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Feedback archive Feedback 2011

Stereotyping atheists?

Published: 23 April 2011(GMT+10)


This week’s feedback features an email exchange between Brandon M. from Canada and CMI’s Dr Don Batten, where Dr Batten shows how we haven’t stereotyped atheists in our article on atheism. Dr Batten’s comments are interspersed in black:

Firstly, as an atheist, I would like to state that I am at least partly offended by the stereotypes used in this article,

Yet under an atheistic belief system, your sense of being offended is an illusion of brain chemistry that evolved because it conferred some survival advantages.

for example, simply saying “Atheists differ on the issue of ethics and morality…”, “Atheists often argue that…”, etc. Even if the majority of atheists believe such, there ARE those out there that have different beliefs than this.

I think the parts you quote indicate that the author is well aware of differing views, but with any subject it is necessary to generalize to discuss the matter. If you wrote, “Most Christians oppose abortion on demand”, should someone who supports such abortion and claims to be a Christian get upset over the accurate generalization? Hardly.

Secondly, I am appalled at “Tim H., Netherlands” and “Smarter Than You, Greece” (no offence, but I highly doubt someone would be stupid enough to really state their name as something like that). I am VERY offended by comments like this from either side, as it is simply an insult, and completely unnecessary.

We agree! Reminds me of the atheists like Dawkins calling themselves “Brights”.

Anyways, dealing with the article, I must point out that even if the ‘variations of atheism’ are the only ones in a dictionary, there are others, like me. Personally, I am an atheist who believes there is no God because of personal decisions, though I have an open mind (hopefully). I can accept the fact that I *believe* there is no God, and that I could be completely wrong. I also have absolutely NO problem with others believing in ANY God whatsoever.

Again, any analysis of a belief system must make some generalisations. However, I believe the article includes your position (quoting):

Michael Shermer, editor of The Skeptic magazine, draws a distinction between the atheist who claims, there is no God and the non-theist who claims to have no belief in God.

Also, later on, Isaac Asimov is quoted as saying, “Emotionally I am an atheist. I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist”, which seems very similar to your stated position.

In section 4.1 you state that Epicurus’ arguments fail “…because he proposes a restricted number of options it is a false dichotomy.” However, at the same time, does not the Bible, and most all religious doctrines, have a VERY large amount of restrictions, to the point of declaring a single outcome out of literally infinite possibilities? (IE: it’s possible that God exists as defined by the Bible, but it’s possible that such God has even minor differences, or major differences.) Just wanted to throw that out there :)

The issue is whether atheism gives any rational basis for being a moral, nice person, which it does not.

I don’t understand the point you are making. Although we would say that the Bible is logical in its propositions, it does not generally present the teaching in a formal logic framework, so you are comparing quite different things. You should not try to compare apples with oranges. But see this: Loving God with all your mind: logic and creation, showing that the Bible does commend logic and even presupposes it.

Lastly, I would like to close with this suggestion: I keep seeing atheism being stereotyped as being ‘immoral’ and ‘wrong’. Would it not be better to consider atheism and the majority of atheistic opinions as a whole? After all, the clearer the picture you have, the more you understand, and the better you can present your arguments, am I right? (Note: if you see Christians being stereotyped as being ANYTHING, stand up for yourselves, say that there are different types of you too!)

I think you misunderstand what stereotyping is. This involves pigeonholing a person as being xxx because they are yyyy. For example, if we said, Brandon M is a nasty, evil person because he is an atheist, that would be stereotyping. I don’t believe we have done that. In fact we have in many places made it clear that atheists can be moral, nice people. That is not the point. The issue is whether atheism gives any rational basis for being a moral, nice person, which it does not. So it is not surprising that some of the most notoriously evil people have been atheists and well over 100 million people died last century as a result of atheistic morality. As the article quoted: “If atheism is true, everything is permissible.” Another article on the same lines is Bomb-building vs. the biblical foundation.

Well everybody, I had better go, have a good day, play safe, and if God is real, then God bless you all.
(PS: in case you were wondering, I’m 14, both parents great Christians.)

That is particularly sad for your parents, I would think.

Yours sincerely,

Don Batten

Brandon replied to the above and his reply, with Don’s comments interspersed, follows:

Dear Brandon,

See my comments below.

As a (hopefully) friendly atheist, I just wanted to mention something.

I’m glad you are friendly, but really, atheism gives no basis for saying you ought to be friendly. However, Jesus did say, love your neighbour as yourself but even more, love your enemies. Christians have demonstrated this for 2,000 years, which is the reason that you have the freedom in Canada to be a Christian or an Atheist or whatever (there is no such religious freedom, for example, in Islamic countries or countries where atheism is the state religion).

1: Evolution IS real. There is overwhelming proof of such.

See below.

2: Evolution says nothing about the origins of the universe, the earth, or ANYTHING for that matter.
3: Evolution is used in theories about the origin of the universe, but in and of itself, is not a theory of the origin of the universe.

Definitions are as slippery as eels, especially when it comes to ideas that impinge on the big questions of life. Yes, strictly speaking, Darwin’s theory of biological evolution was about the diversification of life on earth from some primeval single-celled organism. However, evolution textbooks used in schools and universities have a chapter on chemical evolution, which is on the origin of life (see for example our article Natural selection cannot explain the origin of life). And those very same general science texts also describe the naturalistic origin of the universe and matter, often calling it cosmic evolution, etc. So, the word “Evolution” is used in a far broader sense than you would like to limit it to.

What I am saying, is that you should stop wasting your time with something that has been proven, or at least the basis of such has been proven. Organisms WILL adapt to suit their environment, for better or worse. That is all evolution states.

