Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Atheist's Paradox - A discussion with my friend, Edward

Edward, a friend of mine and a believer in God, recently posted a comment on my Facebook page which presents the "Atheist's Paradox". I had asked him to place the comment here, but technology didn't seem to want to cooperate, so at his request, I am presenting our discussion here. I will update further discussion between us on this topic here as time permits.


The atheist's paradox: Those without experience of God's presence are in no place to talk about him, and those who have are in no place to doubt.


The Atheist can comment about the god character he or she has read about and say, "If an omniscient, omnipresent god like this did exist, why would this god leave such a confusing message behind, and punish those who didn't believe with everlasting torture?" These are valid questions, and for many Atheists, a satisfactory answer has not yet been given.

So, if a non-believer is in no place to talk about this god, how would believers expect to engage them a dialogue which would allow them to provide a convincing argument otherwise?


Darwin was quoted “Man understanding God is like a dog trying to understand calculus.” We often want to push our perspective on what God should be, which usually is the perfect father or mother figure we wished was in our lives making us safe and happy. We also by nature seem to want God to be omni-fare making life the most well monitored playground imaginable.

But the most casual of observations will teach us that God did not make this universe a child’s dream like candy garden. The God who made little fluffy bunny rabbits also made foxes to kill and eat them; then when we protect the rabbits from the foxes we only hand the rabbits to crueler fate of starvation via overpopulation. No matter what, rabbit loses; doesn’t sound much like an all loving and kind God does it. To have a positive relationship with God, one must get past the notion that the meaning of life is to be coddled and cared for by your creator.

God like the like the mass of a photon may well not be directly observable. So if we are not quick enough to catch God winking at us, then the best we can do is secondary observations borrowing from statisticians and sociologist the tools to see if evidence exits.

I would be interested to see the source of that quote from Darwin. The closest I could find was the following:
"I feel most deeply that this whole question of Creation is too profound for human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton! Let each man hope and believe what he can."

In any respect, I believe I understand the point you are making here. I have heard Atheist skeptics say that if you want to ask them about belief in God, first you need to define what "God" is.

Reading what you have written, I am reminded of Mathematician and Philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, who is famous for saying God created the best of all possible worlds. Note he was not saying that it was a wonderful place where everything is delightful and joyous. He meant that the world was the way it was simply because it could not be any other way. Put another way, he believed that God was a perfect being who made the world the most perfect way possible. Making it any different would simply have resulted in a worse world.

It doesn't convince me of God's existence, but I do think it's an interesting way of viewing the world. So, to bring this back to the issue of the paradox with the definition of God that you have provided (your last paragraph), I, an Atheist, am talking about (or blogging about) God although I do not believe I am experiencing His presence. Perhaps the paradox should be worded as my late father (a former Baptist preacher) used to say when I was a child:
"For the non-believer, proof cannot be found. For the believer, proof is not necessary."

This I can agree with. Given your definition, it does come down to an issue of faith. Faith is the stickler point for me. Darwin said, "...this whole question of Creation is too profound for human intellect." Then he followed up with, "Let each man hope and believe what he can." Seems like he left "belief" up to the individual.

To believe or have faith that there was some "creator" responsible for the Big Bang and life on Earth is understandable and maybe even plausible. However, to also believe that this "creator" is interested in our morals and day to day activities, demands that we worship and praise him, and wants us to accept 2000 year old writings as his word and commandments for how we are to do these things just seems (forgive me) absolutely ridiculous.

I am of the mind that just because I don't have all the answers to the questions of "life the universe and everything," it doesn't mean that I fill in all of those unanswered questions with "God did it." Today's scientists, through experimentation, study, and peer review, have managed to answer many questions that were unanswerable in Darwin's day. So I still hold out hope that we will someday have those answers we seek, although it most likely won't be in my lifetime.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Colin McGinn "Why I am an Atheist"

It wasn't until I saw him on Johnathan Miller's BBC series "Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief" (which someone was kind enough to post on the internet) that I knew who Philosopher Colin McGinn was. Just recently, I decided to look him up on Google and find out a little more about him. I was very happy to find a blog post of his entitled "Why I am an Atheist."

It's somewhat of a lengthy read for a blog post, and his first few paragraphs threw me back a little, because his definition of what an Atheist "believes" VS. what he or she "knows" seemed at first glance to be contrary to my way of thinking. I persevered however and am grateful that I didn't let this one issue stop me from reading the rest of what he had written. Thanks to Mr. McGinn, I now have more to think about, or perhaps less. ;-)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I Atheist

This was originally written on a Facebook note in August, 2009. I didn't want it to get "buried" there, so I have "resurrected" it here with a little editing. Enjoy.

I Atheist
by Mike Haynes on Friday, August 21, 2009 at 12:03am
A recent FB conversation about faith with a good friend and other Atheist related topics I have encountered today have prompted me to think, and write.

First a couple of definitions:

1. the belief in one God as the creator and ruler of the universe, without rejection of revelation (distinguished from deism).
2. belief in the existence of a god or gods (opposed to atheism).

1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

So, a Theist is one who believes in the existence of a god or gods, and an Atheist is one who does not. There is no reference to science or religion. Note the use of the words "belief" and "disbelief" in both definitions. No other verb or activity is defined.

