What Facts Should Every Atheist Know? September 5, 2011

What Facts Should Every Atheist Know?

Remember how there was a PDF making the rounds recently called “100 Facts Every Atheist Teen Must Know“?

There was some interesting information in there, but a lot of it was unnecessary and irrelevant.

So, with your help, I want to compile a better list.

What are the most important facts atheists should know? (Not just teenagers, either. This is for anyone.)

One example could be: “The phrase ‘Under God’ was not added to the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954.”

Make your suggestions in the comments (with explanations if possible) and let’s see if a better list emerges. Feel free to “Like” a comment you think is particularly noteworthy.

I’ll even sweeten the pot. Anyone who comments with a suggestion will be entered in a random drawing to win a “God Hates Bags” tote from Revel & Riot, the awesome LGBT resource site and merchandise store. (International readers are eligible to win as well!)

(Thanks to Sarah at Revel & Riot for the giveaway!)

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  • Spnkrocket

    Atheism is not a sin

  • Greg

    A couple of things come to mind about this…

    First off: there’s nothing ‘every atheist should know’, really. Some atheists don’t care about theism and gods and all the rest of it, and they’re perfectly entitled to that. I don’t like it when we as atheists seem to try to pressurise other atheists into doing things that they are either not comfortable doing, or else utterly uninterested in… it reminds me of religion.

    Secondly, anything about American history (e.g. Church and State Separation) is pretty much irrelevant to non-US Americans.

    Maybe it should be ‘important facts about American atheism’, or something like that?

  • Pollracker

    I think a good thing for atheist to know is the flaw of pascals wager. The fact that it works only if you have two choices but when you suggest another spirtual belief into the mix it fails to work because there are more than two options

  • Gwen

    In 1636, Roger Williams, after being banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony
    for his religious views, settled at the tip of Narragansett Bay, on
    land granted to him by the Narragansett tribe. He called the site “Providence” and declared it a place of religious freedom.

  • The earth is about 4.5 billion years old and the universe is about 14 billion years old.

  • Shawnee Rios

    The government of the United States was in no way founded on the christian religion

  • Possibly something of a timeline with the various gods and in what era they made their debut and how long their reign was. Maybe thats something for another book entirely.

  • Don’t let the faithful get away with their old ploy about, “Atheism is just another faith.” No, it isn’t. In fact, this is a trivially false logical fallacy. What they’re trying to say is, “A = not A”.  Faith is by definition not requiring evidence. How can atheism, a world view that requires evidence, be faith, then? It’s that simple.

    Just because they made something up out of thin air and you don’t believe it, doesn’t imply that you must have made up something out of thin air, too. They’re trying to move the game into their ballpark, where there are no facts, just rhetoric and double-talk.

  • Karen

    The Earth is not a “closed system” and, therefore, does not tend towards decay and entropy.
    The Christians claim that the second law of thermodynamics proves that evolution could not have happened.
    The second law of thermodynamics states, informally defined:  commonly known as the Law of
    Increased Entropy, while quantity remains the same (First Law), the
    quality of matter/energy deteriorates gradually over time.This refers to a CLOSED system.  The earth is an open system, receiving massive amounts of heat and energy every day from our sun.Is our UNIVERSE a closed system and tending toward decay and entropy?  I have not idea!

  • Buzz Aldrin took Communion on the Moon.

  • Karen

    The Earth is not a “closed system” and, therefore, does not tend towards decay and entropy.
    The Christians claim that the second law of thermodynamics proves that evolution could not have happened.

    The second law of thermodynamics states, informally defined:  commonly known as the Law of Increased Entropy, while quantity remains the same (First Law), the
    of matter/energy deteriorates gradually over time, gradually moving from order toward disorder,

    This refers to a
    CLOSED system.  The earth is an open system, receiving massive amounts
    of heat and energy every day from our sun.

    Is our UNIVERSE a closed
    system and tending toward decay and entropy?  I have no idea!

  • Scrmonster90

    Must be why I LOVE IT SO!

  • Burden of proof: The person making an assertion must furnish evidence to support said assertion.

  • Lucky you if you never get attacked by religious over your atheism.  But for those of us in the USA, it’s virtually impossible not to be subject to this BS.  The proposal is for a toolkit to be able to handle it with less stress.

  • Tamhunter

    It is ok to vote for an Atheist

  • The critical role of falsifiability in evaluating any claim.

    Occam’s Razor

  • The critical role of falsifiability in evaluating any claim.

    Occam’s Razor

  • Grady

    Fact…EVERY Offically Atheistic Government has, as a matter of state policy, imprisoned, tortured, and murdered Christians.

    Yep, that’s a fact.

    Its out there.

    The people in the churches are learning this again.

    You can’t stop it. 

  • FeepingCreaturism

    Atheists are not defective people and atheism does not correlate with lack of morals or criminial behavior.

  • There is no such thing as a “sin”

  • There is no such thing as a “sin”

  • Across the world in the 21st Century, 1000s of gods are worshiped, and 1000s of religions are practiced. All religions are minority religions; whatever a person’s religious beliefs, most religious people in the world have contradictory beliefs.

  • Here’s one: Concepts which require a heaven are a flat earth idea, i.e., the rapture, bodily ascension, the assumption of Mary, etc. How does someone go to heaven from the South Pole? We could also possibly throw in the story of Mohammed supposedly riding his horse into heaven (for Muslims).

    (I have always loved throwing that one out there whenever I encounter street preachers, especially the youth group kind, on the sidewalk. I never get a straight answer.)
    It should also be noted that the Catholic Church, during the Middle Ages, specifically used heaven to push the idea of geocentrism and deny heliocentrism. Those passages were used to “prove” Galileo wrong.

  • Grady

    Then you can’t blame Christianity for the many crimes of the government of the United States.

  • Everyone should know about the Recurrent laryngeal nerve, and how it is an evidence for evolution; 

    “The nerve’s route would have been direct in the fish-like ancestors of modern tetrapods, traveling from the brain, past the heart, to the gills (as it does in modern fish). Over the course of evolution, as the neck extended and the heart became lower in the body, the laryngeal nerve was caught on the wrong side of the heart. Natural selection gradually lengthened the nerve by tiny increments to accommodate, resulting in the absurdly circuitous route now observed, which, if designed, could only be described as unintelligent.Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recurrent_laryngeal_nerve

  • More bullshit. Easily- and repeatedly-refuted bullshit, too; not least among the refutations being that the US government was founded using a system of rules that specifically avoided endorsing any religion and is thus the first secular democracy in the world – the closest thing to an ‘atheistic government’ that’s ever existed. It is clearly not imprisoning, torturing and murdering Christians. It’s doing it to Muslims, because of the Christians in its ranks making a big parochial us-versus-them fuss.

  • Grady

    How about opposing abortion?  

    Isn’t it a sin to oppose one of the Atheist Sacrements? LOL!

  • Grady

    How about opposing abortion?  

    Isn’t it a sin to oppose one of the Atheist Sacrements? LOL!

  • About 63% of all conceptions are aborted naturally. If there is a god that runs the universe, that god is by far the most prolific abortionist there will ever be.

  • Grady

      I will never submit to rule by atheists.

  • Mary2

    Believing evolution is just a theory is like believing gravity is just a theory.

    There ARE transitional fossils: try Google.

    If evolution is not true, then why does everything we have learnt from sequencing DNA about how closely related different animals are, exactly match what we previously learnt from studying fossils?

  • Grady

    It does correlate with a State Policy, exhibited by Officially Atheistic Governments, of torture and murder of Believers.

    Yep.  That’s  a fact.

    Its out there.

    You can’t hide it anymore…the people in the churches had forgotten, but the word is spreading again, and we have agressive atheism to thank for that.


  • Rabid

    There’s no sin in opposing something that doesn’t exist.

    Works as well for these “atheist sacrements” of yours as it does for Jehovah the Maniacal.

    The crushing irony is that for many atheists and skeptics, the closest thing you’re going to find to a “sacrament” is likely to be freedom of speech… something completely at odds with any notion of it being a “sin” to “oppose” any particular point of view.

  • David McNerney

    Atheism is the rejection of claims about the existence gods – this is not a positive claim.

    Denial of the existence of gods is a positive claim and is called strong atheism and is a subset of atheism.

  • Rabid

    The intentions of the founders of a government have nothing to do with the actions of those  acting on it’s behalf today.

    Of course you can blame Christians for something if the power and influence of government is controlled BY a Christian majority pandering TO a Christian majority and enacting Christian agenda.

    How something is BEING used has nothing to do with how it is INTENDED to be used.

  • Tuibguy

    A  sacrament?  Were you born a troll or did you have to study?

  • Anonymous

    Atheism is not “the positive assertion that there definitely is no God”:  Atheism is the default nonbelief in the existence of gods in the absence of evidence for them. Nonbelief in any positive claim does not require evidence against it if no evidence exists in its favor i.e I don’t need evidence against fairies to say they don’t exist if no evidence is available to show that they do.

    Atheism does not automatically grant rationalism: You can be an atheist and believe in all manner of unsupported claims: homeopathy, crystal healing, vaccine-autism “link”, alien abductions etc. If your rationalism ends at religious claims, you’re doing it wrong.

    Atheism is not evolution and vice-versa: You don’t have to be an atheist to accept the scientific fact of evolution. Likewise, atheism is a position that can be taken without the knowledge of evolution. Atheists existed and had rational reasons for their position before and after Darwin.

    There are concrete definitions for the words “evidence” and “scientific theory”: Evidence is not just “what sounds right” and a “theory” in science is an extremely well supported position that is has ample evidence and little relation to the popular definition of theory, which is more of a “guess” and in science would be more properly defined as a “hypothesis” (though not all guesses can even be called hypothesis either). When you hear “It’s just a theory, not a fact” with regards to some aspect of science, you know you are dealing with someone who understands almost nothing about actual science. Don’t be that person.

    There is no evidence that supernatural beliefs are required for ethical behavior: When someone says “You can’t be good without God”, ask for their evidence. Once they’ve stopped saying “Hitler was an atheist” ask if vegetarianism leads to genocide (Hitler was a vegetarian). Then ask them if they have any evidence that a lack of belief  causes less moral behavior. Do nonbelievers have higher incarceration rates (they have lower ones)? Do democracies with high rates of nonbelief have higher crime rates and less social wellbeing (the opposite is true)? Can they provide any scientific evidence to back up their claim?

  • Apolymathman

    See how Shawnee used the word ‘founded’? Skipping words when you read is generally a bad idea.

  • Grady

    Another atheist lie. And a stupid one, about definitions, at that.  Easily Exposed.

    Secular does not equal “atheistic”.  Are you really that stupid?  The US government was founded on not just avoiding endorsing any religion but on avoiding the passing of “any laws prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.

    Which is the opposite of what Officially Atheistic Governments have done.

    And they killed MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of Christians  . 

    You can’t hide it.

    You can’t run from it.

    Its out there, and the people in the churches are going to REMEMBER.

  • Grady

    Abortion does not exist?

    O.K.  Then lets just call it MURDER.

  • Also, if an omniscient, “omnibenevolent” (this can be debated, though some might agree) being made an atheist, then they’d know why he/she doesn’t believe and would respect their creation. Check out “Atheists…what if you’re wrong?” on YouTube. This isn’t my suggestion for the list, though; just my two cents.

  • Apolymathman

    Strictky speaking it doesn’t. DNA analysis has resulted in many, although admittedly usually relatively minor, changes to our understanding of evolutionary history.

  • This is a good one for *everyone*, not just atheists.

    The greatest catch-22 in life is this:

    1) Being right feels good.

    2) Finding out you have been wrong feels bad.

    3) Being wrong and remaining ignorant of the fact feels indistinguishable from being right.

    If 2) and 3) were switched around the other way this world would be a much better place.

    So question everything. Don’t be to hard on yourself when you realize you were wrong about something – in fact, try to learn to feel good about such realizations. That’s what learning feels like.

  • This is a good one for *everyone*, not just atheists.

    The greatest catch-22 in life is this:

    1) Being right feels good.

    2) Finding out you have been wrong feels bad.

    3) Being wrong and remaining ignorant of the fact feels indistinguishable from being right.

    If 2) and 3) were switched around the other way this world would be a much better place.

    So question everything. Don’t be to hard on yourself when you realize you were wrong about something – in fact, try to learn to feel good about such realizations. That’s what learning feels like.

  • Grady

    Provide evidence of your assertion.

    You MUST do this.

  • Jim

    All modern religious teachings, mythologies, and rituals borrow heavily from earlier teachings, mythologies, and rituals. For example, a Christmas tree is a symbol to remind early pagans that, despite the world looking cold, dark, and barren in the height of winter, it would soon get warmer and greener out. Jesus wasn’t the only god to die for our sins and spend three days in hell for it.

  • Jim

    All modern religious teachings, mythologies, and rituals borrow heavily from earlier teachings, mythologies, and rituals. For example, a Christmas tree is a symbol to remind early pagans that, despite the world looking cold, dark, and barren in the height of winter, it would soon get warmer and greener out. Jesus wasn’t the only god to die for our sins and spend three days in hell for it.

  • I can laugh at it, as fantasy. More accurately, as a troll. I said it before, I’ll say it again: real evangelists are far better at making Christianity look bad than you are. Leave it to the experts.

  • I can laugh at it, as fantasy. More accurately, as a troll. I said it before, I’ll say it again: real evangelists are far better at making Christianity look bad than you are. Leave it to the experts.

  • Aoplymathman

    I must admit I don’t get this. Never been comfortable with the idea at all. If I assert that there is no God is the burden of proof on me? I don’t think so. I think the burden of proof lies with the theists because from my perspective there’s nothing in my everyday experience of the world to support his thesis. He would, of course argue EXACTLY the opposite. From his perspective that’s perfectly sensible. The question is whose perspective is delusional.

  • Grady

    Atheism is  a world view?  So its not just “lack of belief in God”?

    O.K., then your world view that all existence, life, mind, and reason itself are the product of mindless forces, requires evidence.

    The problem is, you can not demonstrate that in any experimentally repeatable manner.

    And yet you believe it.  You know you do.

    Great is thy faith.

  • dartigen …

    I would guess a good start would be basic stuff about evolution, age of the universe, and age of various religions; also, note correlations between religions, omissions from editions of the Bible (and noted translation errors, copy errors, areas of possible change in writer, etc.), religious splits, basic religious history of various countries (pick some major ones, I know atheists can live in obscure areas but we can’t research every single country’s religious history), a shortlist of famous (and I mean famous, household names, not some obscure radio presenter) atheists both living and deceased, some facts about ‘atheistic’ governments/regimes (e.g. that there is no consensus among historians as to what religious beliefs Hitler held, but he was technically Catholic IIRC) and…yeah, I can’t think of much else.

    Oh! Thermodynamics. Basics of it anyway, in layman’s terms. Apparently there is some new argument that because thermodynamics doesn’t work that means all science is wrong? I remember that from somewhere.
    Also information on the difference between a scientific ‘law’, ‘theory’ and ‘hypothesis’ and other such terms.

    That’s really all I can think that anyone would need to know in order to successfully defend their position.

  • (Hitler wasn’t a vegetarian, it’s an urban myth)

  • Greg

    Awww… look everyone – a troll! Isn’t he cute!

  • Grady

    You can laugh at millions being murdered by Officially Atheistic Governments?

    The Nobel Prize Winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn proved this in his three volume series The Gulag Archipelago way back in the 1970’s.

    And the opening of the Soviet Archives in the early 90’s, detailed in The Black Book of Communism (Harvard Univerity Press) backed him up.

    Were you really unaware of this?

    Well, the facts are out there.

    You are now without excuse.

    If you are still laughing, you are dangerous.

  • Anonymous

    Or an atheist.

  • I know several atheists who oppose abortion. I disagree with their position, but they have made the decision, and they don’t try to inflict it upon me.

    Atheists don’t have sacraments. There are points that TEND to be common among atheists, but we are all individual people who make our own judgements based on evidence around us. In fact, that’s probably why so many of us agree. The evidence doesn’t change.

  • Greg

    Hence why I said it should be for people in America. Frankly, you can be an atheist over here in Europe without knowing anything, or needing to know anything, about religion whatsoever. And that kind of tells the lie for the necessity of something entitled ‘things all atheists should know’.

