Thursday, December 30, 2010

Witty Quips and Retorts

Here I would like to share some witty retorts with my fellow atheists that can be used in day-to-day conversations with the faithful.  Religious people of all stripes will often have a few questions for the average nonbeliever.  It is often very surprising, particularly in America, for a believer to hear that one of their friends or family members does not believe in a god.  This is because, in their mind, belief in a god, or in anything supernatural, answers fundamental questions that could not be answered otherwise. 

On occasion, you might meet a thoughtful theist, who can articulate sophisticated—but still ultimately untenable—arguments for the existence of a god.  I will be progressively debunking these established arguments on this blog.  However, most of your day-to-day conversations will be with sincere but unsophisticated believers whose objections to your atheism will be equally unsophisticated.  It would be like taking a sledgehammer to a walnut to try to bring in the concepts of formal logical and scientific evidence to some of these exchanges.  Oftentimes, a little humor can be useful.  I have found that the following retorts and one-liners make great comebacks to the common, vapid questions about atheism.    

Some of these are based on quotations of famous skeptics, like Mark Twain, or J. B. S. Haldane, others from modern atheists like Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins, while others still are my own creation or the creations of my friends.  I hope you enjoy! 

Theist:  Atheism is a religion.  

Atheist:  Okay, by that logic, my religion is atheism and my hobby is not collecting stamps

Theist:  I just can’t imagine that something as complex as a human body, with a brain that has billions of neurons all working together, eyes with millions of parts, a heart that barely skips a beat in 80 years, could all have come from a single cell—even given billions of years to evolve.

Atheist:  Really?  Because you did it yourself and it only took you nine months. 

Theist:  Atheism is a religion, because you believe that God does not exist.

Atheist:   Okay, well, I guess you have thousands of religions then.  One for the god you do believe exists and one for each god you believe does not exist.  One religion for not believing in Shiva, one for not believing in Baal, one for not believing in Zeus, one for not believing in the Great Mother, etc.   

Theist:  If I hadn’t found religion, I would be in jail right now. 

Atheist:  Yeah, but if nineteen other guys hadn’t found religion, New York would have two extra buildings right now. 

Atheist:  What denomination are you?

Theist:  I’m a nondenominational Christian.
Atheist:  Okay, but are you a nondenominational Mainline Protestant Christian or a nondenominational Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian?

Theist:  If evolution is true and we evolved from monkeys, then there would be no more monkeys!

Atheist:  Does your dad have a sister?

Theist:  Yes.

Atheist:  Is she married?

Theist:  Yes.

Atheist:  What is her last name?

Theist:  Johnson. 

Atheist:  What is your last name?

Theist:  Smith.

Atheist:  There are still monkeys for the same reason there are still Smiths.  

Theist:  So what do you think happens after you die? 

Atheist:  Well, I imagine it will be an awful lot like the 13.7 billion years before I was born. 
Theist:  But don’t you want to believe there’s something more to life than just this? 

Atheist:  I want to believe that there is a woman around every corner who looks like Megan Fox and is desperate to get into bed with me, but me wanting that doesn’t make it true. 

Theist:  But don’t you think you should believe in God, just in case he does exist? 

Atheist:  No more than I think I should sacrifice a goat to Zeus every now and then, just in case he exists. 
Theist:  But there were eyewitnesses who saw Jesus rise from the dead! 

Atheist:  Yes, and there are eyewitnesses who have seen alien spacecraft land and abduct cows, and the only differences between the eyewitnesses to the Resurrection and the eyewitnesses to UFO abductions are that the eyewitnesses to UFO abductions are more numerous and more recent.

Theist:  God answers the prayers of true believers.

Atheist:  Then it should be against the rules to pray in school before a test because it would be cheating.
Theist:  If you’re an atheist, why do you celebrate Christmas?   

Atheist:  Acknowledging that Santa Claus is not real doesn't stop you from enjoying Christmas, I assume. Likewise, acknowledging that Mary was just a very convincing adultress who really committed to her story doesn't stop me from enjoying Christmas. 


Theist:  Why do you have so much faith in science?

Atheist:  Because science works.  Planes fly.  Magic carpets and broomsticks don’t. 

Theist:  God created man in his image

Atheist:  Then we should all be invisible and incorporeal

Theist:  But the Earth is so perfectly designed to support human life!

Atheist:  That's like saying the human face was designed perfectly to support a pair of sunglasses. 

Theist:  God forgives all sins.
Atheist:  Except being born in a time or place where you couldn’t hear about Jesus.  That’s a deal breaker for god—he’s very particular about where and when you’re born. 

Theist:  But you can't disprove god.

 Atheist:  Neither can I disprove that there is a china teapot orbiting a star in another galaxy, but I still don't believe either claim to be true. 

Theist:  I prayed for my friend to get better when she was sick and god healed her.

Atheist:  Try that on an amputee.


  1. "a woman around every corner who looks like Megan Fox and is desperate to get into bed with me"

    Now that would be much better than a god!

  2. Just to add a dissenting voice.

    I would say that for you atheism almost is a religion. You are an evangelical athiest. You have this belief system, and then spend a good amount of energy making sure that people believe as you do...

    Food for thought.

  3. @Brian,

    I think you are conflating a religion with a philosophy, or even an ideology. Religion is quite a strictly defined word. It pertains to a set of beliefs in a supernatural agent that requires worship or devotion of some kind. In order to have a religion, you have to 1) believe a supernatural agent exists and 2) worship that supernatural agent. Atheism, which is just the absence of belief in a supernatural agent, meets neither of those criteria.

    Now, what would be fair of you to say is this: You are just as passionate about your atheism as some believers are about their religions. I can accept that.

    But it is not acceptable to conflate passion for an idea with worship of a supernatural agent. By the standard you have given, we could assign certain people to the religion of Democrat or Republican, or the religion of communism or animal rights activism, all of which you would (presumably) agree are not religions.

  4. Re: God forgives all sins post. He does not forgive those who do/did not believe in him.

  5. I have yet to figure out why it matters so much to people to classify atheism as a religion. Who really gives a damn? That debate is like arguing over when to use the words further or farther.

    Great blog though, Ben!

  6. Thanks Nathan!! And you're right--I always laugh when theists call atheism a religion. It's like they are saying, "Okay, you're right, religion is bad--but you're religious, too!"

  7. Beautiful quip to Brian there, Ben. And nice post. Thank you.

    I saw this somewhere but I just can't remember where so I can give a proper credit:

    Theist: Atheism is a religion.
    Atheist: Calling atheism is a religion is like calling bald a hair color.