Clearly we can see that "theism" by definition covers any religious belief that includes a creator/ruler or god and any individual or group deistic philosophy. So a statement of the form, "All theists think/believe/say/assert/worship " could be refuted by many people who consider themselves to be theists.

Likewise, a blanket statement of the form, "All atheists think/believe/say/assert/worship " could be refuted by many people who consider themselves to be atheists.

You will find many Atheists who disagree with other Atheists. Contrary to popular stereotypes, some Atheists are Pro-life, some are politically Conservative, some have very high morals while others lead a life as decadent as possible. You can't pin us down with a single ideology very easily. All you can say is that we don't believe in a god. I am not writing this to "convert" anyone to "Atheism." I simply want my voice to be heard.

I am an Atheist. I believe there is no god and no afterlife. Note that I am not making an assertion of knowledge here. I am not saying, "There is absolutely no god." Nor am I saying that I "hate" any god or any others who may believe in a god. I am not a Satanist. Satanism would fall under the blanket term of theist since a Satanist would be viewing Satan as a "supreme being".

I have been told there is a god. I have seen no measurable evidence and have had no personal experience to support this statement as true. It does not seem plausible to me, and thus I do not believe it. That is all. The possibility exists that tomorrow I may change my mind for some reason, but I doubt that will happen.

I have been told that my disbelief in a god is a form of blind faith, something I ranted about earlier concerning Fundamental Christians. In the strictest sense, it may be true that my non-belief may require some faith, but here's my take on that idea:

I have faith that I'm going to enjoy my next cup of coffee. I have faith that the sun will appear over the eastern horizon tomorrow morning. This is supported by inductive reasoning. Past experiences of these events do not guarantee 100% that the next occurrences will be the same as before, but I believe it's a safe bet. I have faith in this respect.

However, if every day of my life, someone walks up and tells me that invisible pink giraffes orbit Pluto and they can't be detected by any means we know of, I will not believe it. If I was also told that these invisible pink giraffes created us, the universe and everything in it. I would not believe it.

Suppose that someone wrote a book a long time ago about how invisible pink giraffes orbited Pluto, and that they could be detected at one time, but now choose not to be...that they know my every move and can read my mind...that I can thusly communicate to them telepathically and they will grant my wishes, but only if they want to and only if I send a sincere enough telepathic message. Oh yes, and more importantly, I need to give a percentage of my income to a special invisible pink giraffe messager who would make sure that the money was put to use in a way that the invisible pink giraffes see fit. Would my non-belief still be regarded as faith in the traditional sense?

As absurd as my above example sounds, I could never in the strictest sense assert that it is 100% false. The faith required to believe it is 100% false could hardly be considered "blind faith" however.

I do not believe that science has all the answers. I believe science is a good methodology to use in order to understand our world. Science will retrace it's steps and correct and/or improve itself as new information comes along. Newton's Theories on Gravity worked fine in his day. Einstein's Theory of Relativity improved upon Newton's theories so they would work at velocities near the speed of light. Einstein actually acknowledged one of his own "blunders" and publicly admitted it. It is this type of self-evaluation and correction that has given us the modern technologies we enjoy today. Science does not have all the answers, but it is continually striving to unravel the mysteries of this universe we live in using proven methods that can be backed by empirical evidence and sound logic. Belief in the Scientific Method does not require blind faith.

I don't care if someone else believes in a god or gods (or invisible pink giraffes). It doesn't concern me. So why do I bother stating that I am a non-believer? Why is it so damned important to me? It is because there are people in the world who are willing to kill themselves and others for their god. Their are those who believe their government should enforce their religion and teach it in their public schools. Their are those who would warp the scientific method to include a "god" factor in their calculations. There are those who would have children believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

So? What religion should our government enforce? What denomination of that religion? Should the space shuttle be prayed over by technicians, or should they actually do the calculations and work necessary to make sure it gets off the ground? What about your surgeon? Should he/she remove your kidney stones with prayer or with sound, scientific, medical knowledge? These are of course extremely silly examples, but hopefully you get the idea I'm driving at.

This is why I wear the label of "Atheist."

This is why I speak out.

This is why I will not "get over it."

This is why I will not shut up and go away.

- Mike Haynes


American Psychological Association (APA):
theism. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved August 20, 2009, from website:
Chicago Manual Style (CMS):
theism. Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: August 20, 2009).
Modern Language Association (MLA):
"theism." Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 20 Aug. 2009. .
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE):, "theism," in Unabridged (v 1.1). Source location: Random House, Inc. Available: Accessed: August 20, 2009.
BibTeX Bibliography Style (BibTeX)
@article {Dictionary.com2009,
title = { Unabridged (v 1.1)},
month = {Aug},
day = {20},
year = {2009},
url = {},

American Psychological Association (APA):
atheism. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved August 20, 2009, from website:
Chicago Manual Style (CMS):
atheism. Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: August 20, 2009).
Modern Language Association (MLA):
"atheism." Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 20 Aug. 2009. .
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE):, "atheism," in Unabridged (v 1.1). Source location: Random House, Inc. Available: Accessed: August 20, 2009.
BibTeX Bibliography Style (BibTeX)
@article {Dictionary.com2009,
title = { Unabridged (v 1.1)},
month = {Aug},
day = {20},
year = {2009},
url = {},

Einstein, Newton, Gravity, and Light

Einstein's Blunder

Young Earth Creationism