    But also – whilst I admit that I am not American and so am coming from a position of partial ignorance – what you are talking about is a tool kit for out/vocal atheists in America. Atheists who are not out (either because of pressures, or because they just don’t care) are not going to need this tool kit (although the not-out ones may need a different one).

    I refer you to the last (I think) ‘Ask Richard’ column, where one of the most common responses was if you aren’t interested in it, don’t feel pressured to learn all about atheism. That certainly suggests it’s possible to be American and not be armed against that BS.

  • Indeed. He was a Roman Catholic meat-eater. But even if you might argue that nominal membership doesn’t necessarily account for anything, a cursory glance at Mein Kampf will in fact reveal a book that in many ways could’ve been written by an IDer today.

  • Anonymous

    Some quick documentation appears to show that it’s a disputed issue. I’m certainly open to the idea that he wasn’t a vegetarian, especially since it’s also unclear whether he was or wasn’t an atheist. The point is showing the fallacy of “Bad person is X therefore X is bad”. For something undebatable you could substitute “Do moustaches lead to genocide?”, since that handily includes both Hitler and Stalin.

  • Anonymous

    If you make an assertion the burden of proof is on you regardless of what the assertion is.  You are free to accept claims a priori but others don’t have to.  Imagine a world where any claim were believed without any evidence until evidence to the contrary was presented.

  • “Atheism is  a world view?  So its not just “lack of belief in God”?”

    Yes it is a world view, not a particularly deep world view but it is a world view

    “O.K., then your world view that all existence, life, mind, and reason
    itself are the product of mindless forces, requires evidence.”

    Not necessarily you can not believe in god(s) and still not believe in the scientific explanation of the universe.

    “The problem is, you can not demonstrate that in any experimentally repeatable manner.”

    But neither can you, I am assuming you are a theist, prove that your god exists with experimentation. However there is scientific evidence for “mindless forces” creating all of existence there is none for “intelligent design”

    “Great is thy faith. ”

    Maybe but faith in something real is better than the delusions of goat herders from 5000 years ago.

  • Jake

    Boy are you on the wrong site.

  • Anonymous

    All fossils except those of species that ended with extinction are transitional fossils.

  • Anonymous

    No, atheism is not a world view in itself.

    The problem with your idea of theism is that it requires an intelligent creator, yet does nothing to explain how the intelligent creator was created. And it does nothing to explain why all the real evidence of the universe’s and earth’s age differs greatly from any theistic creation story. If it’s really the great sky fairy that is passing down his story, why does he/she/it get that part so wrong? If it’s a test of faith, why do the faithful believe their deity would lie to them and pretend it’s not a lie?

  • Anonymous

    Disbelief is not an assertion.

  • The Earth is over four billion years old, not the few thousand years in which biblical text has existed.

  • John Adams (2nd president of the United States), in the Treaty of Tripoli (article 11, 1797) states “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” Onward, Christian soldiers? I think not.

  • Anonymous

    1.  As Grady mentioned “secular” does not equal “atheist”.  Atheism is a lack of belief in gods.  Secular is an attitude or activity that has no religious basis.  Football, eating cake, having sex, reading a novel, these are all secular activities.  A government with a constitutionally protected separation of church and state is, by definition, secular.  Atheists tend to support secular activities and attitudes but they are not the same thing.

    2.  A separation of church and state protects the church as much as the state.  Everyone should know this and understand it.  If it weren’t the case how would most Americans feel about a state that enforced Mormonism or Catholicism on the people?

    3.  Atheism isn’t a disbelief in Jesus or God.  These are two (or one…maybe three) deities among thousands that we don’t believe in.  Atheists tend to concentrate their arguments against Christianity because we come from countries where it is the dominant religion.

  • What if I make you cookies first?

  • Anonymous

    Language gets tricky here, but yes, if you make a positive assertion you must be prepared to offer evidence in its favor, including if you positively assert there is no god.

    The thing is I have yet to meet an atheist not made of straw that makes the positive assertion there is no god (though I suppose there are probably a few). Disbelieving a positive proposition because you find evidence offered in its favor lacking is NOT the same thing as positively asserting a different view.

    This is understood to be true in all aspects of reality that are not religion. For instance, if you were to say “Elves don’t exist” you would not be accused of making a positive assertion on the nonexistence of elves that required evidence. It’s understood that it’s a statement of default nonbelief in a being with no evidence of its existence. It’s only with religion that the default nonbelief in the absence of evidence is misconstrued by believers as a positive assertion. They themselves accept nonbelief in unsupported claims as the default for everything else, but are trained to attack nonbelief in their own supernatural claims as a positive assertion as a way of protecting their faith.

  • Murder is illegal homicide.

    Abortion is a legal activity.

    Therefore, abortion is not murder.

  • Pollracker

    I got another one every atheist should know who the four horsemen are and should listen to if not see them speak once in their lifetimes

  • Pollracker

    He is on the right site patheos is a form for open discusion of religion. And america was founded by atheist aand christians and deist and humanist so you live in a country that started on atheist rule to an extant

  • Haleinva

    So, governments who claim to be atheistic have killed millions of Christians (and I’m sure non christians alike), and Christian nations have killed millions of Muslims (and others as well). I’m not sure that means anything other than people in power will do anything to stay in power.

    By the way, people in churches are going hear a lot of crap that isn’t true, and they will REMEMBER!When do I need to let you know?

  • It’s okay to say “I don’t know”.

  • Bailey

    It’s really hard not to mess with trolls’ heads online once you’re comfortable being out as an atheist. The likelihood of losing hours and hours of time to arguments increases as you become more comfortable countering the bullshit that trolls like to spout.

    It’s important to get comfortable countering bullshit, because you’re going to get a lot of it, starting from the time you open your mouth and announce that you no longer believe in a god or gods. Your family, friends, coworkers and random strangers will feel the need to tell you that you’re a) wrong b) going to hell c) evil and d) cannot possibly have morality without their deity of choice and their particular interpretation of a holy text. 

    It’s important to be able to counter claims like that, even if you’re not arguing directly with that person. Learn why you’re not wrong about being an atheist. Study metaphysics and philosophy and science. Get a good grounding in the history of the major religions and their claims and why they just don’t stack up, no matter how many times trolls and evangelicals scream that they do. Study ethics and morality and learn why a god is not only not necessary for a moral life, but actually has the potential to inhibit the development of a good ethical outlook.

    Study things that interest you in the skeptical and atheist movement. It’s not all about arguing with Muslims or Christians online. It’s also about countering pseudoscientific claims regarding vaccination, alternative therapies, astrology, UFOs, Bigfoot and other types of woo. There is someone else in the skeptical movement who shares your interests, and they probably have a blog.

    It’s okay to argue with people. It’s okay to criticize their beliefs. They’re going to tell you it’s not. They’re going to tell you you’re militant, strident and mean and that making a public criticism of faith is “atheist privilege.” They’re wrong. 

    Don’t just learn the relevant facts about evolutionary biology, cosmology, astronomy and other areas of science that creationists like to distort. Simply knowing the facts that prove creationists wrong isn’t enough, because they’re going to say you’re lying/buying into the myth/don’t know what you’re talking about. Learn how the science works, as much as you can. Get a good grasp of the scientific method. Read source materials, whenever you can get them. Study how scientific papers are written and learn about the methodologies used to perform experiments and get results. Know the process behind the facts, and then you’ll not only know the facts, but understand them.

    Find your own comfort level with how vocal you want to be and how involved you want to be with the skeptical movement. Some people just don’t believe in god, and that’s the extent of their interest. That’s fine! Some people find that they no longer believe in god and suddenly the whole world opens up and they want to tussle with theists online, read science textbooks for pleasure, study philosophy and start writing a blog all at the same time. Also fine! There is no one-size-fits all way to be an atheist. Find the style that works for you and roll with it. 

    These aren’t necessarily facts of the kind that can be used to counter claims made by theists, because a huge number of really good ones have already been posted. These are the facts of everyday life as an atheist with interest in the skeptical movement, and the things it took me a while to learn. The scientific facts are excellent. Knowing them and having them at hand is a great tool if you like to wrangle with believers. It’s equally important, to me at least, to know how to get those facts, how to confirm them and how to back them up. Get comfortable with the process of being skeptical, and go from there. 

    One last fact: atheists are cool. We’re a bunch of people with sometimes very little in common other than a lack of belief in gods, and that leads to many interesting friendships and things to learn from and teach others. 

  • Anonymous

    Have nice shiny Internet for the best advice yet.

  • I totally agree.  I try to say “I don’t believe in a God” instead of “God doesn’t exist.”  Then I am not put in the position to deal with people that try to tell me to prove it.

  • ACN

    Awwww look at the little troll ministering to the evil atheists.

  • Anonymous

    And it’s got the random capitalization thing down pat, too!

  • Jeff Johnson

    A good old one.

    We are all atheistic in nature, we just believe in one less god than the christians/muslims/jews.

  • Jeff Johnson

    A good old one.

    We are all atheistic in nature, we just believe in one less god than the christians/muslims/jews.

  • Seems like David Mabus has been resurrected

  • Anonymous

    It’s like how, if you ask a fundie in Alabama and a fundie in Australia to point to Heaven, they’ll both raise an index finger to the sky — pointing in opposite directions, of course.

  • Anonymous

    Murder is illegal homicide.

    Abortion is legal and is not homicide.

    Therefore, abortion is not murder.

  • Anonymous

    Murder is illegal homicide.

    Abortion is legal and is not homicide.

    Therefore, abortion is not murder.

  • Tort

    A proper explanation of the second law of thermodynamics. One that actually explains what the law is, why we use “order” as an analogy and when that analogy breaks down. Obviously this can’t be explained in a couple of sentences so I’m not sure it’s fit in your book/list. If you want me to to post a full explanation I can but like I said it won’t be short and I think Hemant probably already knows the concept.

    While I’m at it I’d like the same thing for quantum mechanics. I think both can be explained to a reasonable degree in maybe 500 words for the 2nd law and maybe 1000 for quantum. QM though you could break up into “Quantum physics at the macro scale”, “superposition and quantum weirdness” “Observing does not change reality, you have to interfere to observe”

    I think those are the biggest atheist misunderstandings of science but I am biased as a physicist. I might also suggest something positive, a lot of atheists get pretty angry when they realise that they’ve been lied to for so long. Some advice to help them through that might be good but I don’t know how to phrase that in a coherent and useful manner.

  • Tort

    A proper explanation of the second law of thermodynamics. One that actually explains what the law is, why we use “order” as an analogy and when that analogy breaks down. Obviously this can’t be explained in a couple of sentences so I’m not sure it’s fit in your book/list. If you want me to to post a full explanation I can but like I said it won’t be short and I think Hemant probably already knows the concept.

    While I’m at it I’d like the same thing for quantum mechanics. I think both can be explained to a reasonable degree in maybe 500 words for the 2nd law and maybe 1000 for quantum. QM though you could break up into “Quantum physics at the macro scale”, “superposition and quantum weirdness” “Observing does not change reality, you have to interfere to observe”

    I think those are the biggest atheist misunderstandings of science but I am biased as a physicist. I might also suggest something positive, a lot of atheists get pretty angry when they realise that they’ve been lied to for so long. Some advice to help them through that might be good but I don’t know how to phrase that in a coherent and useful manner.

  • Oh! Darwin… Oh! Darwin!… Oh! Darwin. Yea sex is so very secular.

  • Aoplymathman

    Nope. Still not buying it I’m afraid. The ONLY reason people don’t require evidence for the non-existence of Elves is that they already have a lifetime’s experience of not meeting Elves and being exposed to the notion that Elves are a fictional creation.

    Making a distinction between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ assertions is PURELY a matter of linguistics and perspective. They’re all assertions about the world and I see nothing that logically breaks their mutual symmetry other than personal prejudice and irrational thinking.

  • Anonymous

    The only requirement for being an atheist is to not believe in deity. This works in two ways, for one you will not have to participate in conferences or follow a specific way of life or ideals or morality to belong to this group. This also means that other people won’t have to follow your way of life or ideals or morality either.

    As a bonus, there are atheist people who are not rational people either and believe in things like Aliens impersonating every thing that was a deity in our history, for example.

  • No labels – Children must never be labeled but must be nurtured to think for themselves in order to reach their own conclusions.

  • Anonymous

    Here’s something I know with absolute clarity: Any god that set the first humans up to fail by planting the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” and a crafty talking snake in their midst and then punishes the bulk of humanity with eternal torture for not accepting his solution to the problem that he himself created, or at least knowingly allowed to happen, is not worth worshipping.

  • List suggestion item number 101:  A part of becoming an Apatheist is believing that arguing over religion is pointless.

  • Aoplymathman

    We have mountains and mountains of evidence to support or refute pretty much any claim we might come across. We constantly don’t see Elves. We constantly see how things fall downwards. We constantly don’t see the actions of deities. (Unless, of course, that’s exactly what you want to see.)

    My point here is that it seems clear that pretty much NO claim is judged without evidence and that we have oodles of everyday, commonly available evidence upon which to judge any claim placed before us. Indeed, depriving someone of access to sensory evidence is a well know psychological method of control because it renders judgement of claims well nigh impossible.

    Let me put an example to you. Suppose I claimed that I owned a shiny red shuplup. Suppose also that my wife claimed that I do not. According to this common ‘burden of proof’ trope, listeners should be biased in favour of my wife. But why? Until you know what a shuplup is, whether they can be polished, whether they’re only available in black, and whether or not they even exist, you cannot make a rational judgement about the validity of either claim. In this contrived example we have NO evidence on which to base the judgement and yet people seem to be claiming that a judgement SHOULD be made. Don’t get it.

  • quirkeegurl

    from the Blue Collar Atheist: When that ‘miracle’ survivor is pulled from the wreckage that killed
    hundreds, either 1) the all-powerful supernatural superbeing who gets
    credit for his rescue is also responsible for the event that killed the
    hundreds, or 2) there is no all-powerful supernatural superbeing to
    begin with, and it’s all just an accident. The correct answer is: 2.

  • Anonymous

    Atheists must never have their achievements undervalued because they don’t subscribe to the ideology of the theist’s sky-daddy. Some of humankind’s greatest scientists, artists, writers and actors cannot be discounted or discredited because they  believe in one god less than monotheists.

    Quote: “International readers are eligible to win as well!”

    *Ahem Ahem 🙂

  • Anonymous

    While I don’t want to derrail the thread I am curious. What is the justification for apatheism and in what sense is it related to atheism?
    If the premise of apatheism is indifference towards the topic, can’t one take that position from a belief in god as well as a nonbelief? Belief in a proposition is a different matter from the evaluation of its importance.

    Beyond that though, I wonder how the position is sustainable. There are two routes I can see for saying that “arguing over religion is pointless”

    1. Religion has no real consequences of any import in our lives. A cursory reading of the headlines will reveal this to be untrue. Religion matters whether or not you believe its true.

    2. Religion has import in our lives, but discussion of it changes nothing. I would argue that this too is demonstrably false. The rise and fall of religions, the greater or lesser grip it has on different societies, do not happen in a vacuum, and a religion that is discussed, that is required to face open criticism of its assertions is almost certainly going to have a different trajectory than one that is sheltered.

    Is there some other justification that I’m missing?

  • guest

    I like your use of random capital letters, as though that provides validity to your claims. . .

  • Subterminal

    People also have  lifetime’s experience of not meeting a God either.

  • Subterminal

    Because Christianity has been so kind to the world in the past, what with the millions of people killed during the Crusades, and the millions killed by the Third Reich and what not.

  • Subterminal

    But we have to submit to rule by believers? Yeah okay.

  • CS42

    Why are there an inordinate amount of trolls posting on this one?

    I tried the read the whole thread, but please forgive me if there’s some overlap:

    – Atheism and agnosticism are not incompatible.  One is about what you claim to believe, the other about what you claim to know.  An individual can be one or both (or neither).

    – Atheism is an adjective.  It’s not a belief system, it’s not a philosophy, it’s not a school of thought.  After the nonbelief in gods, atheists are completely disparate in their outlooks, philosophies and thinking.

  • Spwoso

    ” the US government was founded using a system of rules that specifically avoided endorsing any religion and is thus the first secular democracy in the world – the closest thing to an ‘atheistic government’ that’s ever existed.”
    Well said.  I haven’t heard this idea so boldly stated before.  Atheism as adopted by most atheists is a “lack of belief in gods”; the political analogy is a state which neither endorses nor recognizes any religious view as orthodox.  Positively and explicitly tying together atheism with the religiously enlightened principles at the heart of the American revolution should become a standard atheist response to the shameful historical revisionism of the fundies.

