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Debate: Atheism

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Is atheism a sound (un)religious philosophy in the modern world?

Background and context

From Wikipedia Atheism:

Atheism, as an explicit position, either affirms the nonexistence of gods or rejects theism. When defined more broadly, atheism is the absence of belief in deities, alternatively called nontheism.Although atheism is often equated with irreligion, some religious philosophies, such as secular theology and some varieties of Buddhism such as Theravada do not include belief in a personal god as a tenet of the religion.

Many self-described atheists are skeptical of all supernatural beings and cite a lack of empirical evidence for the existence of deities. Others argue for atheism on philosophical, social or historical grounds. Although many self-described atheists tend toward secular philosophies such as humanism and naturalism, there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere.The term atheism originated as a pejorative epithet applied to any person or belief in conflict with established religion. With the spread of freethought, scientific skepticism, and criticism of religion, the term began to gather a more specific meaning and has been increasingly used as a self-description by atheists.


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Religious philosophy: Are religious philosophies generally harmful or beneficial in society?

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  • Reality and the laws of nature are independent of man and faith. A tree is a tree, a table is a table - A is A. Man's reasoning mind is his only means of survival. And therefor, he can only take facts of reality as truth. Or, to put it another way, wishing won't make it so. Religion advocates the premise of an omnipotent, omniscient, mystical being - a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man's power to conceive.
  • If you believe in God, then you reject reason. Reason is man's only means of survival. For example, if a hungry person needs food he must use his reasoning mind to establish the best method of obtaining food, and then act upon his decision. If he ignores his mind and preys for food, he will starve - and that is a fact of reality. Existence exists independent of man's mind, or to put it simply, A is A. Every argument for god's existence is fundamentally floored. As is the phrase: "you can't prove god doesn't exist." First of all, you cannot be called upon to prove a negative. How can somebody disprove a concept if there is no evidence to support it? Again, to put it simply, observe the following conversation: Person X - "I just observed two pigs flying while you were looking the other way"; Person Y - "That's impossible"; Person X - "I did, I just seen two flying pigs"; Person Y - "Prove it"; Person X - "Disprove it".
  • All victors unfortunately believe that God is on their side. Another fallacy, which should be understood by those who advocate an omnipotent, omniscient, mystical father figure, who contradicts every law of nature, and who destroys mans mind by faking reality, should note this: a person achieves, he thanks god. a person fails, he blames himself. Do you see where this leads?
  • Religious Dogma provides a Haven for Social Ignorance. Even assuming the theological premises of religion are valid, the epistemological basis for divine gnosis, cannot be communicated free of interpretation and bias. In contrast knowledge obtained through empirical evidence is communicable as the skeptic can independently repeat the observation or analysis of data. If wisdom exists in the social proscriptions of a given religion's dogma then that wisdom can be empirically verified. On the other hand if "the message" has been altered or misunderstood by "the messenger" then in obedience to religious authority pious society does not question the validity of the claims through empirical means. Thus flaws remain which lead to unjust persecutions and unnecessary conflicts such as jihad's, witch trials, and inquisitions.
  • We no longer need God. Once we needed gods or deities to explain our world and to give us some hope of purpose. God is a trap for lazy people who find it easier to have someone think for them. Science has explained many of the processes of the universe that were once gods. God also provides humanity (in their vanity) a special purpose beyond that of other life. Our arrogance caused us to believe we are special so we created God and an afterlife.
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  • Religion gives people something outside of themselves to live for. Morals and right and wrong come directly from religion. If a person has no religion, then there is no standard of personal morals other than what feels good, or what they want to do. Religion provides a basis on which to build a meaningful life.
  • Regarding the atheists’ premise “If you believe in God, then you reject reason.” The author fails to provide evidence for this statement, and daily life and common sense both show that this is not a sound statement. According to the argument that follows under the initial premise, if one believes in God then he ought to be starving to death: “… if a hungry person needs food he must use his reasoning mind to establish the best method of obtaining food, and then act upon his decision.” Because people who believe in God “reject reason” the author is saying that those people must be either dead, starving, or have someone feeding them, which is obviously not the case. The fact that “existence exists independent of man’s mind” does nothing to advance the initial premise. Finally the author spends time stating that one cannot prove a negative, which is true, but does nothing to promote the initial premise of “If you believe in God, then you reject reason.”

  • Religious Dogma provides a Repository for Social Wisdom Even if one assumes the foundational theological premises of religions are false, competing religious beliefs about proper personal and social behavior acts as a social "genetic code". Societies and sub-societies in the past prospered in a virtual form of natural selection based on the amount of wisdom encoded in their religious doctrine. Examples of "unclean" foods and practices which predate scientific knowledge of germs, suggest similar social wisdom may be encoded in religious proscriptions. Until and unless we fully develop a rigorous, empirical science of social behavior, and evolve non-religious disciplines and institutions to serve this role we should not lightly dismiss religion based social wisdom.
  • Whether God exists or not, it is clear that mankind desperately needs him. This is because of our easily corruptible nature- which history has shown. With no leader society falls into chaos and anarchy, with weak, frequently changing leaders we fall into a process of dithering politics and slow moral decline, and with corrupt dictators we are subjected to human rights abuses and restrictions of freedom of speech etc. But God cannot be corrupted. Those who follow him will not be treated badly by him but will still be able to maintain their moral standards. God is the only hope for humanity, those who reject him reject humanity's last hope.
  • People who believe in God do not do so because they want to be lazy. The Bible itself denounces laziness, especially in Proverbs and also Paul says "If a man shall not work he shall not eat." True, not all theists are amazingly hard working, but the same can be said of atheists also.
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Religious institutions: Are religious institutions generally harmful?

