Do atheists claim the world came out of nothing?

I’ve seen so many variations of this absurd argument, I had to write about it eventually…

The most recent one was an image showing a cross-section of a cell, claiming that something so complex must have been designed, and comparing it to something made-made and complex. (I am ignoring the argument from beauty and argument from complexity today, because in my mind they are just symptoms of magical thinking and don’t need to be discussed. Also, I haven’t read those two linked articles.)

The most common rebuttal of this argument that I’ve seen, is to point out the person’s ignorance of evolution and the evolutionary timescale. But I’m not going to do that… I don’t need evolution to show how absurd this argument is. In fact, I don’t see any point in countering the argument by pitting evolution against creationism. That gives the incorrect impression that the two arguments have equal weight. They don’t. It also alienates the vast majority of creationists who do believe in some sort of assisted evolution.

As an atheist, I don’t believe in any gods. Further, I do believe that every god ever worshipped by man was created by man. I see no difference between the gods worshipped today, such as the Christian, Muslim and Jewish gods (the Abrahamic religions) versus other gods worshipped thousands of years ago, such as the Greek gods, the Roman gods and the Egyptian gods. I know from observation that nearly all religious people are simply indoctrinated into believing in the god of their culture and region, and that those people tend to reinterpret all arguments about god in terms of their religion’s god, which is their “one true god”. Those are as far as my beliefs and my lack of belief go – evolution has absolutely nothing to do with my atheism.

But here’s the irony, evolution has nothing to do with the theist’s argument either. It’s just a scapegoat, an idea that can be misconstrued into a straw man to give their argument weight that it does not deserve.

As an atheist, I do not propose a solution for the problem of explaining how the universe came about. I don’t say we came out of nothing, or anything. I know of some people who hypothesize about such things, but that has nothing to do with my position as an atheist, or theirs.

As a theist however, you do claim that it all came out of nothing. You claim that a god created it, and that’s where your explanation ends. You then accept that this god always existed, and that it is blasphemy to question this assertion, even though there is no evidence for the assertion. That is, everything has a cause, and that cause is god, but god has no cause. So this is an example of special pleading.

By fabricating a god as the explanation for all you do not understand, you do not solve the problem. (You move the problem by proposing a god, without any explanation of how god came about, and then refuse to acknowledge that you still have the same problem. Surely something so complex it is capable of creating the entire universe couldn’t simply exist? And how did god create it all out of nothing? Your argument from complexity applies to your god too; you just don’t like to think about that.) You still don’t know how the universe came about. The fact that you are indoctrinated into not questioning what is no more than a belief in magic does not change that you don’t know.

Update: (This is what happens when I write and publish a post without proofreading… I forget one of the points I intended making in the first place, and it no longer fits in the structure of the post as written…)

I forgot to mention this: Saying that [insert whatever subject you like] is so complex, it must have been created by god, is a classic non sequitur. Your conclusion does not follow from your premise. What you’re really saying is this: “It’s complicated and I don’t understand how it came to be. Therefore I will assume what I have already been taught to believe and not question is true, without bothering to make any attempt to understand any alternative ideas.” That way, you miss the fact that god is an invented explanation that doesn’t solve the problem.

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About Jerome

I am a senior C# developer in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am also a recovering addict, who spent nearly eight years using methamphetamine. I write on my recovery blog about my lessons learned and sometimes give advice to others who have made similar mistakes, often from my viewpoint as an atheist, and I also write some C# programming articles on my programming blog.
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