  • Gina L Meyer


  • Doc C

    Love the belief in fairies comment. Bang on!
    Although evidence DOES exist to support homeopathy and the vaccine-autism link!  …. (not that I advocate not vaccinating)

  • Doc C

    The founding fathers would be rolling in their graves today

  • Actually, I’m going to take a moment to answer several comments in here without singling out any one in particular, and that’s the oft-repeated issue about the Second Law of Thermodynamics and a “closed system.”

    In short, there is no such thing as a closed system, and I wish people would stop repeating it. Entropy holds true throughout the universe, whether in a box or not. The key issue isn’t that order, by our colloquial definition, cannot happen; it’s that it cannot be sustained. But even the “order” that we see, such as life, is entropy on the march.

    Gravity causes hydrogen atoms to come together, eventually resulting in stars producing fusion and heavier elements. In doing so, each hydrogen atom sheds a little of its biding energy, and this is what makes a star a star, blaring out lots of energy. But it is still less than the sum of the original hydrogen atoms that formed it, and less still than the amount present immediately after the Big Bang.

    Our planet captures some of this radiated energy from our closest star, and uses a tiny bit in remarkably inefficient ways to form very short-lived chemical chain reactions. These ultimately fail, life ends, and that energy dissipates even further… and the sun is another tiny fraction closer to its ultimate heat death.

    Life is not order – we just happen to vainly think that it is. But it takes mongo energy to sustain and, even with abundant energy in the immediate vicinity, still collapses after a very short while.

  • Gprano

    More than a spiritual belief, Pascal’s wager takes many assumptions that are as hard to believe in than the catholic dogma itself :
    There is only two options :
    -either the christian dogma is right and the christian god will send you to hell if you don’t believe in him, or to heaven if you respect the religious duties (even if you’re doing it only because of the wager).
    -either there is no god at all, and death is the end of your whole being.
    The wager doesn’t work if the first option’s probability of happening is zero.
    And you have to accept the deal, meaning that heaven is infinitely better than hell, that risking to live religiously for nothing isn’t that much of a loss compared to be rational when there is no god.

    Which makes a lot of claims. (sorry for my poor english)

  • Gprano

    Don’t hope to convert someone in a religious debate, they’re usually useless (but you can do it for fun).

  • What does it mean for a government to be officially atheistic? Do you mean that the government officially? 

    Unfortunately, governments with official positions on any deeply controversial issue often decide to punish the people who disagree. Ideologies that are officially atheistic have only existed in the last few centuries. In that time, technology has improved and populations have grown. As a result, it has become easier for an ideology which has run off the rails to rack up really big death totals.  If the Inquisition was still around in a violent form they’d  get a large total too. The problem here isn’t atheism. 

     This is also why the vast majority of atheists don’t want a government to have any form of stance on religion. They favor secular (in the American sense of the word) government, not atheistic government. 

  • In the interest of “this list needs humor” and… well, it’s also true in a way:

    NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!
    It’s a good idea to keep an eye on current events in Christianity. They could soon affect your life in extremely undesirable ways. Learn the mailing addresses of your government representatives, and don’t be afraid to write them to share your opinion!

  • Gprano

    Blasphemy is illegal in many countries, and you can get stoned for it in a few ones (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia at least). Enjoy your first amendment 🙂

  • Aoplymathman

    Yeah. The trick here of course is that ‘meeting’ God is defined in such a nebulous fashion that anyone who wishes to meet God is quite at liberty to fool themselves into thinking they have done so.

  • Metz

    That non-atheists can also be rational people… all those who profess to have a religion or faith are not creationists or scientifiic denialists….

  • E Cating

    Can you cite a source for that? Because if so, that’s a good one.

  • This guy is orders of magnitude more coherent than Mabus. We’ll see where he is in a year or two though.  

  • We are laughing at you, troll, not at the persecution or murder of anyone.  Your statement is a logical fallacy.  While there was no official “religion” in the USSR, they did not seek out and murder millions of christians in the way you imply.  They murdered millions impartially.  The fact that many of them were Eastern Orthodox or Russian Orthodox, or other flavor of christian is a by-product.

    Anyone who makes the statement “I will never submit to rule by atheists”, now THAT’s a dangerous person.

  • Annie

    “We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.”
                                            – Gene Roddenberry

    (the caps of god and humans are not mine, but were in the quote…)

  • Rose

    You won’t burn in hell, because there is no proof of hell.
    (the reason I post this is because I get the comment “you will burn in hell” often when I tell people I’m an atheist.)

  • The mind is physical, not spritiual a soul.  If you damage the brain, you damage the mind.

  • Parse

    There’s a significant difference between ‘open discussion’ and trolling, and Grady’s obviously doing the latter.   

  • I think it’s important that atheists have a proper understanding of the Bible.
    -There is no historicity at all to the Torah through at least Judges. The events described are either unattested (the exodus) or disproven (the destruction of Canaan).-While we have found references to a “house of David”, there is no hard evidence for a united monarchy of Judah and Israel, or any kings before Omri. There is some history in Kings, but not a whole lot we can back up.-The Bible is foremost an anthology. The texts its composed of were written by a variety of people in various times and were heavily redacted and edited over centuries.-Also, per the anthological nature, there is no unifying message spanning the OT and NT, or even between various books of each bible.-There was never one “Bible” that got “corrupted”, it’s been evolving and diverging since the first word was written.-The Hebrew Bible does not reference Jesus. The NT is misinterpreting.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    2 + 2 = 4

    This is important even for theists to know.

  • … And? What has that to do with this topic?

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely. The exact same issue arises when discussing gods as with discussing shuplups.  You made the claim that you owned a shuplup, the burden of proof is on you.  Your wife says that you haven’t, she isn’t making a claim, she’s asking you to demonstrate the veracity of your claim.

    Moreover the real issue that I have with claims about gods is that gods are about as well defined as your shuplups.  What does it mean to say that shuplups or gods exist?   Can you show me a shuplup or a god or describe one?  By what properties are we to identify one.  Once we have a working definition for something then we can start making truth claims and hypotheses about them. 

    I don’t know what a shuplup or a god is.  If you claim that one exists my response as a sceptic might be: I don’t believe you, show me.  This is the first hurdle that a theist or shuplupist must just and theists fall at it every time.

    That said once you have a working definition you can make claims about the thing you describe.  You can say that all shuplups are red or all gods are over 8 feet tall and then a counter assertion that shuplups are made of blue cheese or no evidence exists as to the height of gods can be made and backed up with evidence.  If you don’t back a claim up with evidence then all you are doing is making empty assertions.  These can be dismissed easily as being value free.

  • Anonymous

    To what officially atheistic government are you referring? 

  • Karen

    Explain away!
    As a physicist, I would think you would understand and explain this better!

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Atheism is a noun. Atheistic and atheist are the adjectival forms.

  • Anonymous

    😉 If you’re bringing gods into your bedroom then …. no, you’re welcome to whatever kinks you’re into.  I’m not going to judge you.  I’ve played vicars and nuns and it isn’t as much fun as you would think.  Pirates and wenches is much better…or anything piratical really.

  • Karen

    Sorry Grady, you can’t convince people who tend to read blogs such as this to accept your inherited biases.

  • Anonymous

    2 + 2 + God = 4

    God in this case is an unnecessary null value that can be omitted.  This is the case elsewhere as well.

  • Anonymous

    If the god of the bible could be demonstrated to exist then I would no longer be an atheist.  Nor would I convert to Christianity for such a being is portrayed as a vile monster within the very texts that believers point to as proof on his love and mercy.  “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.” – Isaac Asimov

  • JDatty

    If Hitler was a Catholic…and Richard Dawkins points out in TGD that he said different things in public than in private…then he was not a very good one.

    Since he committed suicide, which is a mortal sin to Catholics.

    As such, when he blew his brains out, he went straight to hell!


  • Okay, going back to suggestions for the list:

    * We are all human, and have the same drives and desires. We all fulfill them in different ways;

    * “There is no god” and “There is no evidence for god” are completely indistinguishable in all practical ways. Worrying about whether something is Ultimately True™ is philosophy, which hasn’t resulted in anything useful yet;

    * Know the difference between a standpoint, an ideology, and a movement;

    * You can’t tell people they’re wrong, you can only present the evidence. Also, don’t expect to see the change, since this will happen later. When they change the subject, you’re making progress;

    * If you want it to be true, that’s when you start examining it really closely;

    * Yes, very many people can be wrong. Guide yourself – don’t let others (any others) do it for you;

    * You can live forever, if you reach the right people. Chances are Mark Twain will get the credit, though.

  • JDatty

    What a cop out.

  • icecreamassassin

    There is a difference between having an answer to a question and having a *correct* answer to a question.

  • CS

    “Atheist” is a noun also.  I use the phrase “atheism is an adjective” frequently, not to argue parts of speach, but to point out that the word is functionally a simple descriptor of one attribute, like saying someone has blue eyes, not something that defines anything else about them.

  • JDatty

    Actually, Grady is, unfortunately, correct about officially atheistic goverments.

    The Soviet Union was such a government, and atheism was the official position of the state.

    As Christopher Hitchens points out, “Lenin and Trotsky were convinced atheists who used state policy to oppose religious belief.”

    The Gulag system killed millions of believers.

    This needs to be faced up to.

    Trying to act like it did not happen will not solve anything.

  • JDatty

    Actually, Grady is correct;  The official position of the Soviet Goverment was state atheism.  They did not murder radomly…they were quite systematic about it, ad quite successful at it.

    The intent was to eliminate religious belief.  If you see the deaths of millions as a “by product” you are one sick puppy.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, unfortunately according to that same doctrine the majority of his victims went to Hell right along with him for the crime of having the wrong religion or the wrong sexual orientation.

    It’s a twisted philosophy indeed the one capable of giving out the same horrific punishment to the murderer and to the murdered.

  • I guess you’ve forgotten about officially religious government who tortured and murdered non believers huh.

  • John Lewis

    Several great nuggets in this post for the list.

    While I agree that learning more about the science is helpful, it’s also good to note that we can’t all be scientists. We can point out that we all trust the process of science every day, from our doctor’s advice to the big bridge we just crossed. And to reject that process in one or two specific areas because it doesn’t match what an ancient holy book or our parents told us is ridiculous.

  • Catie

    It’s good to be familiar with standard arguments both for atheism and for theism- we’re talking Russel’s teapot, the god of the gaps, etc. In addition, knowing and recognizing classical logical fallacies is useful not only for seeing them as others commit them, but for avoiding them yourself.

  • Rich Wilson

    Chimpanzees and bonobos are more closely related to humans than gorillas (or anything else).

  • John Lewis

    Or if not a full timeline, then at least some pointers to previous deities with similar characteristics to the Christian God: virgin birth, etc. They borrowed quite a bit.

  • Jakubow2

    It has been sufficiently proven through both mapping DNA and evolutionary biology that there was no “Adam and Eve.” It would have been impossible. No Adam and Eve, no original sin. No original sin, no need for redemption, and no Jesus. The entire basis for Christianity unravels without Adam and Eve. Game over, end of discussion, you lose.

  • Faith is the mask that makes ignorance attractive.

  • John Lewis

    That’s a succinct fact that should go on the list! A great one. These comments are devolving into general discussions.

  • In the US Treaty with Tripoli of 1796-97, article 11 explicitly states: 

     “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; ….”


  • Farrentarrel

    Hmm, things every Atheist should know…

    Red light means stop.

    Don’t drink and drive.

    NO means NO (unless you have a pre arranged signal that aardvark means no).

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t have any biases, you do.  

    Internet trolls go to the special Hell with the child molesters and no win, no fee lawyers.

    Laughing at yourself is good, if it goes on for more than a few minutes it is bad, seek help.

    You are not alone.

  • I haven’t been an atheist for very long, but one thing I have discovered that is quite important is to value the people that you love (regardless of their beliefs or non-belief).

    Being an atheist doesn’t mean that you have to segregate yourself; you can enjoy relationships with theists apart from religious beliefs. Depending on the relationship, you may be able to enter into discussions about faith, but don’t feel as if you MUST in every situation. 

    In my experience, discussions of faith without a prerequisite of trust and understanding frequently get bogged down in emotions; if you feel that that is where the conversation will lead, then don’t bother if you don’t want to. Play Scrabble or watch a movie or something instead.

    (That said, break this rule if you feel like it. Debate with theists if you like an are comfortable doing so. I find that establishing relationships and friendships are more fulfilling than debating, but it all depends on personal preference.)

    Oh, and good luck! Read a lot, stay informed, keep questioning. You’ll be fine. 🙂

  • Aoplymathman

    Interesting. You said:

    “I don’t know what a shuplup or a god is.  If you claim that one exists
    my response as a sceptic might be: I don’t believe you, show me.”

    My response would be, “I don’t know what a shuplup is. Therefore I can draw no conclusion whatsoever as to whether or not one exists.” At the risk of getting separated by semantics, I think if you were to claim you didn’t believe me that would indicate you were coming to a conclusion of non-existence based on zero evidence. That’s a bit ‘faithy’ for my tastes.

    However, having said that I now realise that the very fact you and I have been alive for X years and have never come across the word shuplup, is a good piece of evidence that shuplups probably DON’T exist. It’s so difficult to come up with a claim that we experienced humans cannot bring evidence to bear upon. Grrr….

    I think gods are different from my ideal, though admittedly flawed, example though. We DO have some idea of what they’re supposed to be. I know it’s de rigeur to dimiss gods because they’re not well defined but we do have vague concepts and notions about the sorts of things gods are generally supposed to do and about what attributes they supposedly possess. Therefore we also have information about what evidence we would expect to see of them in the real world.

  • mike

    Christianity is really really funny.  They call their guy Jesus Christ and some of them think that Christ was his surname.  Jesus Christ is a Greek translation of the Hebrew, Yeshua Messiah, or in English, Joshua Saviour, which doesn’t sound as impressive. 

    How absurd is it that they refer to their saviour in a different language that he never spoke?  Let’s find out.  Imagine that a Spanish historian wrote the official biography of President George Washington, and in that biography he called him Presidente Jorge.  Now if you had grown up learning that Presidente Jorge was the first President of the US, then you might not see anything wrong with this.  But even still, you must know that Presidente Jorge spoke English and referred to himself as George, as did everyone else who ever knew him.  So they call their saviour by a foreign name that he (if he even existed) never used … weird.

    Also, remember that all those Born-Again Christians should really read their Bible where it includes a footnote that the born-again verse is a fraud; It’s Admitted Right There!  And that everyone knows that the Virgin Mary was really the young woman Mary if you translate it correctly.  And that Jesus could not have been born in both 4BCE and 6CE.  And that King David is the sickest overachiever of all time for cutting off an extra 100 foreskins.

    So have a good laugh.  It’s all a cheap fraud.
    I also like the fact that we actually have tons of eye-witness accounts, historical accounts, autobiographical accounts, and a bust personally modelled by Julius Caesar.  Christians think that we have that kind of info on Jesus.  When they find out that we don’t, they switch to the opinion that we don’t have that kind of info on anybody of that age. 
    We know the history of that era well.  It isn’t shrouded in mystery.  No one gets to make stuff up and get away with it.

  • JDatty

    Non Sequitur

  • JDatty

    Actually, he can’t, because it isn’t.

  • dauntless

    Probably. But maybe not.

  • Anonymous

    How so?

  • JDatty

    The Treaty of Tripoli has long since been relegated to the dust bin of history.

  • Mike

    People who claim that our higher consciousness and ability to reason are evidence of a creative god do not understand that our experiences are relative. If, hypothetically, ants were the most advanced beings in the world, their consciousness would be the upper crust, and they’d be the “special” ones.  In short, our minds are proof of nothing except that we are intelligent organisms.

  • JDatty

    And it is an equally good idea to keep an eye on current events in Atheism.  They could, if they get control, affect your life in extremely undesirable ways.

    Learn their mailing addresses, don’t be afraid to write them!

    Out them wherever you can.

    We recently exposed a minister who was an atheist….he is leaving town. 

    And we have our eye on another one.

  • Rich Wilson

    The USSR was officially atheist, but effectively Leninist.

    They murdered a lot of people, both religious and atheist.  The goal was consolidation of power.

    Can we also be honest and say that all the Totalitarian regimes have killed lots of atheists?

