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Ask An Atheist: Could you ever be convinced of the existence of God?
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Q. Do you believe that there is really any kind of argument at all that you would allow emotionally down in your gut or in your thinking to affect you? Or, is your mind pretty much made up already that there is no sufficient evidence or ever will be? Is that your own comfort zone … that there is no God?
A. If the questioner is asking that I let emotions short circuit reasoning, that is a slippery slope that many a religious zealot has invoked over the years on the road to becoming a nuisance. But if the questioner assumes that somewhere lurking in my emotional life there is some “Oh my, there must be God” feeling ready to burst forth if only I put handcuffs on that evidential reasoning stuff I pay attention to, I must plead not guilty ‒ no such basement for me.
The questioner appears also to be assuming that I am a “no possible evidence could persuade me” atheist, and there too I must beg to differ. When talking about “God” (and which god does one have in mind or is only one parochial candidate allowed to play here?) in groups I often look up at the ceiling and call out, “Are you hearing this?” and strenuously invite the deity in question to join the discussion. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were not shocked to learn that no burning shrubberies or Charlton Heston-ish voices have occurred on those occasions, which is just the point. These purported supernatural entities don’t appear to do personal appearances anymore, even though it would be amazingly easy for to do so for them. So we have to posit that the proposed entity deems not to do so (from petulance or philosophical stubbornness, who can say ‒ again, because the entities don’t give interviews any more).
There were very effective scenes in the old cable series “Saving Grace” where the angel, Earl, swept up the main character to a pinnacle for a chat. Were that to happen to me at our meetings, were I spent a good half of an hour talking with the supernatural agent to melt my stone cold heart, and upon being returned to my group discover that my aghast atheist friends had seen me disappear and that a time had elapsed matching that experienced in my divine conference before I reappeared ‒ poof ‒ what genuine empiricist wouldn’t be impressed with that? It’s personal experience corroborated by external observation. Immodestly perhaps, I am neither an idiot nor a blockhead, and I for one would be very impressed.
But that isn’t what we get, is it? Arguments for the existence of God (and again, which one?) turn on reading very old press coverage (emanating from assorted “prophets”) or trying to deduce the being’s existence from the back door, from the facts of the natural world (as though flagella have designer labels attached) or by drawing on the heartfelt personal experiences of current people (but not those equally sincere convictions coming from other people’s religions), but missing the sort of slam-dunk corroborating evidence I outlined above.
Even genuinely miraculous healings would do it for me, such as war veterans who have lost limbs having them restored after prayer. But that is not known to happen either. As some droll author observed of Lourdes in the 19th century: “So many crutches, but no wooden legs.” There is even a trope at one atheist website that invites believers to pray for the healing of amputees in exactly this way. It would not only be swell evidence for the god in question, but would be even grander for the person who lost their limbs: a no-lose situation, I would think. And while we’re about it, toss in Alzheimer’s disease victims, as insidious an affliction as one can imagine, ravaging the loved ones more than its victim (and thus rather a blot on any master designer that let that one slip through the sieve). I would happily like to have an opportunity to step out of the “comfort zone” that the questioner feels I (but evidently not themselves) supposedly occupy to congratulate a deity for wading in on that one.