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  • Religious institutions are a major driver of war. That may be true but religion all around has caused some of the most high death tolling wars in history such as the crusades. Religion may preach peace but tends to promote fighting amongst people of different religions.
  • Problems of religious institutions favors, by default, atheism. If religious institutions have some inherent flaws, certainly this favors atheism on many levels as an alternative.
  • Communism has nothing to do with atheism. Communism is the perfect form of government in a perfect society. Human greed and ignorance caused those flaws in dictators and such. There is no tenant in atheism that says we must conquer or convert. Unlike the Christian or Muslim religions.
  • "Communism is very closely linked to Atheism" There is no credible evidence to support the claim that Communism "was invented by atheistic idealists who wanted a perfect society without God's help. So it follows that it was necessary to wholly rely on fallible humans to attempt to achieve their goal." Communism is a sociopolitical and economic world view and is not based on attempts to manipulate society without the assistance of a deity. That some commmunists are atheists proves nothing. Some Christians are communists.
  • "Atheists have also had wars" The claims in this section are a mish-mash of irrelevancies. Even if Hitler were motivated by evolution (to the extent that anything even approaching the scientific theory evolution were endorsed by the Nazis at all, it is the discredited beliefs of Houston Stewart Chamberlain who explicitly rejected Darwinism), evolution is not atheistic. The majority of people who accept evolution are religiously inclined.
  • Replace "communism" with "theocracy" Yes, the idea of theocracy may describe a perfect society, but what good is a perfect society if it doesn't exist and all attempts to create one fail miserably?
  • The claim that the Nazi government was repressive of religion, which it unquestionally did with regard to the holocaust, ignores the fact that the majority of Nazis were Catholics, that the Catholic church collaborated with the Nazi state to the extent of organising the escape of defeated Nazis to South America, that Hitler and the Nazis regularly (even if they did not actually personally believe it themselves) claimed that they were acting in accordance with God's will and with his blessing - the belt worn by non-SS soldiers had upon it "Gott mit uns" ("God with us"), and many senior Nazis endorsed some form of paganism. The Nazi government neither blanket endorsed or repressed religion both according to personal belief and political expediency. It was certainly not an athiestic government.

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  • Religion has helped people better themselves and world. Religious Institutions have helped many people do things they otherwise could have not such as quit smoking, stop drinking alcohol, and help many convicted felons turn a new leaf. They also have many volunteer programs within them and are an all around good place to make friends and have fun.
  • Acts of religious institutions are irrelevant to faith and atheism. The actions and beliefs of religious institutions are irrelevant to the debate of whether or not Atheism is a sound philosophy, as well as to the issue of evidence for or against God. An idea or philosophy is true or false apart from any institution, organization, or person that may claim to believe or follow that philosophy. One must look at the worldview in question and from that decide whether it fits with what we see in the universe.
  • Just because some wars have happened in the name of religion does not mean that all people who follow the religion can be tarnished by the same brush. The crusades which the atheists have mentioned in this debate were started by the Catholic church in an age when they were notorious for their corruption. When you criticise religious institutions, judge them by their scripture- in this case the Bible. The Bible says that the Jews are God's chosen people and would never support a war like the crusades where so many Jews were killed. The Catholic church were ignoring the Bible and so cannot in this situation be called true Christians. Therefore you can't say that the crusades happened due to Christianity.
  • When atheists criticise religions for the largely negative impact atheism has had on society, they are overlooking their own negative impact. Communism, the ideology providing the ground for so many brutal dictatorships throughout the last century, was mainly followed by atheists.
  • Communism is very closely linked to Atheism. It was invented by atheistic idealists who wanted a perfect society without God's help. Karl Marx, probably the most influential man with regard to the founding of communism, is well known to have been very critical of religion, famously calling it "the opium of the people". Lenin also hated religion. So it follows that it was necessary to wholly rely on fallible humans to attempt to achieve their goal. Every Communist society in history has been at least mildly repressive and all have been proven to be corrupt, with most caring little for human rights. Yes, the theory of Communism may describe a perfect society, but what good is a perfect society if it doesn't exist and all attempts to create one fail miserably?
  • Atheists criticise religious people for evangelising and "attempting to convert people", however, they do the same. In Communist prisons many Christians were subjected to vigorous brainwashing with the intent of killing their faith, and many were also tortured in other ways. Our opponents in this debate have claimed that atheists make no attempts to convert, but this is clearly not true. For more on this topic please see Debate: Evangelism to debate whether evangelism is in itself ethical, if humane methods are used and no one is forced to convert, only encouraged.
  • Atheists have also had wars. Take the Second World War, which was caused partly by Hitler's belief that the Germans were superior, a result of his belief in Evolution. The Nazi government was repressive of religion (see, and see the section headed "Nazi policy towards Churches"), and arguably Germany's main opponent in the war, the USSR, was likewise repressive of religion.
  • All humans are imperfect. Just because you believe in a just God doesn't mean you are automatically expected to be perfect. Most humans are theistic and since all humans are sinners, most sinners are theists also. But just because a religion's followers are fallen does not mean that the religion itself is automatically disproven.

See also

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