  • See my blog (via the link in my name) and read  “Abortion – some unemotional analysis”. Or go straight to:

  • JDatty

    Actually, homicide just means the killing of a human being by another human being.

    And killing Jews in Nazi Germany was legal.

    Therefore it was not murder.

  • Anonymous

    no, it’s not. 

    it’s pointing out the futility, for actually rational people, of basing our judgements and actions on a totally contradictory, nonsensical, mythological system of ethics and morals. 

    if you believe various sections of the NT to be true, then you must believe that yes, many of hitler’s victim are “burning in hell” right alongside him, for rejecting jeebus. jeebus was very clear about that, several times, in the NT. cherry pick all you want, but lack of faith condemns many, according to the xtian holy texts. don’t try to pretend otherwise.

     it’s illogical and hypocritical for those of us who know writing like the NT to be mythology, to at the same time use such works as support for our arguments. if i understand correctly, that was Claudia’s point. 

  • JDatty

    Actually, the effects of Gravity can be calculated to a hundred thousand decimal places with extreme accuracy.

    You can calculate where all the planets of the solar system will be in the year 10,000.

    Such predictions are not possible with evolutionary theory.  There is no way of knowing what human beings will be like in the year 10,000, if indeed they have not destroyed themselves

  • Jim Howard

    One thing atheists (and everyone for that matter) is that the main purpose of religion is to benefit the clergy.

  • Jim Howard

    One thing atheists (and everyone for that matter) is that the main purpose of religion is to benefit the clergy.

  • JDatty

    And by the way, Mary, it does not “exactly match”.  Lots of room for “intepretation” and your world view is going to affect your interpretation.

  •   When people use “atheist” or “atheism” as nouns, it’s generally a form
    of linguistic shorthand.  Sort of like how atheists use “religion” as a
    shorthand for belief in supernatural entities, even though so much more
    is subsumed under the heading of “religion.”  Greta Christina touched on
    that in a recent post, responding to the “5 myths atheists believe
    about religion” article on alternet.  So many arguments would be easier
    to resolve if definitions like that were used or agreed on more
    clearly.  Unfortunately, language isn’t a perfect medium for

  • Rich Wilson

    You’re right.  Atheism is no protection against Totalitarianism.

    And since we’ve also had (and have) theocratic totalitarian states that commit atrocities, perhaps what we should be looking out for is the totalitarianism aspect.

    (There was not state policy against being a Christian, or any other religion, in the Soviet Union.  Church property was confiscated, being openly religious did mean you and your family would be assigned the worst jobs, and if you were outspoken enough, you could end up in a gulag or dead on trumped up ‘enemy of the state’ charges.  But not officially because you were Christian)

  • In practice, although not in logic, “the one that sets the agenda for the discussion defines who has the burden of proof”!

    I like Sagan: “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, and Hitchens: “what can asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof”.

  • JDatty

    I simply believe in one more God than atheists.

  • JDatty

    You mean the Jews made all that stuff up?  Was it a “Jewish Conspiracy” then?

  • JDatty

    Actually, you are alone.  If you think the world cares about you when you are old or disabled, you are delusional.

  • Anonymous

    You are under no obligation to justify your lack of belief in gods any more than you are under an obligation to justify your lack of belief in leprechauns.   This is important.  Not believing in something that is badly defined and that you have no compelling evidence or reason for believing in is fine.  You don’t need to explain yourself if you don’t want to.

    “I’m an atheist.”
    “Why are you an atheist?”
    “I don’t believe in gods.”
    “Why don’t you believe in God?” – It is inevitable that they single their own deity out for special attention.
    “The evidence doesn’t convince me and the arguments aren’t compelling.”

  •  I would Like this comment, but feel that it’s not really the correct sentiment; it makes me angry and sad.   This is a damn good point, and one that us Americans would do well to remember. 

  • JDatty

    And you can be put in prison in China, North Korea and simliar places for speaking openly about Jesus Christ.

    Atheists have told be bluntly that they would shut me up if they could.

  • Ricklongworth

    Science is not a religion.  It is merely the best method we know of to help us understand the universe.

  • JDatty

    Straw Man.

  • I just say what I believe, for example that I believe there are no gods. I don’t need to provide evidence that I believe that. Who can validly claim that I don’t believe that?

    But when it comes to claims about whether or not there are gods in the universe, (rather than whether or not I believe there are gods in the universe), whatever you say about you are not likely to change the mind of a believer; it ends up being a matter of debating points, not establishing the facts.

    As I said elsewhere here: in the 21st Century, 1000s of gods are worshiped, and 1000s of religions are practiced. Every religion is a minority religion; whatever beliefs a religious person has, most religious people in the world have contradictory beliefs. It is rare for a religious person to make an honest attempt to explain that.

  • PissingTheDayAway

    Atheism is the absence of gods, not always the absence of religion. Theism isn’t the same as religion.

  • JDatty

    This is what I have learned about atheists…that after telling me there is not God to tell me what to do, they turn around and try to, you got it, tell me what to do!

    All they while saying they don’t tell anyone what to do.

    And, as was pointed out elsewhere, this blog “The Friendly Atheist” is anything but.  What’s more, Mehta know it but doesn’t change it.

    Quite dishonest, IMHO.

  • Something I’ve learned just recently myself:  it’s important to remember that we’re all human, and we’re all fallible (even the Pope, despite claims to the contrary).  Discuss religion all you want with believers, but don’t let your emotions get in the way.  It’s all to easy to get caught up in it all and be completely dismissive of their ideas, but that’s not helping anyone.   Especially when done in a public forum, like on Fox News.  Yes, I’m looking at you, Silverman. 

  • Here are 3 major obstacles to extending our knowledge and
    understanding of anything complicated, such as society or the universe:

    1. There are vastly more ways to be wrong than to be right. 2. Knowledge and understanding come in dribs and drabs, not all at once. 3. The inquiry is conducted by fallible human beings.

    If we systematically address each of these obstacles, we end up with “the scientific method”.
    Evidence-based reasoning; open publication; arguments to force more
    research; models & paradigm shifts; skepticism; peer review; etc.

    If we fail to address these, we end up with out-of-date incompatible religions (plural).
    The “religious method” often resolves conflict by suppression,
    including force & censorship, or by spawning new religions.
    Incremental knowledge can meet resistance for centuries.

    Religions start as failed sciences, and continue as hobbies.

  • Michael

    The inverse Pascal’s law.

    Pascal said it is better to believe in God in case he really exists.

    The inverse of this is that it is better to admit not knowing if God exists in case she isn’t how you imagine her and your constant insistance of her being radically different to how she really is ends up offending her and getting you condemned to hell. If I were God I’d be less offended by people admitting they didn’t know me than by people telling lies about me.

  • xinyi

    i was told by a Christian that if i’m not a Christian, i’ll be going to Hell, even if i have a different religious belief that tells me i can go to Heaven if i practice righteous beliefs. hmmm… 

  • Rich Wilson

    You’re thinking the law of gravity, not gravitational theory.  That objects attract and how much is Newton’s law of universal gravitation.  WHY they do is is theory.  The germ theory of disease doesn’t tell us exactly who is going to get sick this flu season.  That doesn’t make it any less true.

  • (1) The Bible was written by a bunch of different people. We know that Constantine didn’t order a massive re-write of it, but on the other hand the people who wrote it disagreed with each other on a lot of important stuff.

    (2) Christians who claim mainstream Biblical scholarship supports the Bible’s (contradictory) accounts of Jesus’ life are ignorant or lying. Mainstream scholarship rejects the claim that gospels are eyewitness reports.

    (3) The line of transitional fossils leading to humans from our chimpanzee-like ancestors is remarkably complete. Link: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section1.html#morphological_intermediates_ex3

    (4) The theory of universal common ancestry is verified beyond reasonable doubt not just by the fossil record, but by the patterns of similarities among modern organisms. This includes the fact that modern organisms fit into taxonomic “family groups” (kingdom, phylum, family, genus, etc.)

    (5) Claims that huge numbers of scientists are rejecting “Darwinism” are nonsense. Upwards of 99% of scientists working in relevant fields accept the theory of evolution.

    (6) “Atheist” just means someone who doesn’t believe in God.
           (a) It doesn’t mean you have  to want to imitate everything Richard Dawkins does.
           (b) You can be an atheist without subscribing to some strict sort of philosophical materialism.
           (c) You can be an atheist and believe in objective moral truths.

  • guest

    there is no evidence for a vaccine-autism link. You can MAYBE argue homeopathy, but mountains of evidence, correlational and otherwise has put to rest the autism-vaccine nonsense.

  • Rich Wilson

    Somehow I doubt that that’s because you’re a Christian.  I’ve come across atheists who I wish would shut up.

  • I think that Hemant is looking not so much for position points, as he is for incontrovertible facts.  Also, yes, many (but not all)  of these will be directed towards US Atheists.  In that vein:

    The Pledge of Allegiance, as adopted in 1942, did not contain the phrase “under God.”  That was not added until 1954.

    Galileo was convicted of heresy by the Catholic Church in 1633 for an idea, the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun.  He spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

    Most religious groups in the United States supported slavery.  They found their main biblical justification in Genesis 9:25-27.

  • Giordano Bruno died for your sins.

  • Anonymous

    From Robert Ingersoll “Love was the first to dream of immortality, — not Religion, not Revelation. We love, therefore we wish to live. The hope of immortality is the great oak ’round which have climbed the poisonous vines of superstition. The vines have not supported the oak, the oak has supported the vines. As long as men live and love and die, this hope will blossom in the human heart.”

  • Anonymous

    From Robert Ingersoll “Love was the first to dream of immortality, — not Religion, not Revelation. We love, therefore we wish to live. The hope of immortality is the great oak ’round which have climbed the poisonous vines of superstition. The vines have not supported the oak, the oak has supported the vines. As long as men live and love and die, this hope will blossom in the human heart.”

  • Rich Wilson

    You can MAYBE argue homeopathy

    No, you can’t.  Well, you can argue anything you want, but homeopathy has no evidence of efficacy beyond placebo.

  • 1. Read the bible. Most Christians haven’t read the whole thing cover-to-cover.

    2. Church leaders do not teach or preach the entire bible. They cherry-pick. Nor do most encourage their followers to read the entire bible on their own.

    3. Christians who are appalled by the idea of atheism are themselves atheists with regards to thousands of other Gods out there. A good refutation of Pascal’s Wager: “I suppose you will then worship Mohammed and Brahma, just in case?”

    4. Many Christians will expect you to turn to Christ when times are tough. I wish no hard times upon you, but when they arrive and you remain an atheist, your Christian friends are in for a surprise.

    5. People will say startling things to you if they find out you’re an atheist. My recent favorite was being asked why I was a blood donor if I was an atheist. Expect surprises.

    Good luck

  • Anonymous

    Why do you keep laughing when talking about people dying?

  • Anonymous


    for most americans, at least, this is the best starting point. the book you’re reading? written by hundreds of people, over thousands of years, redacted and changed and altered… it’s like Harry Potter fan fiction. if that’s all you could read, do you really think you’d be able to “know” what the “true” harry potter narrative was? it’s the same thing with most holy texts. so many people have had a hand in the version you’re reading, you might as well play a game of telephone with your 6 and 8 year old nephews. when more young americans understand this point, the fundamentalism here will begin to wither and die. 

    because frankly, if it’s all about mythology, well… WOW or LOTR are way more fun, yo. the bluehairs don’t get that, but the younger folk do. 

  • guest


    There is more evidence for the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection than there is for the Theory of Gravitation.

    We can see the results of evolution. We CAN predict, with increasing accuracy, what happens with genetic manipulation. 

    Evolution is a fact, just like gravity is a fact. 

  • Anonymous

    my official entry for this thread and that great bag:

    Follow the Money. 

    always. in everything, not just religion and/or freethinking. the money tells you what you need to know. 

  • Anonymous

    What does this have to do with atheism?  You’re talking about philosophical naturalism.  That’s a different thing.   It is true that many atheists also label themselves as naturalists but that doesn’t mean that they are identical.

    Oh and naturism is where you take off all your clothes, not naturalism. It’s easy to get the two mixed up but naturalists are the ones who wear hats.  If in doubt, look up at the tops of our heads.

  • Anonymous

    Oh the love that comes shining through, jesus would be so proud of you.

  • Me Myself and I

    the “laws” of the universe aren’t “laws” in that someone set them down, but simply descriptions of regularly observed phenomenon.

  • Another idea, which is no doubt becoming increasingly self-explanatory, is to learn rhetoric and the techniques of argumentation. In particular, study the fallacious arguments, which will help you both to refute them and to avoid them:


  • Wrong.  The intent was forced collectivization.  Religion of those killed was incidental. 

  • Ingdamnit

    non religious govs that act like theocracys are bad….no duh.
    Soviots and maoists and North Korea are not based on a lack of belief but a positive belief in their ideology that they treat like ubquestionable religious doctrine.
    Action agains other politics amnd religious aren’t due to lack of belief but due to the positive belief that the competition must be irradicated.

    Obviously this belie f isn’t due to atheism as political tyranys of all stripes have shown it especially the theocratic.

  • Stephanie

    I guess this only falls in the American category, but:
    Atheism is not unpatriotic.

  • Ingdamnit

    Ah yes…watch the atheists because if they get in power they lmay act like us. You’ve proven the point you persecutiong monster

  • ^This. My girlfriend’s Southern Baptist and on a different continent, and I’m so outspoken a heretic I was getting dirty looks in Wal-Mart when I went to see her, for complaining about hypocritical clergy above whisper-level. If that can be successful, almost anything can!

  • Jenncornish

    Atheists do not, in fact, eat babies. (However, we have been known to eat Sugar Babies, Baby Ruths, and other baby-themed treats.)

  • you forgot to add:  “for which no evidence exists.”

  • Matthew Suttles

    Don’t let christians tell you that you’re immoral because you don’t believe in their god; their “holy book” commands and/or condones rape, murder, torture, genocide, and many other wonderful atrocities.

  • Rich Wilson

    he is leaving town

    Ah, NIMBY.  How very WWJD.

  • I like the ‘Under God’ one you mentioned in your post, but also about our motto not being added until around the same time, and about the Founding Father’s, what they thought, their religions, etc. That the majority of them wanted a secular government, any of them that voted for religion in the government were swiftly out-voted, and the last of the major Founding Father’s to die (James Madison) was the one who probably fought hardest for a secular government (so hard, in fact, we’re not even sure what religion he was a part of, if he was a part of one, or if he was even a theist or not).

  • Miss Coconut

    Founding Fathers to die** (Why no edit button??)

  • Anonymous

    Do point out where anyone in the above thread has told you what to do. I’m sure a few have had the temptation to tell you to “get lost” but it seems like even that has been held back.

    So by all means, show me where you are being ordered about by us terrible widdle atheists. Because I’m sure you’re not just a troll whose thowing virtual feces around with no regards for evidence or decency.


  • Not really- for one, they weren’t really “Jews” when most of it was written. And while there is myth and self-aggrandizing history, it was written by and for themselves. They weren’t trying to fool anyone, and they sure as hell didn’t know a select number of their texts would be bundled into an entity called “The Bible”, and that this book would be used to horrible means for centuries afterwards.

  • The bible is the oldest game of telephone, ever.

  • Baby carrots?

  • Rich Wilson

    I just want to go on record as saying I care about Farrentarrel.  And JDatty.  I’d prefer the company of the former, but I’d help either one in need.

  • Actually that would be Joshua Anointed, if you’re going by the original hebrew meaning. All kings were the “messiah”, in that they were anointed (with some kind of holy oil.) After the Judean monarchy fell, they yearned for a new “anointed” to revive their little kingdom. Christians developed this into their own thing.

  • Alice

    My fact is there are no facts every atheist should know, because you taking a position does not automatically force you to defend it against every religious stranger with something to prove, especially if it makes you uncomfortable.

  • Jgills

    I think a lot of our comments can be boiled down to the old chestnut, “Faith is not evidence.”

  • By the way, Hemant, you didn’t mention when the contest ends?

  • Parse

    The one thing that always amuses me about trolls here is that it’s almost guaranteed that they’ll pull the “Not so ‘friendly'” line.  What none of them seem to realize is that Hemant calls his blog “The Friendly Atheist”, and not “The Friendly Doormat”.

