50 reasons to believe in God

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(Reason 7: Evolution is only a theory: - Grammar / Word choice)
(Reason 25: Morality - The removed response was WAY too long and tangential. Most info is already covered above.)
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{{Response| To whom are our moral values being held? Simply put, we are accountable to those around us.}}
{{Response| To whom are our moral values being held? Simply put, we are accountable to those around us.}}
{{Response| The idea of how humans can be moral without a god is really quite a simple idea to comprehend. An analogy i have used comes from the movie 'Gladiator'.
The Roman Coliseum is a completely cutthroat environment to be in. A brutal, all against all, every man for himself setting where nobody would help anybody. And this type of setting is how many who say ‘how can you be moral without god?’ believe the world would be if people didn’t believe.
Half way through the film as the gladiators enter the coliseum for the first time in the ’Re-make of the Battle of Carthage’ scene and Russell Crowes character (and hereby called) Maximus says the line ‘we have a better chance of survival if we work together’ (it could be claimed that Maximus already has a notion of teamwork, however this is an analogy for why people join in real life and even if he didn't have any previous experience, any idea that no-one ever, with all the great creations, arts and philosophies that people have been able to create, would even have such a basic flash thought as  ‘hey, errr….maybe having some help would be a good thing’ in a dangerous situation, is an insult to all human intelligence of the highest degree. Even the most morally corrupt people from the most dangerous prisons get this idea, aswell as many species of animal), however for now…..his idea is ignored.
The gates of the coliseum open and they find themselves surrounded by enemy and threat on all sides, and they all begin to spread out. One man is hit by a spear and falls, followed by another. And then they do something extraordinary….they return to the centre and join together.
Why? Why would people join together? Were they told to do this by an invisible being or a holy book? No, it was nothing more then simple logic.
The simple premise of ‘I cannot survive this cutthroat situation on my own. However by joining together with others, we can work together, and if I defend, I can in return be defended’.
The reason why humans would join together is due to a simple word which is ‘survival’. 
I was once told a story by a christian that went like this:
“A man prayed to god and asked him ‘what is heaven and hell like? God came down and said he would show him. First he was taken to hell. There was a beautiful buffet with all the most amazing food you could eat, and everyone was sitting at that table. However, in place of arms, each person had long sticks coming out of their shoulders. They used them to pick up the food, but the sticks were so long and inflexible they couldn’t put the food into their mouths. Each person was miserable as they spent an eternity trying to feed themselves with the food always just out of reach.
Then he was taken to heaven, and again there was a beautiful buffet, and each person was sat at the table with long sticks in place of their arms. However each person was picking up the food and placing it in the mouth of the person opposite to them on the table. Each person smiled and enjoyed heaven as they fed others and in turn were fed”.
Now the moral of this story was that without god, people could not figure out how to work together, but there is no rationality, reason or logic in that story.
If a group of people, including you, were sitting at a table with sticks for arms, how long would it really take before someone, or you, said ‘man this is dumb’, nudged the person next to them and said ‘oi mate, how about this, I’ll help you eat that salad you’re reaching for, and you help me with that chicken that I’m after’. It would take maybe 5 minutes, if that?
But then you could ask ‘but what’s to stop him from not returning your kindness? From taking the food you offer, then being immoral and not feeding you?’. The simple fact that they will be cheating themselves. By working with me, we will be fed forever. By working against me, he will have no-one there when he is next hungry. To survive, we must both work together.
Now imagine all of that in the real world setting (rather then a movie or a story). How much logic does it take to think ‘you know what, if I had someone here to help me and hold the trap whilst I went in and flushed out the prey, then we could catch bigger food to eat‘.
‘If I have someone with me to help me build a shelter, we could build it twice as fast/stronger/bigger etc.’
By acting immorally you end up cheating yourself. Like the saying ‘if you live in a glass house you shouldn’t throw stones’, meaning you shouldn’t do harm if you yourself also have a lot to lose. And by being immoral you lose chances of survival, and you can lose your life, for example if I kill someone, what’s to stop someone else saying ‘what if they try to kill me next….so I‘ll kill him first!’. My act of immorality ends up cheating me, I now have to watch my back forever, and sleep with one eye open. I will never have any peace or a moment to relax.
However if I make a friend, I have someone to talk to, someone to help me and in return help back to keep them as my friend, someone to defend me when I sleep and in return they will be defended. Just like the people in the gladiator analogy.
Even people who are in jail for some of the most immoral actions imaginable grasp this concept (at least somewhat), and form their own groups for defence and survival in another cutthroat world.
If you are mean to your friend, the consequences are that you lose them as one, so who have you cheated? Friendships and societies are built on give and take.
An atheist believes they have one shot at life, so why would I want to make it as miserable and lonely as possible?
A religious person may ask ‘if you believe there is nothing more to come, then why don’t you kill yourself now’. Its because if this is all I have, then it is beyond precious to me.
For example, if you have a friend, and in one weeks time they will be moving away to another part of the world, where you will be unable to contact them again, would that last week be meaningless to you because there’s nothing more after it? Or would that week with that person be the most precious time ever because that is all you have?
If you work 24/7 to make ends meet and your boss says ‘you can take a 3 months paid holiday, but after that, I don’t think you’ll be having any time off again’, would that 3 months be meaningless, or the most important of your life? This is your time to make friends, do what you’ve always wanted, spend time with people you care about etc.
If an amusement park you’ve loved since a child was closing down and you had one more chance to go, would that be meaningless because this is your last go on the rides, or would you make it the best day you could have, and saviour every moment?
An infinite amount of ice cream never tastes as good as one ice cream that you saviour every bite and taste of.
It is easy to take for granted that which you believe you will have forever. However if every moment past is a moment gone, that almost forces you to make the most of every future moment.
If every moment spent with friends or family is a moment past, that makes making sure everyone you love and care about knows it every day, and every moment is savoured.
Another question however is ‘why be moral to random strangers? For example a person stuck at the side of the road?’. The reason is to set an example.
Lets make another analogy from the film Gladiator.
There is a huge, bodybuilder style character in the film played by Ralf Moeller. In the film when he is first introduced he ruthlessly hits Maximus with a wooden sword. Then on his fight in a small arena in the outskirts, he is chained to a small man who is overcome with fear and unable to defend himself. However rather then defend this man, he pulls him in front of an opponents sword then cuts off his hand and resumes fighting. He is the example of a ruthless, emotionless killer in a cutthroat world with no grasp or notion of anything good, and basically fit’s the bill of a person who many religious believe is what someone would be like without religion.
Earlier on I spoke of the later coliseum scene and the group joining together. However during this scene, the bodybuilder character (from now on called Hagen, as that is his characters name) does not join with the rest. He remains outside the circle, adamant he will fight on his own. However he is wounded and about to be cut down by an oncoming chariot when Maximus rescues him.
This act of kindness from Maximus changes Hagen. (Probably for the first time) someone has helped him. An example has been set and from that point on he himself wants to help others, and helps (and even dies) in the revolt to help Maximus escape later in the film.
By helping others we set off a chain. If I help a person who’s tyre has popped to change it, that sends a message to that person that people will help them. By doing this it makes it more likely that they themselves will help others.
Even if that help they do in the future doesn’t directly benefit me, it benefits everybody (including myself) because it reinforces the notion that we are in a society where people will lend a helping hand. And that’s a positive thing to know.
By acting immorally we end up cheating ourselves, whether by alienating people or by turning them against us.
Moral actions create the opposite, and if you believe that this life is the only one you will have, the latter option wins hands down to me.
Another point is that even the animals themselves have societies and codes which they live by despite not having religion. Many religious people find the idea that humans evolved from animals an insult.
And yet despite this, by claiming that humans can’t/won’t act morally unless they have a religion, these religious groups themselves have (seemingly unknowingly to them) called humans dumber then the animals, even though they see themselves as way above them.
I find it strange how a group can say that they are smarter then the animals, yet claim that humans cannot be moral or work together without religion…...even though the monkeys have figured it out.}}
===Reason 26: Man vs. animal===
===Reason 26: Man vs. animal===

