Friday, December 10, 2010

There’s Nothing To It

One of the strangest arguments leveled at atheists by Christians is that atheists believe everything sprang from nothing, and that this is illogical. To my knowledge, no atheist I have ever heard of has made this argument. However, we as human beings don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are. To truly appreciate this argument, you must transport yourself into the mind of a Christian.

The book of Genesis attempts to clearly explain the creation of the world. Atheists, on the other hand, make no particular claims. Atheism, after all, is merely a lack of belief in gods, so the only thing one can assume about how an atheist views the universe is that the divine had nothing to do with it.

Christians make quite an assumption when claiming that atheists form their views based on science, perhaps assuming this based on the atheist rejection of religious myth. This may be a fair assumption, though it should be noted that an atheist cannot automatically be tied to current scientific consensus.

For example, the general consensus is that “The Big Bang” is the beginning. Personally, I’m a bit skeptical of this egotistical view of our universe. It seems to me that every time humans have believed something we are a part of is either central or alone, we find out we are wrong, and that we are simply in one of many. Suffice to say, I view the Big Bang as not the beginning of everything, but merely the beginning of our universe.

For argument’s sake, let us assume this universe is everything, or at least that we may reason through infinite regression that there is something from whence everything comes. Is it necessary to name such a thing “God,” despite having no knowledge about it whatsoever?

Historically, philosophers have called this “prime mover” a god, despite the inherent problems with doing so. The most immediate dilemma is, “If everything is caused by God, what caused God?” After all, gods are a rather complex concept: gods have consciousness, which is far more complex than simple matter.

In a universe where even a rock’s existence must be explained, how can something as intricate as God be the first thing in existence? And from whence did God come?

Asking such questions will garner one of a couple non-answers from the faithful. You will generally get ridiculous replies, such as: “God is eternal and without end, and therefore needs no beginning.” However, this is no more to the point than saying, “Because we said so!” After all, if something as complex as a god can simply be, without any explanation, then why can’t something as simple as lifeless matter simply be, without explanation?

If I were walking along a path and saw a rock, and next to it was a god, I would be far more apt to wonder, “Where did that god come from?” while paying little mind to the rock. Maybe that’s just me…

Stranger still, the faithful sometimes speak of how atheists believe that “everything came from nothing,” while believing the very same doctrine themselves (in psychology, this is called “projection”). According to Christians, God didn’t roll up His sleeves in some workshop and forge the universe… he simply “spoke it” into being, according to Genesis. Until you can show me a cupful of spoken words, I think we can agree that this is an instance of creating something from nothing.

When a Christian says this, they are trying to turn the tables on atheists. They are trying to bring the atheist around to the Christian point of view, to say, “You believe no different than me, I simply call the first cause ‘God.’” They may also be trying to diffuse the atheist’s ideology in their own mind as being no different than their own belief by erecting a simple strawman in lieu of actually asking an atheist what they think.

These two strategies are often at work in modern Christian apologetics. The Christian mindset is to try to make differences seem irrelevant. These tactics are also at work when Christians claim that “atheism is a religion.” Since Christians often views atheists as simply being anti-religious rebels, the idea that atheism is a religion ought to make the atheist re-evaluate their stance.

Here’s the problem: none of these bolster the flimsy arguments of the Christian, they are merely rhetorical distractions erected in defense of a baseless belief.

The modern Christian becomes highly abstract when discussing God. God ceases to be the anthropomorphic being that walked with Adam and Eve in a garden, as clearly described in the Bible. God no longer resides above the firmament, opening doors so that water rains down on a flat Earth. In essence, the Christian God has evolved beyond the Biblical God, not because of Christian doctrine, but out of scientific necessity.

Despite glaring scientific proofs against the ideas set forth in the Bible, the belief in God persists by continually having God retreat to the unknown. The modern abstraction of God bears absolutely no resemblance to the medieval or ancient descriptions, partly because those views are incompatible with what we know about the universe today.

This is particularly odd, because our knowledge of God has not changed one iota in this time. From a Christian perspective (Mormons and some other sects excluded), revelation has ended, so we have no new knowledge of God, and yet our conception of Him has changed so radically that the modern concept of God is utterly unrecognizable as YHWH of the Bible.

As this God of the gaps in our scientific knowledge continues to retreat to the dim, faintly understood regions of our understanding, perhaps God will return to the nothing from whence He sprung, one day left with nothing unknown to hide behind, and exposed as the Nothing many of us have suspected He has been all along. Then, we shall all be atheists, worshipping Nothing, and we can get back to answering the questions we have without the need for divine labels.

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