  • usclat

    No problem Grady. You can be ruled by the Ayatollahs any day you want. I for one, don’t like being “ruled” by so-called people of faith. Even if they are Southern Baptist Ayatollahs (or another word that starts with an A). 

  • In a week!

  • Ingdamnit

    So christians don’t promote worshiping that god?

  • Makayla

    There is not anything you must know, when choosing to be atheistYou make your own intellectual ideas and views as you grow.

  • So… how is it bias to recognise that abortion terminates the life of a member of the species homo sapiens?

  • Heidi

    Did you mean to provide an example illustrating Jon’s point just there? Because all that watching people and driving them out of town bit sounds an awful lot like a witch hunt. 

  • Heidi

    Your view of the world makes me sad. 🙁

  • And let’s not forget that there actually was a group called ‘The league of militant atheists’ in the USSR…

    Of course – the point is that any ideology, religious, political and even rejection of gods can be used to justify atrocity. It is not religion that poisons everything, it is the selfish human heart that is poisonous.

  • Wayne Michaelson

    Using Newton’s theory of gravity, you can only get to a few decimal places. Mercury was always disobeying the “law of gravity”. There was a search for the planet Vulcan that would have caused the disturbance of Mercury’s orbit. Instead, Einstein formed the theory of general relativity, which explained Mercury’s orbit correctly. Newton’s theory of gravity is still used because it is a simple equation and very close.

  • Pascal’s wager was never meant as an apologetic for belief. It was meant to show that unbelief is not rational – otherwise, given the premises of the wager, belief would be the rational choice, but it’s still rejected. Pascal didn’t think that lip-service ‘just in case’ was actually going to save anyone.

  • Halley

    Maybe this one is only important to us young atheists, but here it goes:

    You are not too young to know what you’re talking about. Your atheism is not just a phase you’ll grow out of. You’re not doing it to anger your parents. Things won’t be magically different in 10 years. There’s no evidence that they’ll decide to give you then.

  •  Faith is by definition not requiring evidence

    No – that is a strawman – a false definition. Faith is trust based on reason and evidence. We all have faith in certain things that we cannot prove but that we have reason and evidence to accept as true.

  • Heidi

    This is a really important point, IMO.  Proof would make me believe. Nothing would make me worship a monster.

  • Perhaps something to add to Hemant’s list:

    The push to redefine atheism as a-theism was largely the work of Antony Flew in his book ‘The assumption of Atheism’. The etymology of the word is actually athe-ism ‘(no god – ism’ as opposed to Flew’s push for ‘not a theist’)

  • Anonymous

    No. There was never any intent to get rid of religion on a grand scale. Organized religion was simply seen as competition, but people weren’t thrown into Gulags just for being Christians.

    Stalinism in particular was an ersatz-religion. Stalin wanted people to worship him. It was a personality cult that wasn’t improved on until Kim il-sung in North Korea – who is the country’s “Eternal President”

  • Anonymous

    Your comment of “straw man” is in itself a straw man.

    If you have a point, it’s going to take a few more words than that to explain it. Otherwise, we can assume you have no point and are just making an attempt to defend the indefensible.

  • Heidi

    I think you’re confusing athesitic with antitheistic.

  • Anonymous

    No one was sent to a Gulag specifically or only for being a believer. The faith was completely incidental

  • Icaarus

    While I personally am quick to accept the Soviet’s official stance as atheistic, it was not in practice atheistic, but was actually counter-deistic. Atheistic being that the government does not believe, support, or acknowledge the claims of any religion. Counter-deistic is when a group goes out after all deist, theistic, or otherwise non-conforming belief(s) and violently squashes them. It was a means of terror and control, religion was chosen because there was not an overwhelmingly common religion to the USSR, (Serbs, Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Buddhists, etc.) and there were a lot of religions that hated each other so the if I can’t have mine you can’t have yours argument worked. 

    Please be careful, fear and control are products of tyranny, not atheism as your shortsighted half argument would lead people to believe. 

  • Anonymous

    North Korea definitely has a pseudo-religion. It’s a personality cult completely with a dead president and a country ruled by his son.

    The Soviets under Stalin and China under Mao were personality cults too.

  • Heidi

    Don’t forget that he lied to them.

    God: If you eat that, then in that day you shall surely die.
    Snake: You won’t die. You’ll be like God, with knowledge of good and evil.

    They got knowledge and didn’t die. Hmm.

  • I like Sagan: “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”

    Actually, that’s Hume.. it’s old, and it was criticised in it’s day (I’m told that the Atheist John Earman’s more recent tome is also a strong rebuttal).By Hume’s axiom, a pacific tribe ought not accept the British sailor’s testimony about ice, or even their own cheif if he was to go. That’s a flawed epistemology.
    We too often rely on testimony for things which lie outside our ordinary experience. Quantum physics is outside the practicalities of my ordinary experience and so I must rely on those who research it – inwhose ordinary experience it is for my knowledge of it.Of course, I’m using the term ‘extraordinary’ in the literal sense, and then, we don’t need evidence outside of our ordinary experience, but persuasive and sufficient evidence and good reason to accept something as true. But the term ‘extraordinary evidence’ makes me think the catch-phrase means:”Things which don’t fit into my philosophical preconceptions will require a whole lot more than usual to convince me!” which seems to suggest that ‘extraordinary’ might just be a little too subjective for this axiom to have any real meaning.

  • I used the moustache one the other day, actually 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Jesus and I are not on a last name basis. I simply refer to the character as “Jesus.” (OK,  sometimes I also refer to him as Jeebuz, Cheeses or Cheez n’Rice, Big J, God Jr., or some variation thereof.) But I never ever call him Jesus Christ because he was most definitely not a messiah. It just seems repugnant to me to use that term; it’s like assigning some degree of veracity to an obvious myth.

  • Geocentricism was the prevailing scientific view of the day. Galileo’s persecution was mostly down to his ego and provocation of the Pope. 

    Atheists need to stop portraying it as faith vs science.

  • Hemant should make sure that every atheist knows what the fallacy of equivocation is.

  • Grisha

    We have live time experience of not meeting extraterrestrials, but you have to prove the statement that extraterrestrials positively do not exist.

  • Maybe it’s because I’m not in America, but I really haven’t heard any theist say that belief in God is required to be good. In fact, I’ve heard people like John Lennox say explicitly that belief isn’t required and often atheists put believers to shame in terms of ‘doing good’. 

    The issue is a philosophical one. As the British bishop Michael Nazir-Ali put it:

    The question is not whether atheists can be moral but from where the moral codes come to which we seek to adhere.

  • Anonymous

    More bullshit and lies

    China has opened itself up to religion in the last few decades. It guarantees freedom of religion since the 1980s. The state officially recognizes Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism. There are tens of millions of Christians in China.

  • Anonymous

    The crazy thing is that priests learn all that stuff in seminary. Then they go out and withhold that knowledge from people while telling lies

  • Jesus wasn’t the only god to die for our sins and spend three days in hell for it.

    Sorry, but you’re about half a decade out of date with your historical scholarship. Frazer and Co. who advocated the dying-rising gods idea has very little traction in mainstream scholarship. The problem is methodological: Christian language was used erroneously to describe events in pagan myths and then a parallel declared. Even if there is a parallel, that doesn’t prove borrowing in any case. But there’s no resurrection a la Jesus that predates Christianity. 

  • Why?

  • Anonymous

    You missed the opportunity for a Firefly reference there

  • Anonymous

    Oooh, that reminds me of a good one —

    Christian trolls routinely break the “Thou shalt not bear false witness” commandment when they claim to be persecuted on Internet forums.

  • not quite

    That’s like  a homosexual saying to a straight guy that he just sleeps with one less woman. Their reasons for not sleeping with a whole bunch of other women are not the same. 

  • -There is no historicity at all to the Torah through at least Judges. 

    That’s not a fact, it’s one view amongst some historians, and certainly not a consensus.

  • Anonymous

    I think it means that even someone smart enough to be an astronaut can still engage in cognitive dissonance to the point of being deluded in some aspects of their lives.

  • Mainstream scholarship rejects the claim that gospels are eyewitness reports.

    Not so. Mainstream scholarship, even that by those who reject the miracles, still recognise that the gospels contain reliable testimony.See historian (Macquarie Uni)  John Dickson’s book “The Christ Files” which looks at what the sources for the historical Jesus are and how mainstream historians (as opposed to apologists and fringe hyper-sceptics) treat them and why.

  • Larisa

    Americans do tend to believe that God is a required belief in order for children to learn how to be good. I think that if people think that their children cannot be good without believing in God then there are other underlying issues and they are hoping for a simple solution.

  • Apolymathman

    Not really. I see your point but I think it’s reasonable to assume the possibility of the existence of extraterrestrials whilst at the same time expecting to never see them. The universe is a very big place after all.

  • Church leaders do not teach or preach the entire bible. They cherry-pick. Nor do most encourage their followers to read the entire bible on their own.

    They do in the (growing) reformed evangelical churches in the UK and Australia.

  • Tarry

    This seems like a great refutation of fundamentalism, but not of what they’re teaching at  Harvard Divinity School.   Nor  of Augustine, Luther or Calvin. (to stick with the Christian tradition) –all of whom rejected the idea of reading the Bible as something literally true in all it conveys, without need for interpretation.  Much of what I see on this list seems to do the same. 

    One shouldn’t take the worst example of something, refute it, and let that argument stand for the whole.

    But fair is fair, I wouldn’t say there is an ironclad argument for God. It’s just tiresome to have theism written off completely because of its worst spokespeople.

  • It is the best method to  help us understand the physical universe.. in fact, that is, by definition its scope. It becomes fallaciously circular, however, when one tries to argue that only that which science can discover (that which falls within its naturalist scope) is reality.

  • There have been a lot of good suggestions. I’d like to suggest a few more:

    1. Lots of different religions claim that they have slam-dunk apologetic arguments for their religion and their religion only.

    2. What makes one religion seem ridiculous and another seem reasonable is a function of what religions one grew up around more than it is a function of how much sense the religions actually make sense. Someone growing up in a Catholic area will find transubstantiation to not seem that unreasonable compared to reincarnation. Someone growing up in a heavily Hindu area will likely see the reverse. Don’t expect members of individual religions to realize this though.

    3. Religious beliefs are frequently a product of how one was raised what social groups one has later in life. This is true for other beliefs as well. People who are atheists may be atheists partially out of logic but it is likely that your atheism arose partially due to luck. Don’t look down on people who are in an environment that continuously reinforces their religious beliefs. But for the grace of the FSM go you. 

  • Things won’t be magically different in 10 years.

    .. but, like some who have burnt their bibles before you, you should keep an open mind, and perhaps, like them, you’ll be persuaded otherwise some time down the track.

  • Tarry

    I’m sorry, but what you have refuted is a particular kind of Christianity. Fundamentalism. What you are saying would not raise questions at Harvard Divinity School, or in any mainline denomination in the country. Not all Christians have a problem with evolution, or require Adam and Eve to be literal people. And this is not some new-fangled modern approach. Augustine held back on his conversion until he realized he didn’t have to read the entire Bible as historically true.

    I’m repeating myself from a comment above. But I want to concede, there is no proof for the existence of God. But there is also no reason to let one strain of a vast tradition stand in for the whole.

  • John Lewis

    Yes, yes, YES! That could actually be two separate items on the list.

  • Grisha


    Almost everybody who died in Golag were not believers and got there not for their Christian or any other religious beliefs. 

    While Lenin and Trotsky were convinced atheists they were at power for too short time – Stalin, who was official leader for about 30 years and uncontested demigod for 25, created his own pseudo religion.  He just did not want to tolerate any competition from traditional ones.

    Indeed during WWII when he needed any help he can get he temporary reversed his policy and let Eastern Orthodox Church to play larger role.

    Still there is one more fact every atheist should know.  Being atheist does not guarantee any virtues.  Atheist may be liar, thief, murderer or anything else just like anybody else.

  • Randall Bourquin

    Jesus only claimed divinity once in the new testament, in his ¨alpha, omega¨ remark.  

    ….pick me because I´m in Peru and am never eligible :)!

  • John Lewis

    Just because an idea is tenacious doesn’t make it correct. The majority of people once thought the world was flat, and that the sun revolved around the earth. The fact that most people still believe in God doesn’t mean he exists. A proper answer of “I don’t know” should not be substituted with “God did it.”

  • Reasongal

    Each of us is born an atheist.

  • Jenniferfurphy

    Most Christians don’t believe God “runs” the universe.
    Accidents, natural disasters, illnesses, etc. are a part of life in the physical world.

  • Tarry

    Gotta say, I’m with Chris here — though I’m a Christian. The Gospels were not eyewitness reports, (they were much too late, even if based on earlier writings and oral traditions) they contain plenty of contradictions and I wouldn’t call them “reliable” — as we might speak of journalism today. But Christians, pre-Enlightenment, by and large did not feel the need for that kind of historicity. They knew they were reading a different kind of text than the morning paper.

  • Rae

    I think every atheist should be well educated on Darwin’s Finches, the outcome and success of the experiment, and the failed attempts to debunk it and why they failed.

    I’m not going to write an essay on it since it’s paraphrased on Wikipedia just fine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin%27s_finches

    I would really like one of those totes! haha 🙂

  • John Lewis

    That Thomas Jefferson created an edited version of the Bible, stripping out the supernatural (such as miracles, prophecy, resurrection, and Jesus’ divinity), which he thought were based in absurdity, untruth, and charlatanism.

  • Laurence

    I don’t see how Christianity can really stand without having a literal fall which Jesus is saving us from.  Once you don’t have Adam and Eve and the Fall, it seems the rest is a bunch of hand waving to save a tradition in which people are invested.

  • Fact everyone should know:

    Just because there seems to be no answer to a question or just because an assertion can’t be ‘disproved’ does not entail that a supernatural explanation is plausible.

  • anonymous

    “A History of God” by Karen Armstrong does this quite well, at least until she hits the Reformation.  

  • Morrison90

    Who cares if Hitler was a vegetarian?  What is a fact is that he hated Christians as much as Jews.  After all,  he despised Christianity as much as he did Bolshevism, calling both “Jewish inventions.”

    Hell, he killed three million Catholics in Poland alone.

  • Morrison90

    You just made an assertion.  The Burden of Proof is now on you.

  • Morrison90

    What kind of cookies?

  • Morrison90

    Wow!  You are really trying to convinece youself that you aren’t full of shit too!

    I like Atheist Trolls with an intellectual air who like to posture.  It gives me a good laugh.

  • Morrison90

    Which would mean you can’t blame Jesus Christ for everything done in his name.

  • Hmm… I’m open to suggestion.

    But I’m personally a fan of chewy chocolate chip and macadamia.

    Cadbury puts out a nice bag of cooking chocolate chips that contains a decent amount of actual cocoa butter. I use those. They’re awesome. ^_^

  • Morrison90

    They were athiests.  Trying to relable them as religious just a dodge.

  • Laurence

    Atheism and theism are not ideologies.  They are merely answers to the question “Do you believe in god?”  If you answer in the affirmative, then you are a theist.  If you answer in the negative, then you are an atheist.  Both atheism and theism can be a part of ideologies, but that does not make them responsible for the crimes of follows of the ideologies they are a part of.  These crimes fall squarely on the the ideology and those who carried them out.  Atheists should remember that this should be applied to theism as well as atheism.

    Faith can be used to justify any position.  Evidence-based reasoning is the counter to this because it cannot be used to justify any position.

    “The universe is huge and old, and rare things happen all the time.”  – Lawrence Krauss

  • Morrison90

    Your claim is baseless, and it was already pointed out that the Nobel Prize Winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn proved beyond reasonable doubt, in his Gulag Archipelago series, that Christians were sent to the camps precisely because they were Christians.

    This is backed up by the Black Book of Communism (Harvard University Press) and the striking memoir Tortured For Christ by Richard Wurmbrand.

    For atheists to continue to deny this is blatant intellectual dishonesty.

  • Mr Z

    If you simply assert that there is no credible evidence for the existence of gods you will need to either A) refute all evidence put forward or rely on previous debunkings or B) refute all evidence put forward for the existence of gods.

    Neither A nor B are difficult but they are tediously time consuming and boring after a short while. This list might help others in such regard.

    The argument can go several ways:

    I say that there is no evidence and you say ‘prove it’
    I say that there is no evidence and you say “yes there is” and I say what is it?
    If I say I h ave not seen any credible evidence for the existence of gods so I do not believe in gods it is up to anyone who disagrees to show me the errors of my thinking, which of course must include evidence. Similarly when someone says they believe in gods we ask ‘what is your evidence for such beliefs?” and then they must prove/show that evidence.

