Why I Am Not an Atheist

I guess if people were to examine my beliefs they could claim that they are atheistic in nature. I don’t believe in a god (at least not the type of God that most religious people would recognise)and do believe that it is good to constantly question my own beliefs. I think the difference is that I do not find it unreasonable that other people should believe in God/gods. I have not ruled out the possibility of such an entity existing. I just don’t know.

Is it Reasonable to Believe in God?

I would imagine that most atheists will agree that it is not possible to prove or disprove the existence of God/gods. Their main argument seems to be that it is unreasonable for people to believe in such an entity without evidence. This is where my thinking departs from the atheist. Who gets to decide what is reasonable and unreasonable to believe in? I can decide that it is unreasonable for me to believe in something, but this does not give me the right to decide that the same should apply to everyone else. I have to at least consider the possibility that my view of the world is wrong and give other people the benefit of the doubt.

These days most atheists seem to be materialists and this is another reason why I would not count myself among their number. Belief in science requires a lot of faith. It means accepting that the world exists as we perceive it, and this is something that is not possible to prove. It also involves faith in inductive reasoning – the belief that because something happened in the past it will continue to happen in the future. I agree that science is a wonderful tool for dealing with the material world, but this does not mean that it is ultimately pointing at anything true. Those who seem most blinded by science will respond to any gaps in knowledge by saying that “it will all be explained soon”. This is another leap of faith. I also think it is unfair to keep asking believers for proof of their god in the physical world when it is perfectly possible that such an entity would live outside of it. Many religious people have faith because of personal revelation – they may not be able to prove such belief scientifically but this does not mean that they are unreasonable to hold such beliefs.

The Problem with Atheists

The bullying and arrogant manner of many atheists makes me feel even more alienated towards their arguments. At least the religious fundamentalists do not try to disguise their intolerance. It seems to me that the most dangerous people on the planet are those who believe they know what is best for other people – there are many atheists who would fall into this camp. Some of these folk sound like missionaries out to save the lost souls. All fanatics label those who do not believe the same way as them stupid; alarm bells go off in my brain when atheists do the same.

The argument that much of the evil in the world is caused by religion does not sound convincing to me. It is way too simplistic. Conflict has more to do with human nature than belief in a god. I don’t believe that the world would be any better without religion – that is just another ideology that provides an easy scapegoat. Shit happens in the world and if extremists didn’t have religion as an excuse to do bad things they would find something else. Haters will always find a way to hate.

I don’t really want to offend any atheists with my words here. My reason for writing this is to just clear some of the mental garbage in my own head. For some reason sharing these thoughts with other people seems to be more effective than just writing them in a private journal. There are certainly some powerful minds within the atheist community, but I just sometimes wish they were a bit more open-minded. I wish that modern skepticism wasn’t so tied in with materialism; I feel it is good to question everything. My own view is life is unknowable so anything is possible. That is why I am not an atheist.

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25 thoughts on “Why I Am Not an Atheist

  1. I always like reading your personal reflections on the many subjects you write on, good to have you back writing on twitter.

    Science has nothing to do with truth it is only concerned with discovery. Truth is constant not relative, morality and ethics are relative and therefore flawed, that is why the Buddha gave humankind the Eightfold Path to enlightenment so Humankind can careful evaluate the decisions concerning morality and ethics. The cosmos is not obligated to Humankind, because Humankind is not in control, so the belief in divine creation or not is mute.

  2. Hi Paul,

    I’ve been reading posts about religions and faith issues. I could learn on them perhaps compare, but what can I do, i just respect to all their thoughts and we are all free to express it.

  3. As usual Paul, though provoking stuff! Sometimes I think I have my beliefs clearly defined, and then other times someone says something that completely throws me off course. For example, I have never really questioned in my mind that evolution is a fact. I have read a bit of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, and I found it interesting stuff, if not a little dry and technical at times. But then the other day I’m sat at lunch with a couple colleagues and one them starts talking about how there’s no physical proof that animals or lifeforms have ever evolved. There’s no signs of the subtle gradations of each species in the fossil record. Darwin argues that point by saying that change happens so slowly that you could never see those gradations.

    Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent somewhat.

    But with religion, I just never believed there was a big old man in the sky with a white beard. God, for me, is the spark of life, that something intangible which makes life possible. But who knows if not just one big illusion. Perhaps it is. And perhaps that’s precisely why there’s no reason to ever complain or feel down about the lot we are given. Yes, we all have bad days, but life is an awesome adventure that won’t last forever, certainly not as the same person, anyhow. If reincarnation even does happen, it’s unlikely we’ll remember our past lives, and we may be completely different. Who knows, I may come back as a soi dog!

    1. Hi Ray, I hope you are enjoying the holidays.I fully agree that life is an ‘awesome adventure’. This one life may be all there is, but it is certainly better than nothing. I love the mystery of it all – this makes it more exciting for me.

