I wasn’t going to write anything today, but recently a family member shared this old chestnut of an anti-atheist meme, and even though I have written about this subject before, it might be worth tackling it again from a different angle.
I pointed out to him, and rightly so, that this is a straw man argument… To which he responded that I am fixated on the straw man argument. (What???) Let’s ignore his ad hominem, OK? (Ignore that he responded by attacking me rather than my argument.)
- Atheism is the disbelief in all gods.
- A straw man argument is an oversimplified, or caricaturized, or misrepresented version of an apposing view. It is used to argue against an argument that is easily defeated (because it isn’t the real opposing view).
This meme was the follow-up share to a question, a “challenge” for atheists, to state how anything could result out of nothing. (Paraphrased.) Getting back to point one, atheism is the disbelief in all gods. It isn’t the belief in anything else. I don’t have to believe in the Big Bang to be an atheist… I just have to believe that all the gods ever invented, were invented by man, as explanations for stuff that man did not understand.
Answering the so-called challenge is to defend a straw man, to defend the view of atheism which is not about atheism at all. The challenge also stated that it should be answered without referring to god. (Again… What???) Atheism is about the disbelief in gods, and my views on other subjects like this deliberate misunderstanding of cosmology pretending to be atheism, are not representative of all atheists anyway.
Also, stating that the answer should not refer to “God” reveals that the person asking assumes the existence of only one god, the “true” god, which also happens to be the god that he was taught to believe in since his childhood. (Or some sort of rationalized version of that “true” god.) This is not how you debate logically. If you start with the assumption that god exists, and ignore or discard anything that contradicts it, paint a picture of the opposing view which is not based on the actual opposing view, and then disregard the valid criticism that points out that your idea of that opposing view is a straw man, there is no debate to be had. A debate where you simply want to win, by saying or writing things that others with similar views will agree with, but disregarding anything else, is a waste of time. You learn nothing.
(Regarding my last point above, at least for me, debating is never about winning. It’s about presenting my logical argument, which I base on years of deliberation and previous debates, which I believe is correct but may itself contain fallacies. It’s about presenting that argument, about learning from my opponent while my opponent also learns from me, with the objective being to refine the argument, to improve it and reach the best logical and realistic view that is possible. And if my opinion turns out to be completely wrong, I change it. My current views on atheism didn’t come to me in a day. It took more than twenty years to reach them, and while my logic is pretty solid, there’s always room to learn more, to improve and to change any opinions that are wrong. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of becoming skilled at debating itself, to win at all costs, so I am extra careful not to do so.)
The fact is, I can’t explain how anything comes out of nothing, but I don’t have to because I don’t believe that. (I’ll get back to that point.) You can’t explain where your god came from. So you will resort to special pleading and claim that he always existed, therefore you don’t have to answer the question. (This leads on to an argument from first cause, which I have also written about before.) And that’s where your “nothing exploding” bullshit falls apart. If you can assume that your god always existed, why not the universe too? (Told you I’d get back to that.) You didn’t solve the problem (of explaining how the universe came to exist)… You just fabricated a magical explanation for it, then accused anyone who doesn’t believe in your magic, of not making sense.
Edit: I feel that this must be added. I hate this… hate responding to Facebook shares and arguments by my family member, although I can console myself that he doesn’t read these posts. We are getting quite close after years lost due to my meth addiction. Lately our relationship is improving, and I struggle with reconciling that with partaking in arguments online, which I worry may affect the relationship negatively. I respect the opposing view, but his arguments are often smug and condescending, and littered with a complete misunderstanding of my views as an atheist. I am accused of being intolerant, disrespectful, obnoxious and angry, and those accusations are not only patently wrong, they’re insulting. I can’t seem to reach him; get him to understand that my views are based on pure logic and are different to his, but do not insult anyone or assume that theists are less intelligent. I do hope that one day he can come to some sort of understanding of what atheism really is, but that’s probably never going to happen.
In a nutshell, theists believe in a god or gods without any evidence to support the claim. Atheists don’t. That’s it! All apologist arguments are rhetoric and nothing more. Some of them like the one featured in this post, rely on misrepresenting the view of atheists, but don’t let such arguments fool you. No logic lies behind their assumptions and fallacies, and there are no good apologist arguments.