Revision as of 01:50, 3 May 2009

For the book by Guy P. Harrison, see 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God.

50 reasons to believe in God is an email that made the rounds of atheist bloggers in June 2008. PZ Myers, on his blog Pharyngula, identifies the original author as Debra Rufini, an author whose recent book contains "an imaginary scenario in which Richard Dawkins gets psychiatric counseling…from Jesus".[1]

What follows is a collection of responses to these purported "reasons".


Responses to the message

(Note that the title associated with each "reason" did not appear in the original e-mail and is provided here merely for reference.)


It is easy to prove to yourself that God is real. .the evidence is all around you. Here are 50 simple proofs:

General responses: None of the arguments put forth in this e-mail are "proofs" of God's existence. Technically, most of them aren't even "reasons" to believe. On the other hand, the author did say, "prove to yourself", which is, one could argue, different from proving a claim to someone else. Nevertheless, almost all of the arguments rely on the same handful of logical fallacies, the responses to which can be summarized as follows:

  1. Disproof of one claim is not proof of another (unless they are exact logical opposites).
  2. The burden of proof lies with the person making the claim that something exists or should be "believed in".
  3. Just because you can't figure out what caused something, or can't understand how something works, doesn't mean God did it.
  4. Arguing that the environment was created to fit the needs of humans is getting the order of causality exactly backwards: according to modern evolutionary theory, humans have evolved to fit their environment.
  5. If an argument for the existence of God can be used to argue for the existence of any other god, then it can't be a good reason to believe in the particular god of Christianity.

Reason 1: DNA

Whilst agreeing that random patterns occur naturally by chance, DNA however, consists of code, which requires a designer.

Response: This is the argument from design. Incidentally, it is the study of DNA that gives the strongest evidence of common descent, a key component of evolutionary theory (which is argued against in several of the "reasons" below).

Response: A code does not simply require a designer - it requires an encoder and a decoder who agree on its meaning. Or more generally, a code requires a set of understanders. It makes no sense to speak of something being a "code" unless it encodes a message of some sort from a sender to a receiver. That is: to call DNA a "code" at all is question-begging. DNA is a chemical which interacts with other chemicals according to well-understood laws of chemistry and physics.