  4. “Belief in science requires a lot of faith. It means accepting that the world exists as we perceive it”

    Not at all. Quantum physics is showing that our perceptions are limited. And as for “faith”, any good scientists would acknowledge that one works from assumptions that are limited by knowledge..one has to start somewhere. That doesn’t mean science is faith-based. It’s best-guess based; not at all the same thing.

    The thing I don’t like about Atheism as a MOVEMENT (the new atheists, etc), is that they’re not saying anything new and they’re not offering an “ok fine..but what now?”). The one exception would be Sam Harris, who is open to meditation practice and Buddhist ideas.

    The “bullying” thing? Hmm, well in my mind it’s the christians/muslims who are doing all they bullying. Have you ever heard an atheist call for gays to not have a right to marry? Of course not. Atheists are not bullying..they(we) are defending ourselves against people who have (for the last many hundred years) done everything possible to prevent others from living as they want to live.

    1. Hi Gene, I hope you are enjoying the holidays.

      Science still appears to require faith because it relies on some base assumptions. That what is out there is real and that it can be measured; there is no way to prove that the world is not just one big clever dream. The scientific method also relies heavily on the idea that because something happened in the past it will continue to happen in the future. How can we really know that the rules of the universe won’t change tomorrow? Another way that it requires faith is that no one individual conducts all the experiments; they have to have faith in those that do these experiments.

      It is true that people say some horrible things in the name of religion, but this does not excuse atheists. Telling people of faith that they are stupid for believing in their religion sounds like verbal bullying to me – it is also highly ineffective as a persuasion tactic. There are many atheists who claim to be actively working to rid the world of religion – they do this by proselytizing and mocking. For example, if there are any articles on the BBC or CNN websites mentioning any type of religious faith the comment section will be swarmed by atheists condemning believers – this to me is bullying. Atheism has become an ideology to many individuals –another way to divide the world into us and them.

  5. I’m glad you have written this post, Paul. Among several atheists I know, none of them are the militant type you describe. However, I also have heard the argument that much of the evil in the world is caused by religion. I did not know how to respond and so was just silent when presented with this argument. I think you are really correct here that if there were no religion that those people would just find some other excuse to perpetrate the violence.

    This is similar to kids who are victims of bullying at school. The bullies tell them, “You don’t have the right hairstyle.” If they were to fix that, the bullies tell them, “You don’t have the right clothes.” If they fix that, the bullies always find another excuse, because it is not really about those things.

    Thank you for writing about this.

    1. Thanks Lynne, I always feel uncomfortable when one group of people feels that they know how to fix the world. This is where the problems usually start. There are atheists who are real zealots. The Claim that they are belittling other people for good reason, but I suspect that a lot of them just enjoy putting other people down.

  6. I thought your article was spot-on describing atheists. Yes, I am aware that not every atheist falls into the exact category of being militant, but many do. In fact, I was even bullied for believing in Jesus Christ. They criticize religious folk, but seem to cry wolf when the same thing is done to them.

    1. Hi Nathan, some people just live to criticize other people. I don’t think that this is a good way to live. Of course there are plenty of religious folk who are just as bullying and arrogant as the most militant atheist.

  7. Atheism is not an organization. By definition, theism is the belief in god, atheism is the absence of that belief. If you do not believe in god, you are an atheist.

    1. I do not class myself as an atheist. I’m not interested in the semantic games used to define atheism. As far as I’m concerned the jury is still out on whether God exists or does not exist. I’m agnostic on the issue.

  8. i disagree entirely.

    your first point of what is resonable and what is not reasonable is not correct.
    for example, according to your reasoning, if I choose to think that “killing children would increase my life force” is reasonable then it should be considered reasonable because “Who gets to decide what is reasonable and unreasonable to believe in?” You see the problem here? Reasonable things are considered reasonable unless it doesn’t agree with what is observeable. So, it’s reasonable to assume that science is correct with regards to things that I cannot directly observe, the shape of the planet, gravity or whatever theory you want to test. Why do I feel this is reasonable? I took science in school and I understand the scientific principals – I’ve seeen science performed and trust that other science is performed under the same scrutany, checks and ballances as the easily testable and observeable science i’ve witnesseed.

    also, you seem to be mis-construing scientific doubt with reasonable doubt. for example, unicorns do not exist. that’s a reasonable statement to most people, however if you take into account the entire vastness of the universe and how much we haven’t discovered, it is possible (thought unlikely) that there is a single horned horse somewhere out there – so, is it reasonable to assume that unicorns exist? no. evidence does not support that at this time. like the scientific method, if suddenly we find a single horned horse on jupiter (or somewhere) science will change it’s theory to represent this new piece of evidence.

    there is, in fact, even less evidence that a god or magical creator exists than a unicorn (at least there are hornless unicorns, i still have yet to see proof of any magical being)

    as far a science taking things on faith, it is true in some respect that we take some science on faith – after all we all haven’t witnessed the shape of the earth. that is why all scientific study has the same cavet. “this is how things act now, if it changes in the future, the scientfic method will have to adopt the new findings.”

    religion does not have this cavet, if something changes in the future they desperatly deny that the past happened.

    so – in short – lack of evidence is not evidence of truth.

