Ten Reasons Not to Believe in God September 17, 2008

Ten Reasons Not to Believe in God

We all have our reasons for not being religious.

Hell, most of us just have one: It is unreasonable to think a god exists.

Greta Christina has compiled her personal list of 10 reasons she doesn’t believe in God. While she goes into more depth for each of them, here’s a brief rundown of her list:

  1. The consistent replacement of supernatural explanations of the world with natural ones.
  2. The inconsistency of world religions.
  3. The weakness of religious arguments, explanations, and apologetics.
  4. The increasing diminishment of God.
  5. The fact that religion runs in families.
  6. The physical causes of everything we think of as the soul.
  7. The complete failure of any sort of supernatural phenomenon to stand up to rigorous testing.
  8. The slipperiness of religious and spiritual beliefs.
  9. The failure of religion to improve or clarify over time.
  10. The complete and utter lack of solid evidence for God’s existence.

Are there any that should be removed from her list?

Are there any you would add to it?

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  • Raghu Mani

    As far as I am concerned, #10 is all that you need. Everything else on that list is an argument against this or that religion or religious philosophy – not against the notion of God itself. #10 is the only one that matters.


  • With respect to #10, I would say that not only is there no solid evidence for any god(s) existence, there is no evidence period.

  • Dan

    I think number 5 is a little weak. Reading Greta’s blog made me understand where she was coming from a bit more, but I still think that one’s a little weak. Especially if you’re trying to present a good case. Inheritance isn’t really a reason not to believe, at least in my opinion.

    Besides that I think the list is pretty good, especially numbers 1 and 4. I always thought those were the best ones.

  • Papa John

    I’m an Athiest. There. Okay?

    10 is one that I think needs to be removed, or at least marked. Religion works on faith. As Douglas Adams says, “Prove faith, and God ceases to exist.” You can’t prove or disprove God, it’s just opinion.

  • justin jm

    I think the best ones are #8, #1 and #2. Number 10 depends on what you mean by “solid” evidence, but it sounds good as well.

  • 11. The arrogance of religions to believe that they know the answer to so many questions, without the need for any evidence.

    12. The assumption that because I don’t believe in God there must be something wrong with me. (instead of them!)

    13. The attitude that faith, believing in something without any evidence, is a virtue while skepticism is a problem.

    Dan — I think what she’s getting at with #5 is that if religious preference runs in families that’s more indicative of it being based on indoctrination and unbringing than being based on fact and evidence.

  • 11. The very fact that a belief in god is so binding- there are prayers to pray, rituals to observe, things to abstain from- it takes away the joy out of life.

  • 12. The fact that religousness is proportional to idiocy- the more religious you are the more stupid you are likely to be.

  • God told me not to.

  • Jen

    I think number five is great- I recently had a discussion along that line with my Catholic friend, who thinks she had a choice in the matter. Well, sort of, kind of, maybe- but don’t you think its a little bit strange you have the same religion as your family going back generations? Is it that your family is smart, or that they are EuroAmericans from countries that have been that religion for thousands of years?

  • “In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time someting like that happened in politics or religion.”
    –Carl Sagan.

  • Vincent

    Just reading the list and not the blog, I fail to see a distinction between 1 and 4 so I must be missing something.

    I agree 10 is all you really need, but if you were to add another I’d say the real, measurable harm caused by believing in a God.

  • Beowulff

    11. The fact that there is little to no consensus among religions. Even within the same religion we’ve seen schism after schism after schism.

    12. Yet each and every group thinks that they have it right, and all the others are wrong. Conclusion: they’re probably all wrong.

  • First off, I’m a Christian. I was intrigued by this post and wanted to share some thoughts.

    #1 seems weak to me because if the supernatural were true, and was actually doing things most people assume to be merely natural, then it would be okay for people to speak this way. So, I don’t believe this reason really gets at the truth claim of God.

    #2 doesn’t really make sense for not believing in God. World religions are supposed to be inconsistent between one another. Unless of course, she really means that the major world religions are inconsistent within themselves. That’s a better reason.

    I agree with Dan that #5 doesn’t really matter. Everything runs in families. The truth of a claim shouldn’t be questioned merely because one generation passes on a belief to another.

    #7 also doesn’t make sense. She is basically stating that supernatural phenomena has not stood up to the rigorous testing by natural means.

  • valhar2000

    Raghu Mani Says:

    As far as I am concerned, #10 is all that you need. Everything else on that list is an argument against this or that religion or religious philosophy – not against the notion of God itself. #10 is the only one that matters.

    Not really. The other articles argue not against “this or that religion or philosophy”, but rather against large sets of them. And if you combine them, they demolish very large sets of belief systems, nearly all of them in fact.