However, if we wish to speak of it as encoding a message, then that message surely comes not from a God but from prior generations of living things. The message our distant ancestors have left for us are such things as: "this is a good way to make a muscle", "this is how you digest food", "it is a good idea to run away from things that look like this", and of course those instincts that make us a social species such as "punish the wicked", and "do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

Reason 2: Paranormal phenomena

How do you explain the paranormal, such as people witnessing positive or negative sightings, like ghosts or angels? I saw a ghost with a friend of mine — I am not a liar, an attention seeker. Neither was I overtired when this happened.

Response: This is an argument from personal experience and an implicit appeal to personal revelation. It fallaciously presupposes that one's senses, and the interpretations given them, are infallible. One need not be a liar or attention-seeker, or be overtired to misinterpret sensory information.

Humans have evolved a variety of cognitive shortcuts to deal with the mass of information provided by our senses. In particular, we tend to filter sensory input according to a set of expectations built up from prior beliefs and past experience (a fact that magicians primarily rely upon to "fool the eye", especially in close-up magic). In addition, we tend to impart meaning on ambiguous input even when there is no real meaning behind it (e.g., "seeing faces" or "hearing voices" where there are none). There are also real physiological limitations to our senses that result in nearly universal misperceptions such as optical illusions. On a different level, we tend to see causal relationships where none exist (one example of this kind of fallacious reasoning is called post hoc ergo propter hoc). All of these tendencies may have conferred evolutionary advantages in the past — and may continue to do so today — but they can easily lead to the misinterpretation of evidence.

Finally, consider the fact that the very same phenomena that were once attributed to "ancestors" in early human history may have been attributed to angels or demons in the Middle Ages, to witches or the Devil in the 17th and 18th centuries, to "spirits" or poltergeists in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and to extraterrestrials in the late 20th century. The sensory stimuli may be the same, but the interpretation is different. Why should we believe the claim that these phenomena point to the existence of a god, especially the god of Christianity?

Response: I don't believe you. We each of us have to decide, from the multitude of conflicting voices around us, what information we are going to accept as reliable. I have no more reason to believe your miracle story than you have to believe the stories that a Hindu (I assume you are a Christian) might tell you, on indeed that other Christians might tell you. Every religion is awash with absurd miracle stories, and you and I both have to reject the vast majority of them. You are going to have to do better than "My mate and I saw a ghost! For real!"

Reason 3: Prayer

Try praying. What good is it when a mind is set to coincidence & disbelief regarding the positive outcome?

Response: This argument is an attempt to shift the burden of proof. It urges the reader to pray, and anticipates that any results of prayer would be easy to dismiss as chance. In essence this is an admission that the results of prayer may not actually be distinguishable from coincidence and chance. On the other hand, using similar reasoning, what good is it to consider the extremely low odds of winning the lottery, or the risks of day trading? Shouldn't we all just jump in and have a little faith? Skepticism helps people live better, more secure lives.

Reason 4: First cause

The law of cause & effect - in order to have an effect, there has to be a cause. Everything is caused by something.

Response: This fails to provide proof for a god, as it requires to define god as the "uncaused cause," therefore negating the original premise. Refer also to David Hume's arguments regarding the inability to determine the cause of an effect through reason alone (we need some experience, and have none for 'creating universes.') Moreover, there need not be a direct cause for all things; there is no direct cause for the radioactive decay of an individual atom, and yet it happens. There would appear to be uncaused quantum "effects" as well. Attempts to use physical laws (real or conventionally-accepted, with the above being the latter) to require the existence of a god tend to ignore that, for nearly all definitions of god, god violates various physical laws. Even if "everything must have a cause" necessitated the existence of a God, "energy and matter cannot be created or destroyed" (the First Law of Thermodynamics) would necessitate an un-created/eternal universe. Theists can't cherry-pick physical laws to prove their god's existence. See also: Special pleading.

The author doesn't explain why things that existed for ever don’t need a cause while others do. In any case, recent physical theories suggest that the physical Universe is part of a larger Multiverse; which by your reasoning always existed and doesn’t need a cause.

Reason 5: Complexity

Mindless nothing cannot be responsible for complex something.

Response: This is fallacious in its assumption that an atheistic viewpoint requires the world to start from 'nothing'. It also is guilty of special pleading (responsibility is an attribute of intelligence) and is another invocation of the argument from design. Note also that this author's "nothing" includes the entirety of physical, chemical, and other laws of the universe.

Response: We know that this claim is factually wrong. According to this argument, complex snowflakes must be made by some intelligence, rather than the "mindless nothing" of physical and chemical forces. That is, if this is true, then God must assign angels to individually craft each snowflake. There must be a "Jack Frost" who draws those artistic patterns on our windows when it's cold. Rather than this childish storybook view of the world, we know that emergent complexity happens all the time, and is an exciting and interesting branch of maths and science.

Reason 6: Limitations of science

Science can only be the detector of certain things. You cannot scientifically detect emotion, memory, thoughts etc., though scientifically we must. These things which do not consist of matter are beyond the detection of science.