    If I say I do not believe in the tooth fairy because there is no credible evidence, only a believer will argue that I am wrong and thus must show the credible evidence. I do not have to prove there is no evidence to hold this position. I also do not believe there is any credible evidence to support the belief that mountains are really sleeping giant rock men. I do not need to prove this to hold this position. I do not believe that bats turn into butterflies during the day and do not need evidence to prove this to hold this position. You cannot have and do not need proof of a negative to hold that position when it is based on the lack of credible evidence to the contrary.

    In respect of imaginary things you do not need evidence or proof they do not exist. Lack of credible evidence is all that is needed to not believe. Only positive credible evidence of the existence of something previously thought imaginary can logically switch your position to belief from non-belief.

    It was not lack of desire to believe that made many people atheist, but the slow realization that there is NO credible evidence to support belief in imaginary gods that switched our position. Lack of credible evidence is in fact enough to support non-belief. I’m from Missouri – Show me. Even if you say you don’t believe or that there is no evidence for the existence of gods the burden of proof is on those who argue in the positive for some thing. I do not need proof to say that I don’t believe little green men live on Mars. Any person who thinks I’m wrong has to show credible evidence for why anyone should believe that little green men live on Mars.

    The default position is NOT that gods exist, no matter how many people say differently. Belief in gods requires credible evidence. Belief that there are no gods requires that there be no credible evidence. For over 2000 years there have been claims but no credible evidence. Refuted and debunked claims, zero credible evidence. Even if you could prove that Jesus never existed you cannot prove lack of existence of a supernatural being. Without evidence of the supernatural being there is no reason to believe in one. Believers may ask for proof but they know there is no such thing. They are making the claim that something exists – burden of  proof is on the claimant.

    I need prove nothing. There is no credible evidence to support belief. Without the evidence there is no reason to believe. None. It’s just a fairy tale. I also need no proof that Zeus did not exist, nor Thor. There is no credible evidence to support belief and many reasons/evidence to support disbelief.

  • Anonymous

    The likelihood that it’s off by a wide margin is small given the current lines of evidence.

  • Anonymous

    Because Grady/ Morrison90/etc. are trolls for the sake of trolling.

  • Renshia

    Although the Catholic Church was persecuted in the Third Reich,
    Catholics as a group were not officially targeted by the Nazis merely
    for practicing the Catholic faith. In fact, a substantial minority of
    the population of the Third Reich was baptized Catholic, including some
    members of the Nazi elite.


  • Anonymous

    Fair point.  Except that I genuinely don’t have a clear idea of what is meant by “god”.  Ask a theist what they mean some time.  It can be quite entertaining and it saves all those “I don’t believe in the god you describe either” comments that the smart theists come back with.

  • Doc C

    There are definitely placebo controlled clinical trials demonstrating homeopathy’s efficacy as superior to placebo.  Just because we don’t know HOW it works doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Although we quantum physicists are beginning to unravel!

  • Andrew, that definition doesn’t match against my experiences of common usage.

    One example of how faith was explained to me in primary school was that faith is what takes you further than evidence alone can take you.

    The metaphor was of crossing one of the local bridges in town. It was a very sturdy, well-constructed bridge that has never to my knowledge had any issues. However, even so – when going to cross it, there is a small flicker of doubt that maybe this time it will fall under the weight of the cars currently on the bridge.

    The idea was that, because the bridge was very well constructed and had never had any problems, it only required a very tiny leap of faith to bring ourselves to use the bridge.

    This was then used as the basis for explaining that being good little Catholic boys and girls required a much larger leap of faith – and that this was somehow noble and praiseworthy.

    One of the tricky things about language in general is that it’s a barely organized anarchy. Anyone can substitute any meaning for a word at any time and call that their definition – and they’re right to do so. Defining a word is an action (performative utterance) that anyone can do. Because language (like evolution) is a bottom-up process, not a top-down process.

    People keep trying to pin language down to a legislative model and it never works.

    So there is no ‘the’ definition of ‘faith’. There are many definitions. Which definitions we use depend on context.

    In the absence of any overriding principle, common usage is a good place to start.

    My experience of common usage is that ‘trust due to evidence’ is called scientific reasoning.

    Whatever else it may be, faith is something other than reason. This was always presented to me in the context that faith is somehow better than reason – hence the notion that they are distinct somehow.

    Usually this is in the context of me asking a believer for evidence for their belief. They always give me something back – a feeling, they were raised that way, intuition, and so on. I’ve never heard a believer give me something that qualified as actual evidence. So I can point out how all the ‘evidence’ the believer provides doesn’t count as a good reason to believe anything.

    The position they fall back on?

    “But I don’t need evidence because I have faith.”

    Many, many believers I have spoken to use the word ‘faith’ in this sense.

    Like it or not this is a common usage of the term ‘faith’. Neither you or I can do anything about it.

    You’re welcome to say that the word ‘faith’ means something different to you. That’s fine.

    But you shouldn’t waggle your finger at other people who choose to use that particular form of common usage as if it is somehow incorrect or misleading to do so.

    *waggles finger @ Andrew*

    Tut tut.

  • Donalbain

    So, if an atheist was ever elected president, what would you do? Would you take up arms in rebellion?

  • Rich Wilson

    Officially the government was atheist, but being religious was not illegal or reason to be sent to the gulag. 

    Officially.In reality, the government was Leninist, and being religious could greatly increase your chance of disappearing.

    As an aside, being gay WAS illegal, and could get you five years in prison.  Which we should keep in mind when we’re blaming religion for persecution of gays.

  • Rich Wilson

    I would concede that the belief (and goal) was the religion would die off.  It’s just that killing everyone who was religious wasn’t an efficient means.

    And Stalin wasn’t the one embalmed and visited by thousands, and made into statues in every ploshchad of every village, or hanging in every school room.

  • Anonymous

    Atheists would learn well to recognise common logical fallacies:

    Straw Man.
    Loaded Question.
    Argument from Ignorance.
    Begging the Question.
    False Dilemma.
    Slippery Slope.
    False Analogy.
    No True Scotsman.
    Post hoc ergo propter hoc.
    Just do stories.
    Etc, etc.

    Know when you are using them and when people are using them against you.  Point them out.  It’s fun.  Some of the trolls are having fun using them today.

  • holly marie

    “An intelligent person does
    not need the promise of
    heaven to see the merit of good deeds” – unknown source

    Make the best of this life because it’s the only one you’ve got 🙂

  • holly marie

    When a “believer” makes the claim that morality comes from “God” I always ask them “So if you found out today that God really doesn’t exist you’d be out raping and murdering tomorrow?”

    If you need the threat of “God” and damnation to keep you from harming others then I feel sorry for you.

  • Rich Wilson

    Whatever Pascal’s original wager was (and I understand it has been grossly trivialized) when atheists respond to it with the same two very tired points, we are responding to what is presented by Christian apologists.  If you want a better response, then please, somebody formulate his wager correctly, because frankly it’s incredibly boring as presented.

  • Rich Wilson


    If it worked, then ordinary tap water would also work, since it has had the same exposure to the same molecules that homeopathic remedies have.

    Yes, there are studies out there which are laughably flawed.  If you have a good one, send it to James Randi and collect your million $.


  • Anonymous

    Christians aren’t stupid.  We may consider their belief to lack rational support but that says nothing about their intellect.  Any group will contain intelligent and stupid members.  We shouldn’t judge the group on the comments and actions of the worst of them.

  • Okay.

    I’m with the others in that I have a prior conception that both homeopathy and the vaccine-autism link are bunk ideas.

    But I’m willing to have my mind changed if your evidence is good.

    Do you have any citations to back that up?

  • Rich Wilson

    Absolute #1 comment of the day.

  • LH

    The Bible starts with two creation myths, not one.

  • attribution

    thank you, David Cross.

  • Anonymous

    Radioactive dating establishes the age of the Earth extremely well.

    The age of the universe is measured by its expansion and accurate to within about 100 million years. The only way to fudge it is by a varying expansion rate.

  • Anonymous

    I never understood why Jesus couldn’t just have died for people’s actual sins. It’s not like him dying for Original Sin kept people from sinning of the future. But then the whole thing doesn’t make one bit of sense in any case

  • Anonymous

    Homeopathy has failed to show consistent effects above that of the placebo. Though there have been a few studies that claimed a certain effect, the aggregate data shows nothing significant compared to a placebo, as well as showing bias and methodological errors with previous trials.  In addition the supposed effects of homeopathic “remedies” frontally contradict known physics.

    So in sum we have people advocating the curative properties of small bottles of water (no explanation is given as to the effects of the liters of other water you usually consume) while having the weight of evidence against them and while offering mechanisms that would require a complete overhaul of known physics, again offered without evidence.

    Sounds a lot like creationsim to me.

  • Icaarus

    The baby jesus cake was especially delicious

  • Icaarus

    I concur, you do not seem to understand QM as well as you think you do. 

    “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”Richard Feynman, in The Character of Physical Law (1965)

  • treedweller

    Just because nobody has complained before about the presence of
    religious material in a secular environment does not mean nobody has
    been offended by it.

    If you believe in “Intelligent Design” because you can’t comprehend such a complicated system (or organism, etc.) evolving randomly, that is a problem with your imagination, not evolutionary theory.

    There’s a fine line between “Majority rules” and “Tyranny of the majority.” Our Founding Fathers chose to incorporate rules into our government that protect minorities from being steamrolled.

    “Because the Bible says so” is not proof of anything.

    The world’s religions often bear striking resemblances to each other, most notably the “only one way to heaven” precept. If one of them is true, we are all basically playing a game of chance with our “souls” as the prize. We have no real way to distinguish which is the “right” religion.

    You don’t have a chimpanzee for an uncle (no matter how many generations
    back), and the existence of monkeys does not disprove evolution ( per
    the “they are still here, so they didn’t evolve into us” argument). We
    share a common ancestor with chimpanzees and other primates.

    Disagreement is not an insult. No matter how strongly you believe something, someone is on the other side of the issue. Learn to live with the other people in your world instead of trying to convert or ridicule them.

    If God exists, s/he surely is a major asshole. What benevolent force would place a high hurdle in front of some people and hold them to the same standards as those who only have to step over a pebble? Or eternally punish people who spend their lives striving to do no harm while helping others, but admit to heaven people who are mean all their lives but choose to declare obeisance at the last minute? Or, for that matter, children who die before they are old enough to understand what that obeisance means?

  • Babies aren’t born believing in deities. All religious belief originates from cultural exposure. I believe it’s important for everyone (but especially atheists) to think outside the “culture box.” When talking to Christians, don’t feed into their cultural assumptions and don’t let them get away with defining the terms of the debate. Instead of focusing on their particular deity and getting sucked into an argument about the historicity of their holy book or the personality of their god, call them out on the fact that the details of their religion are irrelevant to atheism, that the details of Christianity are just as irrelevant as the details of Sikhism or Zoroastrianism or ancient Norse mythology.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly.  Glad to see this here.   I forgot where I read it, but some author (maybe Dawkins?  can’t remember) summed it up pretty nicely.  Faith has three definitions in common usage.  There’s faith without
    evidence (the kind atheists don’t like), faith despite evidence to the
    contrary (the kind atheists like even less), and faith because of
    evidence and repeated confirmation of that evidence (which everyone has,
    by necessity; your bridge example).  It’s not a straw man on the atheist’s part, it’s a semantic shell game on the theist’s part; they switch out which definition they’re using when you’re not looking.

  • Icaarus

    I can calculate the number 1 to 10 thousand decimal places that doesn’t mean anything. You can accurately predict gravity to 5 or 6 decimal places and confirm with measurements. Science it tells you what you know, and how well you know it. 

  • Anonymous

    Hey, some atheists still yell out ‘oh god’ when they cum…

  • Icaarus

    It is a consensus among historians that don’t call themselves “biblical” historians that the torah’s author(s) are untraceable, and thus uncountable. 

  • Icaarus

    must not reply to the trolls

  • As a teenage atheist my advice to others would be that if you can’t find people in regular life that you can share your beliefs with look to the internet, on online communities like this as well as actual forums you can get to meet other people like you and get to fit in.

  • Icaarus

    Geocentricism was the leading PHILOSOPHICAL idea of the day. Galileo was one of the first “scientists” history remembers. 

  • Icaarus

    87 % of conversational statistics are made up on the spot

    Ahem, Another International Neverwin commentor

  • Erp

    I don’t think what you wrote is what you meant.  

    ‘Biblical’ as an adjective to scholar (or historian) can mean either academic scholars who apply all the rigors of their craft to the study of the Bible or non-academics who are the historians’ equivalent of Intelligent Design biologists.   Historians also have to live with untraceable authors especially for early documents (and many traceable authors are far from reliable); however, they can still work with those documents.  They may look for stylistic traces (e.g. a document written in 17th century English will not have been written in the 15th century though vice versa is possible), anachronisms, internal coherency, etc.. 

    The Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible) has little or no historicity in regards to the times it is writing about; it is historical evidence for the times it was written (e.g., most scholars feel that the bulk of Deuteronomy was written during Josiah’s reign or shortly before) though there is much debates about what those times are.  Some bits of the Torah and Judges may be quite old for instance the Song of the Sea  and the Song of Deborah due to the style of Hebrew they are written in but the context they are now in is probably quite different from their original context.

  • Chak 47

    The founding fathers were mostly deists, not theists, and if they’d known about evolution, they’d probably have been atheists. 

  • Chak 47

    The Bible has only one passage condemning homosexuality, and doesn’t say a damned thing about lesbianism.

  • Icaarus

    Erp, while my comment was glib and short. It was meant to point out that most historians who try to glean history from the bible alone (“biblical historians”) are at odds with the rest of the historical community. While there are some historical overlaps, the number of inconsistencies would put the bible on equal historical footing with Alternate History fiction. 

  • Sorry if I am repeating already said, but it irritates me to no end when I hear people like Bill Maher and just recently Penn Jilette say that “we don’t know how the earth came to be.”   Yes we do!  Or at least we have a very good theory.

    So this brings me to my suggestion that not just every atheist but everyone should know: The Nebular hypothesis

  • contrarian

    speak for yourself.

  • It’s the other other white meat.

  • contrarian

    I say, Read the bible if you want to. Doing so will, as implied, give you a leg up in debating many christians if you are so inclined, but it will also subject you to hours of tortuous writing and only a handful of enjoyable stories.

    I suggest you read Tina Fey’s “Bossypants.” You’ll get some good laughs, though it won’t help you much with the atheism thing.

  • contrarian

    dammit, why no edit? I obviously messed up the HTML tag, but I can’t think how.

  • Chak 47

    One thing atheists should know/agree on is simply the definition of ‘atheist’. 

  • There is no logical reason for homeopathy to work. No proposed mechanism. It’s literally JUST WATER.

    How can water called “homeopathy” work better than water called “water”?

    Doc C has shown case-in-point how many atheists can hold completely irrational niggling beliefs, despite being atheist.

    Read the science again. And take note where all the “trials” you are referring to are “definitely” b.s.

    Just as we can trace God’s roots in culture, we can trace homeopathy’s roots in superstition.

  • Grisha

    You clearly neither know nor understand the topic you are trying to discuss.  

    I assume that under officially Atheistic Government you mean different kinds of communist governments. Overwhelming majority killed by Stalin, Mao, etc. were their fellow citizens most certainly not Christians, typically atheists as well.  Most of those killings had nothing to do with religion.

  • This thread has all but proven this comment.

  • It’s not just the dilution that is insane, I think I read that 200c was like have a ball of water that reached from the earth to the sun and adding one molecule of diluent to it.  But my favourite bit is how they get the water to remember; each dilution has to be banged briskly ten times on a leather and horsehair surface – priceless 😉

  • People seem to use the word “troll” to mean “someone who is saying something I don’t like”. It doesn’t necessarily mean what you said is wrong or shouldn’t be said.

  • usclat

    It’s used for emphasis and inflection. Very common in this day and age. VERY. 

  • In your view, does Pascal’s Wager succeed in its attempt to show unbelief to be irrational?

    I’ve linked to this once already in this thread – but once more shouldn’t hurt.

  • Erp

    Well I agree that definition of ‘Biblical historian’ have it wrong (the ID equivalents).  I was actually thinking about the ‘uncountable’; I think you meant ‘unaccountable’. 

