Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Response to "Atheism: The Lie of the Century"

Dear Miss Raissa, I recently read your post, Atheism:  The Lie of the Century.  I was taken aback by some of the inaccuracies in your piece, and so I would like to offer the following as a correction.  For those of you reading that have not seen Miss Raissa’s original post, you can find it here:  


Atheism is not, as you say, ‘willful rebellion against god’.  That would be something like Satanism, where adherents recognize the existence of the Christian god, but choose to rebel against him anyway by worshipping his rival.  Atheism is different—it is the absence of a belief in a god.  What atheists would say is that there has never been any persuasive evidence to support the existence of a god.  And, in the absence of any positive evidence, it is only prudent to withhold belief. 


Very few atheists will make the claim that, because Darwin was an atheist, evolution proves that a god does not exist.  Darwin’s personal beliefs have nothing to do with the implication that his discovery had.  Rather, what we say is that evolution by natural selection is the only feasible explanation for the diversity of life that exists on Earth that does not involve a designer.  Other explanations might be intelligent design (guided evolution) or creation (all species are made to suddenly pop up from nothing by a creator.)  Evolution by natural selection, though, is the only one of these explanations that is actually supported by the evidence.

Because the only explanation for the diversity of life that is supported by the evidence is also the only explanation that does not involve a deity of some kind, atheists feel confident asserting that evolution is evidence of a kind for the absence of a god.  After all, if a god can create life using any method he wishes, why do it using the only method that doesn't require that he to do anything? 


Your basis for claiming that atheists cannot be moral is that morality ‘comes from god.’  To prove that this is not the case, I need only to ask you a simple question—could god be bad?  Or is he bound to be good?  That is to say, is whatever god says good simply because god says it, or does god make a choice to be good?

If you answer that god could not be bad—that everything god does is good simply because god is god and whatever he says goes—then you have accepted the moral position that might makes right.  This eliminates the need for the word ‘morality’ altogether, because now morality is not behavior that is good, it is just behavior that is consistent with the will of the most powerful thing imaginable.  All you need to describe that is the word ‘obedience.’ 

The other option is that god could be bad but chooses to be good.  His power is not what makes him good, rather it is his choice.  If God chooses to be good and not evil, then that choice must be based upon an external, abstract concept of right and wrong.  We can imagine a ‘scale of goodness’ that god chooses to sit at the top of.  It is by this ‘scale of goodness’ that we can analyze god’s goodness or badness and discover that he is maximally good.  Because the behaviors that would be the most conducive to the well-being of other self-aware beings are all exhibited by god—behaviors like unconditional love, a respect for free will, a desire for us to be fulfilled by entering his kingdom—we can conclude that the Christian god is a maximally good god. 

However, this ‘scale of goodness’ (or however else you might like to imagine it—it is an abstract concept, not a physical entity.  Sam Harris uses a landscape with peaks and valleys to illustrate a similar point) must, by necessity, exist outside of god.   The scale must be applied to god so it cannot be part of god, otherwise the reasoning would be circular. 

Therefore, if god could be bad, and is not bad, morality cannot come from god.  If god could not be bad, then morality could not come from god because all that morality would be is obedience.  Either way, we have to define morality in some manner that does not relate to a god, which allows atheists to be moral just like any other group.


This really does not have anything to do with the objections raised by atheists regarding religion.  In order to be an atheist, one does not have to hold any view on any subject other than to lack a belief in gods.  Someone can be pro-life and be an atheist; someone can be pro-choice and be an atheist.  I know pro-life atheists and pro-choice Christians. 

Abortion is a very difficult issue with strong arguments on both sides—the pro-choice and the pro-life side.  However, you can no more say that “atheists are pro-abortion” than you can say “black people are pro-gun rights” or “white people are anti-financial regulation”.  It’s an unfair and unproductive generalization about a group of people.

Hopefully this clears up your obvious misconceptions about atheism.  I would expect that in the future, before you decide to write anything else about atheists or any other group, you would do the necessary research on what exactly it is that you are criticizing.

Thank you,

Ben Doublett


  1. Well done! Logic that is probably lost on the deluded though.

  2. Its unfortunate that if she even reads this, she won't be able to understand the points you have laid down.

  3. 1. I love the name of your blog.
    2. Great response. Pity she'll instantly "know" there must be something wrong with everything you said _just_ because you're an atheist.

  4. Great work. May the FSM touch you with his noodly appendacle.

  5. Fantastic Work. Well done! :)

  6. Very good piece, the section on Morality is a great discussion that adds really well to the comments already on Ms Riassa's page.

    Thanks for this.

  7. She claims she did research then proceeds to prove otherwise.

    The "atheist" she interviewed was never an atheist. He defined his atheism as a disbelief in God, rather than a nonbelief in gods.

    The definition of disbelief is the "unpreparedness, unwillingness, or inability to believe that something is the case."

    The definition of nonbelief is "Failure to believe; lack of religion."

    I grew up without even thinking about God, that is a true atheist. To accept that there is a God then refuse to believe in him is not atheism, it is unbelief.

  8. As much as I appreciated reading this blog, and anyone who takes the time to set the record straight. I'm not sure you needed to do it, she's getting slaughtered at her blog :)