Response: This is a case of possible confusion on the meaning of the terms used, as well as a use of the god of the gaps argument. We can detect emotions through the physical changes to the body, and we can detect brain activity. To say that memory is not detected 'scientifically' is possibly a dualistic argument, but there is no basis in it. It is true, however, that the scientific method can only detect certain things: specifically, things which have some observable effect in the universe. Either God has an observable effect on the universe, and can therefore be studied scientifically, or God does not, and therefore is irrelevant.

Reason 7: Evolution is only a theory

Evolution has never been proved, which is why we call it the 'theory of evolution'. It's a fairy tale for grown ups!

Response: This is the "Evolution is only a theory" argument. Science is not about proofs, but evidence, and the evidence supporting evolutionary theory is solid. Moreover, the existence of God is not supported by evidence, and religion bears a much greater resemblance to fairy tales than does evolution. Besides, fairy tales use fantastic settings and characters to deliver cultural attitudes or lessons. What would the fairy tale purpose of the evolution story be, exactly? Most importantly, though, even if the theory of evolution were completely false, it wouldn't make belief in God any more reasonable.

Response: This argument relies on the misconception that the word "Theory" in science means the same thing as it does in common English. Although a theory in common English refers to a guess, in science a guess is referred to as a hypothesis. On the other hand, a theory is an explanation of a large set of observations which is supported by evidence.

Reason 8: Atheism is based on faith

Atheism is a faith which has not been proved. The disbelievers have not witnessed anything to not believe in, whereas the believers believe because they have witnessed. There is no 'good news' to preach in atheism.

Response: Typical claim that atheism is based on faith combined with the claim that religion provides hope. The former is untrue, the latter is an appeal to consequences. Just because religion may have a positive effect does not mean that its claims are true. Furthermore, atheism DOES have good news to preach: The atheist need not subscribe to the arbitrary customs and practices of religious philosophy. He does not have to reconcile biblical contradiction nor the hypocrisy of a deity. He is encouraged to use his own mind, rather than submit to human interpretations of "holy" books.

Response: It is simply not true that "believers believe because they have witnessed". No believer alive today has witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus, the saints emerging from their graves, heaven, God, or any of the other myriad things that they claim to be "witnesses" to. In so far as a religion orders its followers to "witness" to things they have no experience of, it is ordering them to be liars. Thomas had the right idea: when you have put your fingers in the wound, then you can come back and talk about being a "witness".

Reason 9: Atheists are angry with God

How much of the atheist's faith relies on anger with God as opposed to genuine disbelief in God?

Response: The author presumes that atheists are angry at God. Unfounded assumption and ad hominem argument.

Response: How can you be angry at something that doesn't exist?

Reason 10: Atheists need to get a life

Why do many atheists shake their fists & spend so much time ranting & raving about something they don't believe in? If they are no more than a fizzled out battery at the end of the day, then why don't they spend their lives partying, or getting a hobby?! Why don't they leave this 'God nonsense' alone?

Response: This is a straw man argument, and a false dilemma. Atheism does not prevent hobbies, partying, etc. Furthermore, it neglects that while god may not exist, religions do exist. Moreover, it presupposes that a majority of people on the planet believe in a fantasy and that is a good reason to have an active life.

Furthermore, assuming that atheists, indeed, need to get a life, it is not a valid reason to believe in a god, as the subject of the email insists.

Reason 11: Chicken-and-egg paradox

What created God? What came first, the chicken or the egg? I am not going to deny the existence of the chicken or the egg, merely because I don't understand or know what came first. I don't care - they both exist!

Response: Argumentum ad ignorantiam leading to post hoc ergo propter hoc. Also, evolutionary biology shows that the egg preceded the chicken[2]. This is also a direct refutation of Reason 4.

Reason 12: Improbability vs. impossibility

Improbability is not the same as impossibility. You only have to look at life itself for that backup of proof.

Response: The first sentence is special pleading as it applies to anything and everything that isn't explicitly disproven, including no god whatsoever. The second is an argumentum ad ignorantiam. It is also a direct refutation of Reason 5.

Reason 13: Complexity of human life

How could the complexity of human life possibly evolve on its own accord out of mindless cells?

Response: Argumentum ad ignorantiam. The complexity of life is the very thing that the theory of evolution explains.

Reason 14: Complexity of the human mind

How could the complexity of the human mind possibly evolve on its own accord out of mindless cells? Where does our consciousness come from?

Response: Argumentum ad ignorantiam and similar to the homunculus argument. Science demonstrates that consciousness is an emergent property of the physical brain; this argument suggests a form of dualism, where the mind and brain are separate.

Reason 15: Food and drink

What/who knew that our hunger & thirst had to be catered for by the food & drink which we're supplied with?

Response: This is an example of the anthropic principle. It commits the formal fallacy of petitio principii, assuming that hospitable features of our universe were built to support life, rather than considering that life was adapted to the undesigned features of the universe through natural selection. Douglas Adams' analogy about a sentient puddle neatly sums up the problem with this argument.