    It is true that the last one supercedes all of them, and is enough by itself, but the others are nothing to scoff at.

    Some of the arguments that have shown up in comments, though, do suffer form this a little more.

    The problem of evil, for example, is non-existent in most of the world’s religions (although, since the major religions do have it, it’s possible that it affects most believers), but other things like the nastiness or arrogance of believers have precisely zero relevance to the truth of falsehood of their beliefs.

  • Tim Bob

    #11 The bible mentions unicorns but forgets about Dinosaurs… WTF is that about?

  • Wes

    That’s a good list. There are a few things I’d add to it:

    Even though religions are mutually incompatible, they all use exactly the same (bad) arguments to justify their beliefs.
    No matter what the superstition—Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Astrology, Scientology–you find people “justifying” believing them with precisely the same arguments. They’ll use the “science isn’t the only way of knowing” line, the “it’s an emotional truth, not a physical truth” line, the “there must be something more” line, the “everyone has their own worldview, and [superstition] is mine” line, etc etc etc. Arguments which can “prove” anything—even two completely contradictory things—prove nothing. And no one has ever produced a solid argument for any superstitious belief which couldn’t easily be used to “justify” any other (even contradictory) superstitious belief.

    Claiming that an all-knowing, all-loving, completely infallible God would create the whole physical universe, but then leave not a shred of evidence of himself in it (and in fact arrange the universe such that the study of it can only be done if you leave him out of the hypothesis), but then demand that everyone believe in Him no matter what, is a contradiction.
    Think of all the violent disputes that could easily be resolved if God had just left us some objective, tangible evidence of who he is and what he wants for us. But, instead, belief in him must be based entirely on personal, subjective emotions and local traditions, meaning that any disputes about him are completely irresolvable. And yet he made this irresolvable belief central to our existence, and our eternal life. To claim that such a being is omnibenevolent and perfect is ridiculous. (Of course, this objection only applies to religions that are faith-centered and worship an all-powerful creator-god).

  • Number seven was enough for me.

  • Lynx

    number 10 is the most important. Number 9 should be removed, as just because a dogma becomes more internally consistent or is able to better itself, does not make it’s base assumption (the existence of a god) any more credible.

  • Indriel

    Question about number 7:

    The complete failure of any sort of supernatural phenomenon to stand up to rigorous testing.

    Guys, I know most atheists believe this, but where are you getting this information? Who’s telling this to you?

  • Hi. Just a few thoughts to the numbers as they go..

    1. I consider a deity as natural as anything. The supernatural term is kind of.. misused to everything from spooky gipsy curses to abyss mysticism of ancient persia. I consider there is not such big a difference between discovery and invention as many wish to be, in this mankind is arrogant indeed, in my eyes.
    2. Inconsistency is what you make of it. If you know what you believe in, feel what to do and how to live, you have your own religion, sort of. And you don’t, once you discover the rules not to be rules. Laws not to be laws.
    3. Strength of Arguments is good for discussion, debates, etc. But what will you do if no argument can convince you no matter what the strentgh? What else can you do than giving in to what you feel is the right path for you? Reducing this kind of issue to strength of argument is like looking at a painting of da vinci strictly geometrically. It is possible, you can learn from it, but there is something you miss in the end.
    4. Again, it depends whom you ask. I have time and again faced spiritual poverty in todays society, people with questions no science and no book could answer. A soul feels an urge to understand what is beyond the world we can perceive only bodily, or at least what is possible.
    5. Have seen it, but not too often here. Psychological manipulation on family base I dislike. But as a reason not to believe? Nah.
    6. *smile* I like this one. In a world that is strictly physical, tell me, what other reason is there allowed to be? 😛
    7. Hm, this is interesting. What do you think happens if someone is a sceptic and tries something while expecting it not to work? 😉 And now turn it the other way round. 😀
    8. Nothing to say to this one.
    9. It depends on what kind of religion and religious practice you look at. Many heathen traditions would have done quite good at many things if christianity had not bruted them away.
    10. I prefer not to reduce everything to one reality and evidence only. It’s just limitating. Of course everyone can explain the arguments away by science or tear them apart with the “not yet researched” sticker, but you know what? I do not care. I still believe. 🙂 In as many gods as I want to. In as many pantheons I wish to find out about. I can choose. Maybe even more freely as a lot of people in the non-theist world can choose in their mental constructions of how the world works. Seen it often enough.

    Art can contradict science. And if art can, what else can? Think about it.

    Best regards, Arnoc

  • Philosopher Jeff

    Religion is a social phenomena, kinda like the clap.