Brandon, you have fallen for the old bait-and-switch trick. See "Don’t fall for the bait and switch and equivocation as a fallacy in logic. It seems that you have not studied much of the material on, or you would know that we have no problem with adaptation, but this is a wholly inadequate, lame definition of evolution. Even Darwin claimed far more than that: that all organisms on earth share a common, naturalistic history back to a primeval single-celled organism. This entails a huge increase in genetic information (the equivalent of a 1000 books of 500 pages to go from a basic bacterium to a human). This is not just adaptation but the invention of thousands of complex features present in humans that are absent in microbes.

See "Who’s really pushing bad science?" and articles under:

So therefore, instead of trying to find proof against evolution, why not aim where your true target lies, theories of the origin of the universe?

Actually, we do that too, because naturalistic theories for the origin of the universe have the same objective as biological evolution: to get rid of God (Creator). See: Astronomy and Astrophysics Questions and Answers

I accept that in order for it to be real science, it must be falsifiable, but evolution simply has so much evidence for it, that challenging it would be extremely hard, and if it truly is a fact, which it has been claimed (due to overwhelming evidence), then you would simply waste time, effort, and be making it appear more of a fact. (IE: if you put a weak guy beside a tough guy, the weak guy is probably going to look weaker, and the tough guy is probably going to look tougher.)

To say this, clearly you have not studied much of the material linked above, which shows that, contrary to your stated understanding, the claimed mechanisms of evolution do the wrong thing (they destroy genetic information, not invent it). Evolution is first and foremost a theory about history, which cannot ultimately be falsified, because you cannot do experiments on historical events. See ‘It’s not science’. See also this section on self-serving definitions of science.

Now, the big bang theory is still in the process of investigation, therefore why not try to disprove it? You will, no matter what, be contributing to scientific progress.

Have you read, Dismantling the Big Bang: Gods Universe Rediscovered? Or read some of the many papers at What are some of the problems with the big bang hypothesis??

Theories are MEANT to be challenged, if it is real, it will hold up against the challenges, if not, it will eventually falter.

The idea that evidence against evolution will cause it to fall by the wayside is rather naive, because the evidence is against it, but it is still preached with fervour from secularist pulpits in universities and schools worldwide.

This is the way it is meant to be, but with historical theories, such as the big bang or evolution, they have become part of a naturalistic worldview (atheism) and as such have taken on religious overtones. As Richard Dawkins said, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. So Dawkins and other dogmatic proponents of evolution are going to have a lot of trouble evaluating the evidence objectively (because if evolution is not true, then if Dawkins and co are going to continue to be atheists, they will not be intellectually fulfilled). The idea that evidence against evolution will cause it to fall by the wayside is rather naive, because the evidence is against it, but it is still preached with fervour from secularist pulpits in universities and schools worldwide. See Would Darwin be a Darwinist today?

Remember that creationism and evolutionism are NOT opposites,

That would be news to Darwin and Dawkins and many other leading evolutionists!

and if God is real, then he would have created the process of evolution, would he not have?

See Darwin’s real message: have you missed it? and this article that spells out why evolution is not the way that the Creator-God of the Bible made everything: Some questions for theistic evolutionists. Evolution is an explicit substitute for divine creation, as the atheistic philosopher Michael Ruse admitted (see Leading anti-creationist philosopher admits that evolution is a religion).

Well, I had better be going now, have a good day, and if God is real, then God bless you all.

Atheists don’t even have a nice way of signing off, do they? Smilies

(PS: in case you were wondering, I’m 14, both parents are great Christians.)

I hope you study this information that I have taken the care to provide links to, and come to faith in Christ. If your parents are as you say, this would relieve a great heart-ache that they have over your eternal destiny, if you continue along this destructive path.

Yours sincerely,

Don Batten

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Readers’ comments
Richard L., from a middle eastern country, 24 April 2011

My heart really goes out to Brandon. His efforts at courtesy remind us that we are to give answers gently and courteously. Such dialogue is also a spiritual-warfare encounter. From my reflections on confounding influences inflicting atheists, there seem to be at least five such influences. I here rate them from ones producing the most sympathy in me for those so blinded to ones that most horrify me by their arrogance: (1) (most sympathetic) pain from experienced suffering; (2) (somewhat sympathetic) wrongly believing that belief in the supernatural turns minds into anti-scientific mush; (3) going along with the crowd; (4) (somewhat arrogant) reductionism—demanding that the universe be the way they want it to be; that is, it being potentially all accessible to scientific investigation; being so by miracles (and supernatural sources for miracles) being arbitrarily ruled out; (5) (very arrogant) man’s mind is of supreme importance; eliminate all possible competition. I suspect that most athiests have in them a mix of more than one of these variables, with differing weighting coefficients. May those who dialogue with atheists have Spirit-given discernment in this area!

Robert P., Australia, 24 April 2011

Well done Don, I said a prayer for young Brandon … well done, God Bless.

Scott M., United States, 20 February 2012

Solid philosophical debate win for Don, to be sure, but I wonder if it was complete: I think Brandon's "it’s possible that such God has even minor differences, or major differences" argument, although almost incomprehensible, was hinting at the lack of material on this site dedicated to disproving Mormonism (say) or other religions. Whereas in other articles on this site, it is said that some of the burden of proof of disproving God falls on the atheist, and that Christians are atheists because they positively affirm the non-existence of other Gods. So the argument essentially was, "Well how do you know Mormonism (say) is false?" I didn't think this was a bad argument, but you dismissed it out of hand and didn't even respond.

Don Batten responds

The search engine on locates articles on Mormonism, Islam and other religions, although this is not our primary focus and there are plenty of other good Christian organisations that deal with other religions. And this article discusses the modern atheistic ploy that 'Christians are atheists' with respect to other gods: Are Christians ‘atheists’ with respect to other religions?

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