Reason 16: The five senses

Most of us are born with the five senses to detect our surroundings, which we're provided with.

Response: Another example of the anthropic principle.

Reason 17: Goldilocks and the habitable planet, part 1

What/who knew that had Earth been set nearer to the sun, we would burn up?

Response: Anthropic principle.

Reason 18: Goldilocks and the habitable planet, part 2

What/who knew that had Earth been set any further from the sun, we would freeze up?

Response: Anthropic principle.

Reason 19: Goldilocks and the habitable planet, part 3

What/who knew that had Earth been built larger or smaller, its atmosphere would be one where it would not be possible for us to breathe?

Response: Anthropic principle.

Reason 20: Complementarity of plant and animal life

What/who knew that we require the oxygen of plants, just as plants require the carbon dioxide of us?

Response: Anthropic principle. These anthropic principle arguments are all phrased in such a way as to assume that the answer must be in the form of a "who"--i.e., a personal God. This is begging the question.

Reason 21: The tornado and the 747

The concept that life came about through sheer chance is as absurd & improbable as a tornado blowing through a junk yard, consequently assembling a Boeing 747!

Response: Argumentum ad ignorantiam and argument from design. This is Fred Hoyle's classic Tornado argument, which is based on the assumption that evolution works by random chance, ignoring the non-random process of natural selection. Richard Dawkins proposed the Ultimate 747 argument[3] as a response.

Reason 22: The invisible and the supernatural

We are willing to believe in physically unseen waves that exist through the air, operating physical forces & appliances to work, yet not supernatural God forces being responsible for the same.

Response: While phenomena like radio waves or infrared light may be "unseen" to the human eye, they are not supernatural. They are well understood and explained by science, and thus are not analogous to any purported supernatural phenomena. Moreover, they are detectable and have known detectable effects, which cannot be said for God.

Reason 23: Self-organization and entropy

Matter cannot organise itself. An uneaten tomato will not progress on its own accord to form a perfect pineapple. It will transform into mould, into disorganisation. The laws of evolution fall flat.

Response: An uneaten tomato does not "transform" into disorganization. It may decompose into simpler organic components by the action of bacteria, fungi or other creatures such as maggots through well-understood biological processes. In fact, these components might then become part of other plants or animals, including a pineapple. This argument is utter absurdity, ignoring the very basics of evolution, specifically that individuals do not evolve, populations evolve. It also ignores the role of reproduction in evolution, the fact that evolution proceeds by small changes over time, the lack of a hierarchical/teleological path for evolution, and so forth. See the EvoWiki page on a similar, more common argument[4].

Response: The opening assumption that matter is unable to self-organize is wrong: crystals are a prime example of matter organizing itself. This innate ability of matter becomes important in some theories of abiogenesis, like A. Graham Cairns-Smith's Clay theory.

Reason 24: Darwin's deathbed conversion

Our 'inventor' of evolution, Mr. Charles Darwin had this to say to Lady Hope when he was almost bedridden for 3 months before he died; "I was a young man with unfathomed ideas. I threw out queries, suggestions; wondering all the time over everything, and to my astonishment the ideas took like wildfire - people made a religion of them." Darwin then asked Lady Hope to speak to neighbors the next day. "What shall I speak about?" She asked. He replied; "Christ Jesus and his salvation. Is that not the best theme?"

Response: Urban myth. See Deathbed conversion. Even if it were true (and evidence shows that it is not), it is an argument from authority. We do not accept evolution based on Darwin's word, but on the evidence supporting the theory, which is independent from anything Darwin may or may not have said. It is also worth noting that Darwin was not the first person to propose evolution as a possibility, he only happens to be the first to produce solid evidence for the proposition.

Reason 25: Morality

Where do our moral values held within our conscience come from? If the atheist is right, why then would we care about what we did?! If there is no God, then we've no-one to be accountable to.

Response: Evolutionary psychologists have proposed explanations for many "moral values" and behaviors that appear instinctual; observations of social animals reveal that many have moral codes that are similar to humans'. Atheists may follow any number of secular ethical codes, holding themselves accountable to values or ideals derived rationally, rather than to a deity. Furthermore, the Euthyphro dilemma turns this argument around on the theist: where do God's moral values come from?

Response: To whom are our moral values being held? Simply put, we are accountable to those around us.

Reason 26: Man vs. animal

If man has evolved from an animal, why doesn't he behave like an animal? Yet man is civilised.

Response: There are many problems with this argument.

  1. It is based, at least implicitly, on the archaic concept of the Great Chain of Being, in which humans are seen as separate from, and inherently superior to, other animals. In fact, humans are animals. The theory of evolution doesn't hold that they evolved "away from" animals and became something fundamentally different (which is one reason it is rejected by many theists).
  2. Since evolution necessarily implies change from a previous state, the fact that the ancestors of humans had certain characteristics doesn't necessarily mean that humans must still have those characteristics. Any two animal species will share certain characteristics and not share others. This is the result of the process of evolution and not — as is implied above — a refutation of it.
  3. Many human behaviors are, in fact, very similar to those found among animals today (especially other primates). Examples include the seeking of food and shelter, the forming of social groups to secure these resources, the forming of pair bonds for reproduction and the rearing of offspring, the protection of family members from others in the social group and of members of the group from outsiders, and communication through sound and gestures. On the other hand, aspects of human behavior that are indeed unique to our species may be attributable to adaptations such as bipedalism or advanced cognitive function, particularly the capacity for abstract thought. Evolutionary theory may actually be able to explain how these characteristics arose.
  4. Given the history of the 20th century (for example), there is some doubt as to what "civilized" actually means and whether humans can be said to possess that characteristic.
  5. Finally, as with Reason 7 (and many others), even if the claim above were completely true, it wouldn't justify belief in God.

