusing me of skipping over the evidence and going right to the conclusion based on biased preconceptions. Did you read every holy book and investigate every religion before settling on the one your family and/or friends believe in? No? And yet you’re assuming it’s the one true religion. Talk about bias!
Yes, the materialistic worldview precludes the consideration of the supernatural. That’s because by definition the supernatural is beyond nature, meaning it is beyond our ability to detect. How am I to distinguish between things that can’t be detected and things that are imaginary?
“Dear atheist…what if you’re wrong? What if it’s true that the God of the Bible does exist and your sin will separate you from him and happiness forever if you never receive his provision for your salvation? What if he is standing ready right now to forgive your sins and seal you for redemption if you will only turn to him and believe?”
Pascal’s wager? Seriously? I’ll ask you the same question: What if you’re wrong? It’s estimated that people have worshipped about 1,000 gods (in recorded history). That means there’s a 0.1% chance you picked the right god and a 99.9% chance you picked the wrong god. As Homer Simpson once said, “Suppose we’ve chosen the wrong religion. Every time we go to church we’re just making god madder and madder.”
It’s not possible that the god of the Bible exists because that god’s traits are self-contradictory. And if god does exist, it doesn’t automatically follow that there’s an afterlife. But if there is an afterlife, I don’t think a just god will punish me for resisting the lure of dogma and continuing the search for truth.
“What if you never believe?”
Then I will live a happy life unfettered by the chains of small-minded religions. You, on the other hand, have chosen to remain a slave, and I feel sorry for you.