  • Tim Bob

    here’s a general question guys and gals, have any of you tried to think dircetly about non-existence? you know, tried to imagine death and how you’d just simply dissapear? Nothing, it’s hard hahha it hurts my head. IDK if i’m a small percentage of people that try this or if anyone else out there has tried to think about it as well. If i’m actually part of a larger group that has pondered how one’s consciousness is no more it’s a little easier to understand why others rely on religion it’s the only thing out there that offers a conceiveable explanation to what happends to your consciousness after death. Of course i completely believe it just flat out ends… but it’s completely unimaginable. perhaps thats why it’s easy to not live your life like it may be the last day of your life even though you know it could be…. or maybe im just an idiot <—- totally possible hahha

  • Indriel

    have any of you tried to think dircetly about non-existence? you know, tried to imagine death and how you’d just simply dissapear?

    Do it people! That’s how I got my faith back!

  • Tim Bob

    ummm it doesnt make you get your faith back. its funny that people always say atheists are always trying to convince you of something and yet there you go with that crap.

  • Indriel

    Tim Bob,

    Just to inform you I am not a Christian. I am a former Christian who became an atheist then faced up to what you’re saying and made peace with it.

    Have you tried imagining how you’ll simply disappear then deciding “Well, so what, at least I won’t be bored.” Then letting it go.

    Try it sometime time. And if you’ve already done so, I commend you. Yes, it’s hard but it’s so nice to let go of your fear of death, you know what I mean?

    In my case I was able to relax enough to start thinking in a way that most Christians and atheists are not accustomed to. That’s what helped me get my faith back. I never went back to being a Christian, but I did regain my faith in the afterlife.

    Tim Bob, please understand I’m not trying to discredit you or anything. We’re all different people and what works for me might not work for you or another atheist. It’s just what worked for me.

  • “We’re all different people and what works for me might not work for you …”

    I think thats what many do not get, while looking around. They try to work on a base that works for all, but on a thing like faith, something so personal, it just feels wrong to me.

    Proof is limited, because truth is, I guess. There is no absolute in the relative, so why bother looking? Yet again some seek it as if it was an enlightment of some sort. Maybe out of fear, in need of at least something that is kind of stable.

    Again, just thoughts. 😉

  • Tim Bob

    IDk im a huge nerd, im never really looking for any stability. What i dont get is that you’re an athiest that believes in the afterlife?? i dont understand that, how does that work..? and im not trying to bash you i really dont understand what you mean by that.. im a huge information gatherer i mean i write research papers for friends for college just because i like info. I tell em its cause im a good friend and iwanna relieve them from stress hahha but the reality is, i just like knowing things. that’s how the thinking about death thing comes in. the first time i tried it was a huge challenge not emotionally just strictly the strain on the brain and confusion. and ARNOC, what are people “seeking” as if it werer a form of enlightenment? what are you talking about? “truth”? a truth is only as good as it’s evidence “proof” doesnt have to be limited if people would just be open to the idea that there may be proof out there. the problem is people get so closed minded that they refuse to even look.
    Just thoughts

  • Indriel

    I’m not really an atheist anymore unless your definition of atheist is someone who does not believe in a personal God. God is not personal from my point of view. I guess you could call me a panentheist.

    I just look at the world differently. To me, a computer doesn’t just evolve out of the forest. You need someone to think it up and then create it. A human being is infinitely more complicated than a computer. So the idea that there’s no one outside of the natural world is just ridiculous to me.

    Skeptics often say when you see something that’s not there you’re having a hallucination but how do you know you’re not having a hallucination right now? How do you know that this world isn’t a hallucination? That’s just how my mind works.

    Also, I’ve done research. That’s why I asked that question about number 7. Complete failure of any supernatural phenomenon to stand up to rigorous testing? Are you kidding me?!!! I have found so much evidence that suggests the contrary. For an example please go to http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org for thorough, exhaustively researched supernatural testing done by highly respected scientists.

  • Piotr

    Religion does not touch reality. There are beliefs which construct our reality – like these Kantian space, time, causality, and all our belief (or perspective) in laws of nature – these are useful. But religion is idle… nothing follows from it! “How to achieve eternal happiness”: damn, this is a good hypnotic…

    Religion does not touch reality. You can’t say something is God, or something is not. If you ever thought you’d achieved “another world”, you’d still be unable to say “this is God” and “this is not God”. That’s because there’s an infinite abyss between theological concepts and actuality. And therefore, religion is only an INTERPRETATION, a PERSPECTIVE, a way of thinking (or even a way of talking, of using language) — it is not true or false in itself… Look, reality is only about actions & events: and hell lot of religion is about arbitrary assignments of SUBJECTS, grammatical subjects (“me”, “God”, “devil”) to actions: that is something just superfluous… They don’t know the real cause, so they use — as a habit — first thing that comes to mind, “God”… But this is nothing real, this is only grammatics.