Reason 27: Chance and ignorance

'Chance' isn't the cause of something. It just describes what we can't find a reason for.

Response: Straw man argument. While evolution contains some apparent "chance" (genetic mutations), the process of natural selection is the guiding force which directs the process of adaptation. "Chance" is also not a description of something that we cannot find a reason for; it is a description of systems which operate according to laws of probability.

Reason 28: Limitations of science and logic

Science & logic do not hold all the answers - many people are aware of forces at work which we have no understanding of & no control over.

Response: Argumentum ad ignorantiam and special pleading. If we have no understanding of these forces, then how can anyone be said to be "aware" of them? If we are aware, we must have some small measure of understanding.

Reason 29: Gregorian calendar

Look at the date/year on our calender - 2000 years ago since what? Our historical records (other than the Bible) record evidence of Jesus' existence.

Response: This is an unfounded claim that the Gregorian calendar proves that Jesus existed. The Anno Domini (AD) dating system was not created until 525 AD. It is not independent, contemporary historical confirmation of the New Testament. The current Gregorian Calendar was drafted in 1582 under the direction of Pope Gregory XIII of the Catholic church, and cannot act as evidence of the existence of a man who is thought to have lived 15 centuries earlier.

Reason 30: Martyrs

Many people have died for their faith. Would they be prepared to do this for a lie?!

Response: This could only show that purported martyrs believed they were dying for a true faith. It cannot prove that their beliefs are actually true; martyrs may be mistaken. Many people have died in the name of many contradictory faiths. Further, people have given their lives in the name of beliefs such as Nazism; must we assume these are also true?

Reason 31: Biblical accounts

Much of the Bible deals with eyewitness accounts, written only 40 years after Jesus died. When the books in the New Testament were first around, there would have been confusion & anger if the books were not true.

Response: It may be a stretch to describe stories of events written 40+ years after they supposedly occurred as "eyewitness accounts", when the average lifespan of a human in those times was likely much lower[5]. The truth is that none of the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses, the earliest dating estimate[6] is 65 C.E. and most are thought to be significantly later. Moreover, the earliest New Testament texts were purportedly authored by early church founder Paul of Tarsus, who was not an eyewitness. Even assuming the events were recorded by supposed eyewitnesses, we could make that argument in favor of many religious texts and other writings which may contradict each other. Does this give us reason to assume the events recorded in books like the Qur'an are also true? And given the many conflicts over heresies, apocryphal texts and other teachings in the early church, it seems safe to say that there was "confusion and anger" over the contents of the books.

Reason 32: Archaeology

From as early as 2000 BC, there is archaeological evidence to confirm many details we're provided with in the Bible.

Response: This may be true, but there is also a striking lack of archaeological evidence for many important stories recorded in the Bible (see claim #34). Atheists do not claim that the Bible must be entirely false in every respect. What matters when determining if the Bible provides basis for a belief in God is the evidence we can find for its claims of supernatural phenomena, like the resurrection of Jesus. This evidence does not exist. Furthermore, there is evidence to confirm many of the details provided in the Iliad or the average Spider-Man comic, but that doesn't mean that Achilles and Spider-Man exist.

Reason 33: Biblical prophecy

Not one single Biblical prediction can be shown as false, and the Bible contains hundreds.

Response: This is an attempt to shift the burden of proof. The Bible does not contain a single fulfilled prediction which is/was verifiable, non trivial, and was not self-fulfilling.

Biblical prophecy was "confirmed" by those who were already aware of such prophecy and with a vested interest in ensuring that such prophecy had the appearance of being fulfilled.

Response: This claim is simply false. Perhaps the most strikingly embarrassing unfulfilled prophecy in the bible is Jesus' prediction of his own second coming, to occur within the lifetimes of the people listening to him. There are dozens of others.

Reason 34: Biblical history

The evidence from literature & historical studies claim that Biblical statements are reliable details of genuine events.

Response: This is plainly false. In addition to the miracles and supernatural events described in the Bible, for which there is no historical evidence, many of the historical claims which could theoretically be substantiated with archaeological evidence are contradicted by modern historians. For example, historians believe there is no evidence for Hebrew slavery in Egypt or the Exodus as described in the Old Testament[7].

Reason 35: Christianity and science in harmony

From the birth of science through to today, there is no evidence to claim that Christianity & science are in opposition. Many first scientists were Christians; Francis Bacon, Issaac [sic] Newton, Robert Boyle, to name a few, along with the many who stand by their work & faith today.