    As far as the Bible and history, first one must remember that it is a collection not a single document and that many of individual pieces within the collection are compilations.  After that one can look for historical info.  For instance the king lists for Israel and Judah may be fairly accurate and we have some cross-checks with other sources.   Stories about the early kings (David, Solomon, Ahab) are mostly legend, but, later sieges and the death of Josiah at the hands of the Egyptian ruler seem accurate (though biased).   It is not history but it is a historical document (much like Euripides plays are historical documents that cast light and what mattered to the ancient Athenians [and other Greeks, apparently when  the people of Syracuse captured an invading Athenian army, the captives who had memorized the latest plays by Euripides received better treatment in exchange for recitations]).

  • Grisha

    Actually for most religions atheism is one of the worse if not worst sin.

  • Grisha

    It was not murder from the point of view of Nazi and Nazi Germany.  For most other countries it was murder.

  • John-Paul Mitchell

    Albert Einstein was an atheist.  As was Baruch Spinoza, whom Einstein cites as his philosophical forebearer on the concept of a god.

  • Grisha


    The main reason we can calculate where all the planets of the solar system will be in the year 10,000 is stability of Solar system with very little influence of unpredictable major changes.  Biology does not have such a luxury.

    At the same time discoveries of fossils and living organisms fulfill predictions of ToE.

    I want to say that if you are playing devil’s advocate, you need to up your arguments notch of two up.  So far your arguments sound like produced by a fundamentalist, but semi-educated one.

  • Grisha


  • Grisha

    Good one.  Listening to Dawkins will show how misplaced accusation of his radicalism and militancy are.

  • Alicia

    Every religion has a different belief. Who’s to say?

  • When a government becomes atheistic, the people don’t stop believing, they just keep it secret.  Fo instance, Stalin’s army committed many atrocities and many, if not most, of the soldiers were closet believers.  They were not an army of atheists.  I know this from my family history.

  • You’re not alone.

    Think that was the most important fact I learned as an atheist

  • I’m reasonably certain they’re sockpuppets and it’s the same chump.

  • Regardless of beliefs, or lack there of, everyone deserves respect.

  • That Occam’s Razor has a rigorous mathematical counterpart.

  • Actually now that you mention it, knowing what Occam’s Razor actually is should get a mention too.

    Too many people think it means The simplest explanation is probably right. This is wrong.

    The actual Occam’s Razor is:

    One should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.

  • Kevin S.

    Nobody is blaming someone who didn’t exist for anything.

  • Grisha

    So what is our disagreement?

  • Grisha

    Have you read the book itself?  I mean Gulag Archipelago?

    The Soviet government prosecuted small (in USSR) sects or individual that it (government) saw as a political threat.  It does not make it right, but does not support your assertions either.

  • Kevin S.

    Non-secular totalitarian atheists who carried many of the characteristics of theocratic despots.  Trying to pretend their example is relevant to American politics is deceitful.

  • Anonymous

    Makes sense, I was thinking it might have been someone that was banned, came back, banned again, etc.

  • 200c is actually way past the dilution limit of the known universe… 🙂

  • Kevin S.

    That doesn’t change the relevance of Adams’ words.

  • Noodles2375

    I’ll say “tell it preacher!” and hope the reader understands the sentiment rather than reading it as a literal exhortation 🙂

  • mike

     Damn straight.  That needs to be writ large in Captain Kirk lettering.  How any religion with a city made of gold can claim to care about the poor is completely beyond me.
    Sell the Vatican, feed the World.

  • dartigen …

    And IIRC it’s about to be released in a hardcover edition for the general public to peruse (seeing as the originals are too old and delicate to be handled without special equipment) so very soon it’ll be easy to find.

  • dartigen …

    Oh, and also – you don’t *have* to argue with theists if you don’t want to. You are allowed to walk away from arguments.

    And lastly – regardless of your position, nobody has the right to discriminate against you because of what you believe or don’t believe. Nobody can deny you employment, shelter, service at a shop, medical care, or your basic human rights because of what you do or don’t believe. But it is up to you to defend your rights – nobody else will do it for you.

  • Kevin S.

    And they directly contradict each other.

  • Brett Hansen

    This thread isn’t a productive place for a discussion on abortion, but the bias is in assuming that all pro-choice people consider the embryo or fetus to be a human.  Whether their reasoning is correct or incorrect, it is not the majority pro-choice position that abortion is killing a human but still morally acceptable.

  • Anonymous

    A troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages.  For example messages about “officially atheistic governments”, messages about “abortion being murder”, messages about “evolution is wrong” on a topic about atheism and awareness.

  • Anonymous

    Earth is at least as old as the oldest rock found on the planet.  The universe is at least as old as the oldest thing in it.  It is estimated that beer was invented around 11500 years ago when cereal crops were first farmed. This is nearly twice as old as creationists claim that the age of the universe it.  Other things older than the creationist universe include proto-writing, rice farming, copper pins, the wheel, pottery, the plough, jewellery and bee keeping.

  • Anonymous

    Human history is older than Christianity.  It is older than the Old Testament.  Humanity is older than any living religion.  A lot older.

  • Rich Wilson

    Don’t forget religion.

  • Tell theists not to use Doctor Gregory House as a model for what they think an atheist is like.

  • Greg

    I don’t think that contradicts  anything Pollracker said?

    It should be mentioned, however, that Pascal’s wager is utterly irrational on so many different levels that it is quite funny what his goal was.

  • Lucy Mayne

    This is an extension on what others have mentioned, but they are things I have noticed both in my personal dealings with other atheists, and online.

    Just because someone is an atheist doesn’t mean that person is even remotely sceptical, can be relied on to show common sense on gender/race/sexuality/etc related issues (can anyone say “elevator”?), is in favour of  gay rights, or inclined towards the left in politics. In fact, the only thing you are guaranteed to agree on with another atheist is that there is no evidence for the “God Hypothesis” (although in most cases you will agree on much more).

  • Greg

    Might be an idea to bear in mind that atheists don’t usually get yelled at by people from Harvard about their lack of belief in a god. 😀

    If this thread was about trying to defeat all Christian arguments, I’d agree with you, but I don’t think it is. As far as I can understand, it’s far more about preparing people for what they might meet in the nastier fundamentalist populace in America.

    I guess all I’m saying is I don’t think people here are saying what you fear they’re saying, so don’t worry. 🙂

  • Greg

    Okay, I’m not a fan of this as a concept (as I said at the very start), but here’s one thing that hasn’t been said, and I think should be said:

    The god that theists believe in differs wildly from person to person, even in the same religion. As a very basic example, some theists believe their god is perfectly just, and some that it is perfectly merciful (and some even try to claim both contradictory characteristics are true). 

    What this means is that if you are in a conversation with someone, very often you may make assumptions about what they believe based upon what other people have told you, and they will reply ‘I don’t believe that’, or ‘you’re strawmanning me!’. 

    If someone is trying to convert you, asking them to fully define the god that they believe in before starting can save a lot of time, headaches, and general irritation in the long run.

    (As an aside, it can also bring you great amusement too: I had a conversation with a LDS where I asked them to give me a full description of their god’s characteristics, and in response to my questions about what god was made up of, and what god looked like, I was told that particular LDS thought god was physical, and looked (essentially) like a Caucasian male. A somewhat revealing answer I thought!)

  • Matthew Prorok

    I think the most important fact, one that blogs like this exemplify, is simply this:

    You are not alone.

  • Mike

    Sometimes a public organization you care about will do something that conflicts with your values as an atheist and maybe with the first amendment.  Rather than calling the ACLU or the local press, often the best course of action is to first send a polite letter explaining your position and offering alternatives that the organization might take that will still meet their goals while not violating the separation of church and state.  In this way you will have stood up for your beliefs while helping build up, rather than tear down.

  • MRL

    Curious whether you dispute the claim of the cited Ord piece.

  • It was the “LOL” that finally made me take him seriously.

  • MariaO

    I recently read an interview of the highest catholic honcho in Sweden. He lamented the fact that religion is having so little influence of society and people’s lifes. And he he said the biggest mistake the church has done here is to link religion with morals! According to him, that is not at all what his religion is about. Maybe the same mistake will backfire in the US?

  • The ACLU’s position on religion in schools isn’t what most people seem to think it is.  That’s a fact I’d like people to know.  As they put it:  “The right to practice religion, or no religion at all, is among the most fundamental of the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The ACLU works to ensure that this essential freedom is protected by keeping the government out of religion.” http://www.aclu.org/religion-belief/free-exercise-religion

  • Icaarus

    Okay Erp, your first comment makes more sense, and yes the authors would be unaccountable. But since we don’t know who they were or how many there were they are also uncountable. (think math) We can set a lower limit, but not an upper one. 

  • A fact atheists should know?

    That virtually no serious historian doubts the existence of Jesus of Nazareth (Jeshua ben Joseph) – unbelieving Bart Ehrman says he doesn’t know any.That’s not an opinion, it’s a fact about the state of contemporary historical scholarship.

    In my experience (and also in the experience of Atheists I know) too many Atheists are ignorant of the state of scholarship in their claims about the historical Jesus.

  • A fact atheists should know?

    That virtually no serious historian doubts the existence of Jesus of Nazareth (Jeshua ben Joseph) – unbelieving Bart Ehrman says he doesn’t know any.That’s not an opinion, it’s a fact about the state of contemporary historical scholarship.

    In my experience (and also in the experience of Atheists I know) too many Atheists are ignorant of the state of scholarship in their claims about the historical Jesus.

  • ACN

    Just make sure that in addition, you tack on the fact that these people believe this in spite of the fact that there is no extra-Biblical evidence for Jesus. And that there are no contemporary sources which mention Jesus – all the gospels and biographical records, including those from non-Christian sources, were written long after his alleged death. Mention also, that despite the fact that the early days of the Roman Republic are incredibly well documented, and Jesus is said to have scribes (yeah, the people who COULD read and write) following him around, and in Matthew 21:10, it’s claimed that EVERYONE in jerusalem was aware of this guym, but for some reason, not a single contemporary historian/writer decided to mention anything about him.Yelling “EVERYONE THINKS THIS” is not really an argument. 

  • His noodley appendage

    The earth is 4.5 billion years old and homo sapiens are 200,000 years old.  The bible says the earth is 6000 years old and went from two people to 10 billion in that time frame.

  • Good point! Here’s a handy site that details the ACLU’s support of freedom of religion:

  • Something atheists should know?

    Whether or not there was a historical Jesus is profoundly irrelevant to atheism.

  • Rich Wilson

    Um, I d don’t think anyone is claiming 10 billion people.  And the population explosion in and of itself isn’t really a problem, it’s even though we are a relatively young species, the range of our mitochondrial DNA (which changes at a fairly constant and known rate) doesn’t support that human genetics have only been changing for 6000 years.

  • Icaarus

    Please read what you type before you press enter. Articles are important to the written word. 

  • ACN

    And another thing, the claim:

     There existed a man who went by ‘Jesus of Nazareth’

     and the claim that:

     The synoptic gospels are an accurate representation of the life of said person.

    are almost comicly distinct. Even if I decide to grant you the first claim, you still have ALL of your work ahead of you. You have to prove all sorts of supernatural nonsense about him that you’re no closer to verifying now than anyone was 2k years ago.

  • ACN

    And another thing, the claim:

     There existed a man who went by ‘Jesus of Nazareth’

     and the claim that:

     The synoptic gospels are an accurate representation of the life of said person.

    are almost comicly distinct. Even if I decide to grant you the first claim, you still have ALL of your work ahead of you. You have to prove all sorts of supernatural nonsense about him that you’re no closer to verifying now than anyone was 2k years ago.

  • John

    Some of the most quoted Gospel sentiments weren’t written by the original authors, and were in fact added sometimes hundreds of years later by subsequent interpolators. A good example of this would be the story of Jesus saving the adulteress from being stoned.

  • ACN

    Yikes, I just saw that I got sort of Ninja’d by you, didn’t mean to re-iterate your thunder 🙂

  • Drew M.

    This troll isn’t cute and it’s chewing up my good slippers.

    Send it back to the pound.

  • Drew M.

    Thanks for this. I really needed the laugh. 😀

  • Drew M.

    Odd, my dictionary seems to be missing your definition.


    I was going to expound, but Daniel Schealler’s post is better than what I would have drafted.

  • Drew M.

    But Neil Armstrong, Pete Conrad, Alan Bean, Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, David Scott, James Irwin, John W. Young, Charles Duke, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt all did not.

  • Drew M.

    Or let MC Hawking do’ the talking. 😉


  • Drew M.

    According to the cite in Wiki, it’s about 50%, but I haven’t read Barry’s link yet, so his number may be more up to date.


  • Drew M.

    Along these lines, the difference between a Law and Theory.


  • Drew M.

    “Most atheists that I know or have read, reject (or lack belief in) all
    gods because they reject (or lack belief in) the idea of the
    supernatural, where as Christians don’t reject the supernatural.”

    That’s actually a good point. A very, very good point.

  • Drew M.

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • Drew M.

    I_Claudia said it better than I. Apathism is a terrible position in the US. If we didn’t care enough to debate the topic, we’d be steamrolled by the theists.

  • Drew M.

    That’s because you’re an unimaginative troll who has no qualms about lying, not because you’re a Christian.

  • Drew M.


  • Drew M.

    I’ll take that one further and suggest people not even watch that show in the first place.

  • O_o

    I absolutely love that show. 

    It’s the only thing on television that I will actually shift my daily schedule around in order to watch.

  • That came over a tad defensive, Andrew.

    I mean – yes, there is a school of thought that suggests that Jesus never existed.

    But I was under the impression that majority opinion amongst atheists is that the gospels gratuitously embellish the life of Jesus rather than that they invented it.

    Is that wrong?

  • Drew M.

    Hehe. I hate TV in general, but from the 8 or so episodes of House I’ve seen, it’s the same formulaic episode week after week. 

    In fairness, I did like it at first and it may be better now.

  • :p

    Well yes. Of course the shows all follow a similar format.

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


    Getting *really* off topic now, but anyway: It’s interesting to see what different people enjoy in entertainment.

    I enjoy House because of the dialogue and the character development. The serial formulaic plot of the Patient of the Week is just the framework onto which the over-arching narrative of a series is bolted.

    So I don’t care that the individual episodes are almost all  the same formula. I’m not there for the episode – I’m watching for the series.

    But on the other appendage I can see how someone else would prefer the over-arching background narrative to be just that – the background upon which the foreground of engaging and unique plot-driven episodes are staged. 

    In which case… Yeah. Don’t watch House. That’s not what they’re doing there.

  • Faith is like virginity.. once you lose it, you feel like an adult.

  • Anonymous

    The region was rife with prophets and messiahs at the time.  My view is that the gospels represent the stories of several “Jesuses” all squished together so as to seem like one person and then layered with an unhealthy dose of mythology and woo.  It would explain Jesus apparent multiple personalities for example throwing moneychanger’s tables around in the temple and inviting people to slap him on both cheeks.

    That said, who cares if a real person or persons ascribed as Jesus existed.  The gospel stories are edited accounts of hearsay or just made up.  I’ll happily concede that someone called Jesus existed, maybe two or ten of them.  There is nothing divine about it though.

  • Anonymous

    Everybody should know what counts as evidence.  The Doppler effect counts as evidence for an expanding universe.  DNA similarities between species count as evidence for evolution and speciation.  The Bible counts as evidence of the views of the 4th century writers.  Making an assertion is not evidence and some things aren’t evidence for the things that they are claimed to be.  The bible isn’t evidence of God any more than Harry Potter is evidence of magic or Lord of the Rings is evidence of hobbits.

  • Rich Wilson
  • Religion like systems of thought are no better than religion (Marxism, feminism, psychoanalysis…the usual PoMo suspects).

  • Botait

    Better than bringing up the mustache point, is that the vast majority of heinous crimes have been committed by men.

  • Bo Tait

    Haha I love how that link argues that my grandfather would likely have very accurate memories of his wedding day, when in fact when he told me about it he had forgotten a few important things, and between himself and my grandmother, they couldn’t fill in the gaps, despite it being such an important day. 

    Haha, suddenly oral traditions are incredibly accurate ways of passing information. 

  • Bo Tait

    Question everything, including information from other Atheists.

  • Nordog

    Shorter version: If there is a God, he’s a murderer because people die.