    However, if you have good definitions of being and non-being, you could argue that all attributes of God (perfection, invariability, omniscience, omnipotence, his will is always fulfilled, non-physical, “pure spirit”, infinite, non-temporal, non-spacial…) are attributes of non-being. This is how we define non-being, *nothingness*…

    The Creator and the moral God (i.e. the one that wants good and not evil) can be overthrown in the same way, i.e. if one thing was otherwise, everything would have to be otherwise (interconnection of things). Therefore, there is no place for God’s estetic patchwork. The probability that there is a Creator is like the probability that a number 428379491872349812 (place 10^120 further digits) is an integer power with (big exponent) of an integer (which here represent the laws of nature). Which is to say, it is astronomically unprobable.

    Morality is another thing. One can argue morality is true or false, if only one has good definitions of “truth” and “lie”. Here are mine: truth = something that strengthens you, something useful to the one who hears it. Lie = pernicious fiction.

    Finally, there is no God who wants you to change the laws of nature; and no God wants you to change your destiny (because it’s impossible by definition). There is no “will of Father” that man would serve, no supernatural aim or target. If there was an aim in life, as an essence of life, it would just be achieved (and not slowly, through stupid cause & effect). But the world has no aims, it is just stupid cause & effect, that’s why it takes time and effort to achieve a goal.

  • Piotr

    Oh man, don’t compromise yourself with “world is designed” argument… This is plain cause & effect mismatch… 15 milliards years ago the world wasn’t that organised, you know. First there is something simple, most rudimentary rules, then there is evolution. If you say order proves God, then I say the opposite: order (and especially its strongest form, determinism) suggests that there is no God…

    I’ve just shown how unprobable it is that world (along with our species, our minds, our faiths and languages) was created with plan; look, the plan isn’t arbitrary, if anything in this was otherwise, everything would have to be otherwise (this is the work of laws of nature)… If you change one element, everything changes… so you cannot really “choose” how the world would look like. As a Creator you wouldn’t be free to create what you want, enclosing it at the same time in laws of nature so simple and repeatable as they are.

    Imagine you are to write a book in such matter: you choose first two letters, and a mechanism, a table of transitions, which assigns every pair of letters another three letters they’re transformed to. So you choose simple starting conditions, and the rest will follow. Would you be able to achieve Shakespeare’s drammas in such way? Or, better, a theological book reflecting yourself?

    People say e.g. “if there was no water on earth” etc. There are indeed millions of planets without water. Plus, it is not said that there is no life on them. There can be another life… based on other substances. And such beings would say: “oh, if there were no these other substances here, we wouldn’t exist!”. You keep confusing cause and effect. First there is water, then something tries to appear according to the circumstances already achieved here. We are the result, and not the reason, of why our planet is organised so-and-so.

  • alec orewiler

    your top ten ways are nothing but your own thoughts and forwhich more then half are wrong, i take that back, all are wrong. i will answer them according to the question numbers.

    1. the supernatural occurances are those that have been done by god, we would not have supernatural occurances with out god.

    2. the inconsistency of the world religons can be explained by common sense. One religon was started and due to what different people thought of that were good ways to teach or tell about the religion it was changed as time went on. and most religions are based off of judaism, and they are different due to different interpretations and thoughtsof to be right, but when it comes down to it, you basic belliefs are the same.

    3. there is no weak religious arguement, we have science and our religion on our side if you were so ignoraunt, you would realize that, or maybe go talk to a pastor, someone who knows alot about the topic.

    4. the beliefe of god in the science world is acutally increasing because of new findings that have made the big bang, abiogenisis, and evolution less probable and now have lack of support, and which god is gaining support, its called thermodynammics

    5. this has nothing to do with it, atheisism runs in families too, if your brought up that way your going to believe that way until someone proves you otherwise.

    6. who knows what your talking about, your soul belongs to god, and he decides whether you will go to heaven or hell

    7. you cant test something thats supernatural because god made it happen, so therefore god can explain it and science can’t

    8.again different perspectives, but same basic belief

    9. christianity has improved and been clarified over time, duh, do some research.

    10. we have more proof then you do, so to spout something like that only shows your ignorance. cell mutatuin proves god, thermodynamics proves god, the big bang proves god, i can go on and on about how many one thought ways to support evolution now support god due to the lack of evidence for evolution and the lack of understanding you your own thoery.

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