Response: Many of the arguments in this email appear to promote Christianity by opposing science, but even if we grant that there is no conflict between science and Christianity and that many scientists are Christians, this hardly provides evidence that Christianity is true. See burden of proof. And if we fail to grant that there is no conflict, we recognize many contradictions[8] between the Biblical account and established science.

Response: From the time of Galileo to the latest attempts by creationists to push their agendas in schools, science and faith have always been in opposition. Whether its the germ theory of disease vs demons and the powers of the air, the preposterous miracles of the roman church, heliocentrism vs angels moving the stars about, lightning rods instead of sounding the church bells, science has never had to back down: it has always been religion that has had to preserve itself by "reinterpreting" its texts.

Reason 36: How vs. why

Science can explain 'how' something works, but not 'why' something works.

Response: This argument is essentially meaningless. To science, 'how' and 'why' are the same thing.

Response: Terry Pratchett, of all people, sheds insight onto this. The question "why" presupposes that there is a story to be told. A narrative. Science is a different way of knowing, and one of its discoveries is that the language of the universe is not that of story and legend, but that that of mathematics. It's something that a lot of math-phobes have a hard time accepting.

Reason 37: Science changes

Science is constantly recorrecting [sic] its findings. Past theories contradict certain beliefs which are held today. Our present 'discoveries' may change again in the future to rediscover how we originally came into existence.

Response: A willingness to reconsider theories in the face of new evidence is essential to any process that seeks the truth. Atheists believe science is strong precisely because of this, rather than despite it. In addition, religious groups, even those considered extreme or fundamentalist, often change their teachings in response to social concerns. For example, the Church of Latter-Day Saints abandoned polygamy in order to gain statehood for Utah. Christianity is guilty of the same revisionism: In 1633, Galileo was convicted of heresy by the Catholic church for promoting heliocentrism, which directly contradicts biblical evidence of the organization of the universe. It wasn't until 1992 that Galileo was officially vindicated by the Catholic church. Ben Franklin was accused of heresy by Catholics and Protestants alike, for developing the lightning rod, which was considered an effort to stifle god's wrath. Today, however, virtually all structures, including churches, are fitted with lightning protection.

Reason 38: Abiogenesis

Evolution describes the way life possibly started, yet doesn't explain what made life start & why. Scientific questions fail to do that. Even if evolution were proved, it would still not disprove God.

Response: The biological theory of evolution does not attempt to explain the origin of life; it describes how the diversity and complexity of life found today arose from simpler organisms. However, science could explain how life began on Earth if a credible theory of abiogenesis or panspermia[9] emerges in the future. Though there is currently no generally accepted and evidence-supported theory of how life arose on Earth, scientists have demonstrated that abiogenesis is possible (such as in the Miller-Urey Experiment[10]), and there are a variety of hypotheses which are more parsimonious than a hypothesis invoking a transcendent God. While a consensus theory of abiogenesis or panspermia would not disprove the existence of God, the burden of proof is on those who assert the existence of supernatural phenomena.

Reason 39: A bad lie?

The two people who discovered Jesus' empty tomb were women. Women were very low on the social scale in first century Palestine, so in order to make the story fit, it would have made far more sense to claim that it were male disciples who had entered the tomb. But it wasn't - we're left with the historical & Biblical truth.

Response: While the Gospels describe Jesus' tomb being found empty by women, the Gospels also give accounts of the resurrected Jesus appearing to his male disciples. The Gospels were also written and promulgated by men. The resurrection claim does not rest solely on the word of low-status women. Even if it did, this would hardly be sufficient reason to deem it true; extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Moreover, the account is hearsay and contradictory accounts of this event are given in the Gospels.

Reason 40: Near-death experiences

Think about Near Death Experiences. It's naive to believe that they all are induced by chemicals or drugs. How do we account for a blind person having this experience, coming back to describe what they had never before seen, a person telling the Doctor that there is a blue paperclip on top of the high cabinet, which they couldn't have otherwise known, an african [sic] man being dead in his coffin for 3 days, coming back to life to tell of much the same events which took place as those of many others? We never hear of the witnesses describing "a dream". We're not silly - we know the difference between even the most vivid of dreams to that of reality.

Response: It is not naive to seek physiological or psychological explanations for unusual experiences a person may have while their body is recovering from life-threatening trauma or disease; in fact, studies have shown that NDEs can be induced through drugs or trauma, and are almost certain to be a physiological phenomenon. It is naive to immediately presume something supernatural is occurring. Why are these bizarre claims about paperclips and Africans rising from the dead not substantiated? If credible evidence existed of a man being actually deceased and rising three days later, this would be unprecedented news quickly publicized to every corner of the globe by every kind of formal or informal media. If this actually occurred, present the evidence. Science demands more proof than a mere assurance that one asserting a shocking revelation is "not silly." See also the Skeptic's Dictionary entry[11] on the subject.

Reason 41: Biblical skeptics

There are many skeptics who didn't believe in Jesus before his crucifixion, and who were opposed to Christianity, yet turned to the Christian faith after the death of Jesus. Just as the many who continue to do so today.

