Essay:Why atheism is bullshit

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Essay.svg This essay is an original work by ListenerX, written in response to "Why religion is bullshit" by Rational Thinker.
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This essay is a response to "Why religion is bullshit." In that essay, as might be inferred, a number of reasons are put forth as to why religion is bullshit. In this side-by-side, I argue that many of the points raised are either fallacious, or also apply to atheism, so that if religion is bullshit on their account, so is atheism.

Point Counterpoint


All religions have in common that they are faith based. People are taught to believe claims from some ancient text or self-proclaimed spiritual leader, instead of relying on their own senses, evidence and critical thinking.

Indeed, as Christopher Hitchens said: "What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence."

Many forms of atheism are also explicitly faith-based; strong atheism, in particular.

Of those that are not explicitly faith-based, the argument that they are not faith-based at all is usually put in the following way. It is noted that there is no evidence for the existence of any Gods available to us through reason and observation. It is thus posited that out of scientific skepticism, weak atheism should be adhered to. This is supposed to be an argument for weak atheism that does not have to be accepted on any faith.

However, faith is required to arrive at that conclusion; specifically, faith in the scientific method as a good way, and the only good way, to determine what is true and what is not. For while the scientific method has a good track record on natural questions, it is entirely untested with regard to the supernatural ones.


Some religions try to appear "science-friendly" by avoiding statements that clash too obviously with modern science. This however only obscures the fact that the very concept of "faith" is inherently anti-scientific and cannot be tested by using the scientific method.

As all religions rely, at some point, on faith it is easy to show that they are not scientific. A key test of whether or not a hypothesis is scientific is the question of falsifiability. What evidence would the hypothesis' supporters accept as being able to falsify the hypothesis? By definition, as religions are based on faith and not evidence, no evidence can be presented which would persuade a religion's followers it is wrong - and consequently no religion can be scientific.

It is fallacious to claim that anything non-scientific is by definition anti-scientific. Also, for the reasons explained above, if these arguments hold, atheism is anti-scientific as well.

Cosmic nonsense[edit]

The "cosmic argument" is an ill-conceived attempt at "proving" the existence of god (whatever the definition) by suggesting that the universe must have come from "somewhere", or that something must have existed "before".

It is obvious however that this argument is based on a Newtonian model of the universe which we now know to be false. Causality is clearly time related, but time does not exist independently of the universe. Rather, spacetime is the universe. So asking what was before the beginning of the universe is asking what was before time, which makes no sense. As Hawking famously put it, it's like asking what's north of the North Pole. It's an ill-posed question.

Not all religions posit such a first-cause; my own religion has no creator to it. Also, just as the teleological argument is based on incorrect models of physics, strong rationalism is based on incorrect models of logic. It used to be supposed that all true statements in a system of logic could be deduced from the axioms; a belief on which the philosophy of logical positivism was based. However, Kurt Gödel proved this to be false for all but the simplest systems of logic; there are truths that cannot be deduced through the use of reason.


The very concept of creation depends on time. Something that did not exist before a given point in time comes to existence through the act of creation and exists from that time on. The universe clearly cannot have been created in this sense, because the universe is spacetime and thus there is no time outside of the universe itself. The time woven into our spacetime is only one sort or scale of time. Compare with the idea of a simulated reality: although virtual realities possess their own scales of time and it is meaningless to speak of events before a virtual reality's creation in that reality's own timescale, there was still a time before it was created.

God vs. religion[edit]

It seems to be clear that a God in the sense of a miracle-working, interventionist deity does not exist, as no evidence of his miracle working interventionist activity can be found. In this case absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

Obviously it cannot be excluded that some kind of "god" (whatever that is supposed to be) exists outside of our universe. But even if this were the case, it follows from basic scientific principles like the conservation of energy, that such a "god" cannot interact with the physical world in any way. In particular, he cannot write books, nor can he put thoughts (which consist of electric currents in the brain) into people's heads. This shows that, whether or not god exists, religion is wrong.

Using the laws of physics to draw a conclusion like that is fallacious, since these laws have only been inferred from the few millennia that humans have been watching a tiny area of the universe. It is a virtual certainty that we do not have the laws down just right, and there is nothing falsifying the idea that the universe could violate all our laws of physics tomorrow and new energy could start flooding through.

With regard to the question of putting thoughts in people's heads, it is entirely possible that a God could act within the confines of natural law to put one there; see, for example, the idea of the Mead of Poetry, in which poetic inspiration is given by Odin in this manner.


is some type of music, but some people believe it to be some kind of spiritual thingie that every human is supposed to have, and which is supposed to survive when his physical body dies. But since this thing is non-physical, it again cannot interact with the physical world without violating basic science. So we have the same situation as with "god": a "soul" could hypothetically exists, but it can have no connection with the physical world. Incorrect. A soul could certainly exist, provided that it act entirely in conformance with natural law so that its existence could not be detected. This is entirely in line with most religions' concept of the soul.


There are some attempts to "justify" religion by saying that it has no scientific implications. This is called NOMA and it is wrong on many levels. First of all, as we have seen above, any assumption that "god" or the "soul" could have a bearing on the physical world, would be clearly within the scope of science.

Furthermore the supporters of NOMA seem quite coy about where the NOMA line should be drawn. Religious beliefs are the basis of creationism, intelligent design and theistic evolution. While many NOMA advocates would happily attack creationism they sometimes hold the NOMA shield up to defend other (their own) religious beliefs - a position which could seem a little intellectually dishonest.

It is true that religionists often abuse the idea of NOMA to shield religious ideas that are in the purview of science. But it is also often the case that such ideas are outside the purview of science, and the more strident opponents of NOMA are those who are sore that science should have any limits at all. See, for example, this article, in which a communist bashes the premise of NOMA due to political differences with the Church of England.


One of the things which many religions claim to possess is the authority to give eternal moral (or ethical) guidance to their followers. However, the fact that religious beliefs have frequently been important factors in causing or exacerbating divisions between peoples - sometimes even resulting in warfare - rather devalues religion's claim to the moral high ground.

Furthermore, it is quite clear that religion's ethical advice is not eternal, as many religions' ethics evolve with society. This is clearly not a bad thing, but it removes religion's ability claim absolute moral standards or to pontificate for all time about morality.

One could speak of groups such as the Objectivists, who are atheists but also claim eternal absolutes in morality. However, the Objectivists do not posit such morals as a consequence of atheism.

On the other hand, some atheists do speak of absolute morals in conjunction with their religious beliefs. For example, the Secular Humanist Declaration says: "We are opposed to absolutist morality, yet we maintain that objective standards emerge, and ethical values and principles may be discovered, in the course of ethical deliberation."