  • Nordog

    “The argument from authority is the weakest form of argument, according to Boethius.”  — Thomas Aquinas

  • Nordog

    Joe, what evidence for God, if any, would you accept?

  • NorDog

    A bit of a tangent here, but what’s the latest on gravitational wave detection?

    What’s the latest understanding of inertia?

    Seems to me that the three greatest mysteries of physics are light, gravity, and inertia.

    Regarding the latter two, it’s one thing to understand the behavior, quite another to understand the thing in and of itself.

    With light, there’s the whole QM thing and has been commented on already.

  • No worries. I doubt Andrew is paying attention anyway. ;o)

  • But the reason Christians have for dismissing those other gods is the same reason we have for dismissing their god. They (and we) see no evidence that those gods are real. It’s not because of a blanket acceptance or rejection of the supernatural.

  • Whether or not there was a historical Jesus is profoundly irrelevant to atheism.

    Except, as ACN has just demonstrated, it is atheists who are most prone to spouting stuff that would be laughed out of any serious ancient history department on this issue. 

  • But I was under the impression that majority opinion amongst atheists is that the gospels gratuitously embellish the life of Jesus rather than that they invented it.

    I’ve come across far too many who claim that he never existed, and who, like ACN above say all sorts of things that virtually no serious historian would say, even if they say that the gospels contain embellishment and reject the miraculous claims within.

  • My view is that the gospels represent the stories of several “Jesuses” all squished together so as to seem like one person 

    Which of these was James of Jerusalem the brother of? 😉

  •  The bible says the earth is 6000 years old

    Reference please.

  • or just made up.

    Then they were written by very very clever guys who did some pretty intricate research about the place and culture they set their story in (considering that none of them were written in Palestine). Though that does make it difficult to suggest as some do that they were illterate goatherds.

  • Drew M.

    This is true. However, after reading the passage I quoted, I realized that the “1 less god” statement trivializes our position somewhat.

    On the surface, it does not convey the depth of our skepticism and desire for evidence. It is much easier to dismiss with a “bah” and handwave.

    Admittedly, not that it makes much of a difference.

  • Rich Wilson
  •  there is no extra-Biblical evidence for Jesus. 

    Simply false. There is Jewish and Graeco-Roman attestation.

    no contemporary sources which mention Jesus

    And? There’s no “contemporary” sources for most ancient figures we accept existed.

     all the gospels and biographical records, including those from non-Christian sources, were written long after his alleged death.

    The earliest reference is in one of Paul’s letter (authorship is not disputed on it btw) and it takes the form of a creed which he almost certainly learnt while in Jerusalem with James (Jesus brother btw.. how many people do you have to deny to sustain it?) and Peter which put the source behind Paul’s letter within 5 years. The documents collated as the New Testament were all written by the end of the C1st AD. Compare that to , say, Alexander the Great, and it’s closer to the time, and within the two generations that it takes for legendary development to wipe out the historical core.

    the early days of the Roman Republic are incredibly well documented

    We have about 1% extant of what was written. You’re trying to argue from silence.

    not a single contemporary historian/writer decided to mention anything about him.

    You’re goalshifting. The textual attestation, when normal historical criteria are applied are more than sufficient to establish that Jesus existed. Furthermore, there’s the movement he inspired which makes no sense without an historical Jesus. Quite frankly, there’s a lot of textual attestation to dismiss, and the only real reason to do so is prejudice. Hence why your claim of 

    Yelling “EVERYONE THINKS THIS” is not really an argument.

    is spurious. Serious mainstream historical consensus isn’t made without evidence. It’s pretty telling that you seem prepared to simply dismiss not only the view of mainstream scholars (who study the evidence) but to dismiss the evidence they consider valid.  Moreover, my point was that the acceptance of an historical Jesus as scholarly consensus is fact – it is: that’s what the scholarly consensus is. Go read the literature if you want to dispute that. I didn’t say that atheists had to accept the existence of Jesus as fact. However, if you’re going to deny it (and they might well all be wrong), you better have a decent rebuttal to the scholarship (you could start with Ehrman, seeing as he’s not a Christian scholar).

  • Anonymous

    Who cares?  Maybe one did, maybe none.  It’s not a very interesting question and it doesn’t demonstrate that Jesus was somehow divine.

  • Anonymous

    Really?  Clever people existed 2000 years ago.  Whatever next?  

    Look, if your assertion is that God came to Bethlehem in as his own son around 2000 years ago in order to sacrifice himself as a payment for a sin that he himself laid down on humanity then by all means produce some evidence to back it up.  I will remain sceptical until you do.  

    If it isn’t your assertion then state your position and back that up with evidence.  Frankly all this sniping and quote mining is rather tiresome and not at all interesting.

  • Nick Franco

    Here’s a fact I

  • Sorry, Andrew, I’m not going to bite.  You’ve completely missed the point, though.

  • NorDog


  • Eloquently put.

  • ACN

    Simply false. There is Jewish and Graeco-Roman attestation.

    Citation needed?

  • That’s the classical phrasing. The formal math is actually closer to the former; but more exactly still “the simplest explanation is most probably right”. The difference between the English and the math is similar to the difference between the colloquial understanding of the second law of thermodynamics and the underlying statistical mechanics equations.

    The big catch is at what exactly counts as an explanation in the mathematical sense of the theorem; “Goddidit” only counts as part of an explanation, because it does not provide enough information to infer (for example) that God made the sky blue instead of making it green. Once you include enough more to qualify as an explanation, “God” usually becomes an unnecessary entity, making an equivalent explanation that merely omits “God” more likely. There’s also a smaller catch at the rigorous sense of “simplest”; both number of entities posited, and length of rule-set for entity interactions contribute to how complex (un-simple) an explanation is.

  • ACN

    More importantly, you need to understand that the “scholarly concensus”, as you so authoritatively put it, are not made and backed up by any sort of detailed historical evidence. What they are backed up by, is a reasonably good understanding of how myths and new religions start. It is accepted/observed that myths are usually not whole-cloth fabrications. The characters and stories  are typically exaggerations, deifications, or mischaracterizations of events/people that did exist, did happen, and did do real things. So when a historian or a biblical scholar says something like “a historical jesus likely existed”, what they mean is something like:

     There was a guy walking around saying loony things, possibly about fig trees and mustard seeds, possibly going by the name Jesus of Nazareth. It is also possibly that this deified/mischaracterized/exaggerated persona was actually an amalgamation of similar persons/characters running about at the time. 

    The historians are not, in this case, validating any of the crazy mythology. Indeed, no competent historian COULD acknowledge such mythological habberdashery as a “historical account”. They don’t acknowledge the biblical accounts of this mythological figure as accurate representations of his life, but rather as an indication of the existence of a persona(s) for an author to mythologize!The point that Anna and I are making (sort of coming at it from different directions), Anna feel free to correct me if I’m putting words in your mouth, is that even if you could prove conclusively that there existed a person named Jesus of Nazareth (and my point is that you are EXCEEDINGLY hard pressed, even on this point!), you are no closer to proving that he died and was subsequently resurrected. Or that he was born of a virgin. Or that his father was god, himself, and a disembodied holy spirit. Or that he performed miraculous healings. Or that we all must devote our lives to him to receive eternal life in heaven after death, else risking eternal damnation. The list goes on.

  • Then you must have a reliable method for assigning probability to the truth or falsehood of any explanation based only on how complex or simple that explanation is.

    That is to say: Without first determining whether that explanation covers all the necessary features of the phenomena being explained.

    And: Without establishing if the explanation is supported or contradicted by any evidence.

    That must be a hell of a method, I’ll grant you that.

    Care to share?

  • The three basic bullet points I came up with were:

    If you’re an atheist, it doesn’t mean you need to do anything.
    There are plenty of non-believers out there, even if they don’t call themselves atheists.
    Evolution is a fact.

    A lot of the comments here are already making me second-guess my priorities, now that I’ve browsed them a little, but I elaborated somewhat on why these occurred to me as especially useful on my blog:


  • Also

    The motto of the USA is “e pluribus unum” no matter how hard zealots try to make it about god. That’s Latin for “out of many, one.” To tie that in with some earlier comments, atheists should take this point to heart, as well; religious people may be wrong, but that is their right.

  • Rich Wilson
  • Ron Sly

    Had a quick scan and didn’t see my personal pet peeve:

    Understanding the scientific method and supporting the scientific body of knowledge are not the same as following and having a belief in a religion. Science is the interrogation of the world to expand knowledge, whereas religion suspends knowledge to maintain belief.

    Also, if you haven’t seen Tim Minchin’s “Storm” – a great dramatization of arguing with the spiritual – watch it now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhGuXCuDb1U

  • The technical cite I have in mind is (doi:10.1109/18.825807); one of the authors has a PDF freely at tinyurl.com/33t9def if you care to read the math. Be warned, a late undergraduate to graduate audience will consider the reading level heavily technical math. With a good undergraduate course in probability and a good one in theory of computation, it may be comprehensible; good graduate courses may leave it explainable to others. My approach was to find a math PhD candidate and buy him a few drinks after I took some intro courses; such an approach will at least be likely to amuse the PhD candidate.

    Obviously, it’s not only on the simplicity, but specifically for simplicity against describing the specific and full set of evidence. (No, you cannot reason out the universe in purely platonic fashion; you need to test against experience, to see which experienced universe you should be describing.) The “supported or contradicted by any evidence” is explicitly tested for falsification against evidence — which puts limits on practical implementation via the halting problem. (How do you know a description is in an infinite loop, or merely not finished getting to the final characterization of evidence?) However, if it’s non-halting, it’s not eligible as a “description” (for that ordinal; see below).

    It also requires assuming a technical version of “there is a pattern”; the idea of “covers all the necessary features” is handled by the linguistic universality of Turing Automata over unrestricted grammars. Isomorphically, anything recognizable is isomorphic to a program for a UTM. (Though more technically, the theorem extends to experience mapping to arbitrary ordinal hypercomputation a la Turing’s PhD thesis topic, and languages of the arithmetical hierarchy.) Pedantically, it’s also dependent on the self-consistency of ZF or equivalently powerful axioms capable of the construction of set theory, automata and formal grammars, and probability; however, as the theorem is constructive, it is independent of the Axiom of Choice. If you throw all this out, it leaves Hume’s Problem of Induction in an irresolvable and infinite Ramsey Theoretic sea… which is a philosophically legitimate alternative, but not one theists find potable; crudely, it leaves you unable to distinguish whether your glass has piss or beer. Throw out ZF as well, and you may also be unable to figure out your share of the bar tab afterward, to add insult to indigestion.

    It’s less useful in practice than you’d hope, due the aforementioned halting problem. However, it can still be converted to a greedy search (pseudo)algorithm that has a nontrivial taxonomic kindred to science, although even that merely allows effectiveness and not efficiency. Still, this is better than some of Hume’s hopeless backwaters.

    Or, translating back to English: it works, as long as anything resembling language works. If you don’t want to use language, you may go sit quietly in a corner and are not allowed to protest paying the whole bar tab. Even if you’re willing to use a language, it doesn’t let you be sure you have the best (most likely) description, but it does let you tell a better description from a worse one.

    The main practical application seems to be it’s REALLY good for making handwaving philosophy majors go mutter in a corner. Some atheists find this capability occasionally useful. =)

  • Gah!

    And here I thought I’d left Information Theory behind me with the rest of the undergraduate coursework I only barely passed and will probably never actually use.


    It’s obviously going to be a long read. But I’ve skimmed through a few times.

    On my cursory reading, it looks like what they’re doing is coming up with different methods of predicting subsequent strings in a message when the message so far is already known – and their conclusion is that basing prediction on the compression of the data so far gives better results than basing it on the uncompressed data itself.

    As it stands, that’s actually pretty interesting. I wonder if they investigated success rates in practice using different dictionary-generation techniques.


    *reads some more*

    Bah! No time! That’ll take all week.

    I’ll definitely follow it up later.

    However: Predicting finite-length strings in a message doesn’t seem like it has anything to do with Occam’s razor as it applies to the general sense of generating hypotheses about the universe in general.

    They’re using the word ‘hypothesis’ in a very specific sense – it is synonymous with the model about the distribution of probabilities of different incoming strings.

    Given that it’s all information theory under computer science terminology, their concept also rely on the models and data being Turing-compatible… Which the entire universe is not.

    So… Yeah. Interesting paper in its own right, and I’ll read it properly later (adding to bookmarks… done) – and thanks for bringing it up.

    But I think that the context of the paper doesn’t actually match the context of our conversation.

    Damn fine effort, though. ^_^

  • First, the question of whether or not the universe is Turing computable is still deeply unsettled on the one hand (Wikipedia has some discussion), but more importantly moot on the other. As I alluded earlier, the theorem extends trivially to any ordinal degree of hypercomputation, not only to degree zero (vanilla Turing machine).

    Second, science works with finite amounts of evidence/experience/data; thus, finite strings. Science predictions are about subsequent evidence, and (if you look closely) about the probabilities rather than  absolute certainties. You might also note that Hume’s problem of induction is explicitly referenced; and such induction is the fundamental objective science seems to pursue. Yes, the sense of hypothesis is hideously more formalized than the norm for science; however, it’s stronger thereby, with the form used by science remaining a practical approximation. Treating this form of hypothesis as “conjecture, and characterization thereunder” seems to allow a homomorphism. 

    Third, if you make it through that in under a week, you’re probably not doing the paper justice.

  • First, the question of whether or not the universe is Turing computable is still deeply unsettled on the one hand (Wikipedia has some discussion), but more importantly moot on the other. As I alluded earlier, the theorem extends trivially to any ordinal degree of hypercomputation, not only to degree zero (vanilla Turing machine).

    Second, science works with finite amounts of evidence/experience/data; thus, finite strings. Science predictions are about subsequent evidence, and (if you look closely) about the probabilities rather than  absolute certainties. You might also note that Hume’s problem of induction is explicitly referenced; and such induction is the fundamental objective science seems to pursue. Yes, the sense of hypothesis is hideously more formalized than the norm for science; however, it’s stronger thereby, with the form used by science remaining a practical approximation. Treating this form of hypothesis as “conjecture, and characterization thereunder” seems to allow a homomorphism. 

    Third, if you make it through that in under a week, you’re probably not doing the paper justice.

  • We’re talking past each other, it seems.


    Q) Why are particular kinds of flowers widely considered to be beautiful.

    1) Because we have evolved in such a way as to find them beautiful.

    2) Fairies.

    2) Gremlins.

    Apply Occam’s Razor to these three hypotheses.

    As far as I can tell – the method reccomended in the paper doesn’t fit. At all.

    All it tells us is that converting our data to bit strings and compressing it can be shown to lead to more accurate predictions of a certain type by a certain kind of model than if we converted it to a bit string and did not compress it.


    I placed the problem description above into a text file.

    I then compressed that file.

    I then took the binary of the zipped file and converted it to base 64.


    Not exactly helpful in concrete practical terms, is it?

    Anyway – we’re probably going to start going round and round in circles and we’re getting WAAAAAY off topic. I’d still like to hear a final comment from you on the topic in response to what I’ve posted here – but after that I think we should drop this digression and let things get back to normal.

    Whatever the outcome, thanks again for the paper. I’ll struggle my way through that when I can find the time.

    As if the stack of unread books next to my bed wasn’t big enough already.

    I’m never going to get to play Skyrim at this rate.

  • You should check out Hume, first. Beauty involves an ordering relationship on choices of “ought”; technically, it’s not an “is” question subject to science. Now, if you’re asking why humans find flowers beautiful, the first is an easy winner, though imprecisely phrased, and probably neglects the degree to which human aesthetics are a selective pressure.

    Of course, the data you’re compressing is the problem description, not the full data set about the nature of flowers, aesthetic responses by humans, et cetera. It’s even worse than a “Goddidit” simplification. You’re probably leaving out a few terabits of the input data set even counting your own encounters.

  • Anonymous

    Did I miss it?  Was there a winner?

  • Yep — I contacted the winner a while back!

  • Mypagese_mail@yahoo.com

    I want that bag

  • Vicvega

    My father told me he thinks anyone who doesn’t believe in god can’t have sound morals. (I am from America by the way) 

  • Alchemistgamer

    Let’s just say hitler had a religion that told to kill everyone except gerbles……

  • Alchemistgamer

    Yea mother seems to make me go to church when I am one of which who isn’t really a believer…

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