Response: This is a form of argumentum ad populum, at one stage the majority of the world believed the earth was flat. These are anecdotal accounts of people who could be mistaken. While it is true conversions to Christianity continue today, conversions to other religions and away from organized religion also occur.

Reason 42: Einstein quote

Albert Einstein said; "A legitimate conflict between science & religion cannot exist. Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind".

Response: Albert Einstein also said, "For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions." argumentum ad verecundiam. Lameness does not affect factuality. Besides this, Einstein used the term "religion" in a specific, nonstandard way, defined here: "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. 'If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it'." It is this admiration for the structure of the universe that Einstein thought essential to science.

Reason 43: The tomato thrower

A speaker in Hyde Park who was attacking belief in God, claimed that the world just happened. As he spoke, a soft tomato was thrown at him. "Who threw that?" He said angrily. A cockney from the back of the crowd replied; "No-one threw it - it threw itself!"

Response: This unsubstantiated anecdote about a believer assaulting an atheist with a vegetable is actually a form of the unmoved mover/uncaused cause argument, implying that atheists are foolish not to believe in a higher power that created the universe. This argument does not solve the problem of the first cause; it merely shifts the burden onto an unproven supernatural being. If God is not caused, then it cannot be said that all things must have a cause. Whether it be the universe itself, for atheists, or God himself, for the believer, all must admit the existence of something whose cause is as yet undiscovered. Atheists hope to continue discovering causes through reason; theists merely give up. Theism cannot claim this as an advantage. If we are to take this anecdote at face value, we must also question the morality of the presumed theist who both assaulted the speaker, rather than refute his claims, and then either lied about the assault or failed to confess and apologize.

Furthermore, the public assault of an atheist by means of possibly self-actuating, suicidal vegetable is hardly a compelling reason to believe in a god, as the subject of the original email suggests.

Reason 44: Occam's supernatural razor

It is easier to believe that God created something out of nothing than it is to believe that nothing created something out of nothing.

Response: This is another form of uncaused cause argument employing Occam's Razor, but an explanation that requires the existence of an unseen, omnipotent supernatural being can hardly be simpler than one that relies on observable natural principles. This argument also prompts the question, how did God arise out of nothing? It also presupposes a straw man form of the Big Bang theory of cosmology. Theists often claim that the Big Bang suggests that "nothing became something," when in fact it says no such thing. In fact, there is no scientific reason to think that the matter and energy of the universe had to be created (which would be a violation of the First Law of Thermodynamics) and have not merely always existed in one form or another.

Reason 45: How-vs.-why Hawking quote

Stephen Hawkins [sic] has admitted; "Science may solve the problem of how the universe began, but it cannot answer the question: why does the universe bother to exist?"

Response: Spurious. Whatever reason the universe exists, the Bible does nothing to answer this question. All it does is provide a claim of 'what' was created, and 'when', vaguely (and incorrectly) answers the 'how' (magic) but it in no way answers the 'why'. If it even makes sense to speak of the universe as if it chooses to exist, why it does so would not be the subject of science, which deals with what can be naturally observed. This should be considered a problem of philosophy.

Reason 46: With God all things are possible

We cannot confuse God with man. With God in the equation, all things, including miracles are possible. If God is God, he is Creator of all, inclusive of scientific law. He is Creator of matter & spirit.

Response: Petitio principii, religion provides hope. These statements merely follow from the definition of an omnipotent creator God; they do nothing to prove its existence.

Reason 47: Evolved vs. evolving

If we are the product of evolution - by sheer accident, chance, then we are still evolving. Does it just so happen that we exist here today with everything so finely tuned for our living. as we now have it?

Response: Anthropic principle. And, in fact, we are still evolving, as are all living things. As for "finely tuned", most of our planet's surface is uninhabitable by or inhospitable to humans (frozen wastelands, oceans, deserts), and the vast majority of the universe is fatal to humans, so how can "everything" be said to be "finely tuned for our living"?

Reason 48: The Missing Link

Could it possibly be that the missing link does not exist?!

Response: False dichotomy. The falsification of evolution would not be evidence of god and inability to find a particular missing link is not falsification of evolution. The "missing link" itself comes from a misunderstanding of evolution, and has more in common with the Great Chain of Being than anything scientific.

Response: The famous Missing Link between humans and ape ancestors has also been found. Not merely one example, either, but many different stages. This is another example of the God of the gaps argument.

Reason 49: Open your eyes

God has proved himself to us in numerous ways, all around us. The atheist needs to put his glasses on. What more can God possibly do if man has shut his eyes to him?

Response: Special pleading, petitio principii. If God is omnipotent, there is no limit to what more he could do. Even if our eyes are "shut to him," an omnipotent being could certainly open them.

Such a claim is also prejudiced against the blind. What if someone has no eyes to see God's works? Are blind people, by definition, atheists?

Reason 50: Liar or Lord?

Jesus Christ is either who he says he is, or he is the biggest con man history has ever known.

Response: False dichotomy. He could have also been insane, never actually existed, did not say all of the things attributed to him, or he could have been deceived by the lies of others. See also C.S. Lewis's trilemma.

Big finish


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