    1. Hi ejes, your extreme example of killing babies is a straw man argument. I don’t know anyone who actually believes that killing babies will increase their life force. I’m talking about the real world and what real people I meet actually believe. In such an extreme example it would not be a matter of deciding if it was reasonable or unreasonable because this person would be clearly breaking the law. The beliefs I’m talking about here are within the law and do not involve killing babies – maybe I should have made that clearer, but I didn’t think I’d need to.

      You then go onto to say that science is more reasonable because you took a science class in school. I don’t buy this reasoning. Just because I have been offered a theory and a good explanation for something doesn’t mean that it is the truth. It is a leap of faith to assume that just because a few experiments worked in school that this means that every experiment in science is probably right. When we accept anything in science that we don’t understand we are in the same position as any believer who puts their faith in their preacher. The person who goes to religious class may also believe that they have been given a good theory. These people may even decide that their experiences of a personal contact with a higher power is their experimental proof.

      It is true that scientific knowledge changes in relation to new data. That is probably its biggest selling point. However this does not necessarily mean that it is bringing humanity any closer to the truth. It could be taking us further from the truth. We are still left with the most basic question of whether or not the observable and measurable is real or not real. For all we know this is all one clever dream. Even if science one day manages to explain every aspect of the universe we will still be left with the question of ‘is any of this real?’. Now you may argue that it is unreasonable for me to ever doubt reality but that is your subjective opinion.

      You finish your post with another straw man argument. I never claimed that lack of evidence is evidence of the truth. My argument in this post is that I don’t know enough to discount the idea that god/gods exist. I personally have not seen enough evidence to believe in such an entity, but I don’t have any evidence to discount the possibility either. The fact that I just don’t know means that, as far as I’m concerned, it is reasonable for other people to believe in such things.

  9. Hi, Mr. Paul Garrigan. YES, YOU ARE AN ATHEIST. The common point of all atheists is disbelief in gods, everything else is incidental.
    Remember, atheism is not a dogma, is a way of thinking.


    1. I’ll tell you what, why don’t you allow me to decide what I am. At least the religious groups try to woo me before claiming me as a member of their flock. Today I elect the universe as my God just to emphasize the fact that I’m no atheist.

      1. Hi, Mr Paul.
        “everything else is incidental.”
        We dont believe in gods.
        You choose the other viewpoints in addition to your main non-belief in gods.
        Maybe you do not call yourself an atheist because that is a word very often misunderstood. That is valid.
        But I’ll tell you what if everything ends in the grave, then must I to steal, kill, disrespecting people? be a bad person?
        I say NO. That is my choice.

        And thank God I am an atheist.
        Note: Sure, we are commenting about atheism, we know that personally, everyone chooses what it considers appropriate.
        Saludos amigo!

        1. Hi Tosti, I just don’t see any purpose in defining myself by the things I don’t believe in. I’m not even sure what the word ‘God’ means so how could I know if I don’t believe it? If ‘God’ means some higher power in the universe then I can get on board with that. That is why if I have to categorize myself I would say that I’m a weak agnostic or an ignostic – although neither of these terms really reflect my views.

          1. Hi Paul. The point is that if you do not believe in a personal God, a deity, you are an atheist!

            Atheists, for multiple reasons, denies personal gods: Allah, Jehovah, Brahma, Osiris,Venus, etc, etc.
            An atheist may think about “God” (!) like the universe, the
            life, existence, also god like a process, as well as a concept of mind, or as to the highest values ​​of humanity. When an atheist thinks of these forms is told that he is non-theist.

            We are not tied to any dogma. Atheists come in many shapes and colors, united only by their non-belief in God as a personal being or deity. There are several versions of atheism, ie, strong atheism states that nothing can be taken as a god; that version is not for you or me, surely, only for some intellectuals or scientists.

            “Atheism” is a very misunderstood word.

            And this is all I have to say.
            SALUDOS AMIGO !

          2. Once again I have to resist your attempt to label me as an atheist. The definition of ‘atheism’ has changed in recent years because it is now accepted that ‘hard atheism’ is almost impossible to defend. This has mean the adoption of ‘weak atheism’ as a fall back position. I’m not interested in the attempts to re-brand atheism so I do not use that term. As Carl Sagan once said:

            “An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no such God exists. To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed”

            At the moment there is a move within the atheist community to label people as ‘atheist’ even though those people do not wish to be labelled in such a way. This has meant that scientists such as Neil deGrasse Tyson have needed to go on the record to make it clear that they are not atheist . Good enough for Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson – good enough for me.

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