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I have witnessed many arguments — in person, in books, and online —
between believers and unbelievers. Fortunately, some of these have been peaceful, intellectual
discussions. While I’m convinced that the believer’s
arguments are weakest, I have noted several used by atheists that don’t hold water,
and would like to point them out.
While some of these statements are actually true, at least to some extent, they rarely have
actual bearing on whether gods exist.
Finding Aliens Would Disprove God
Even some Christian thinkers
the position that “finding alien life forms would be a great challenge to the very
perceived existence of God”. It usually comes from vocal atheists, however. I’ve
seen this fairly often:
“If aliens exist, then the Bible becomes less believable. Why is there no mention of
aliens and alien worlds in Genesis? God created man, gave man dominion over the earth. Then
later he sends Christ here. Never a mention of aliens and alien worlds... If God exists, and
if God inspired the writing of the Bible, then don't you think He would have mentioned all the
other life, intelligent and otherwise, that He created all over the Universe? This is a
No. Just no. The Bible also doesn’t mention a million things that clearly do exist or
have existed. There is no requirement that a religious text mention everything that exists here
or elsewhere in order to be true.
Further, even if the very existence of life forms on other planets could somehow disprove the
Bible (and every other religious text in the world), that is immaterial to the question of the
existence of gods. As atheists (and some believers, for that matter) can tell you, the
Bible and other such writings were conceived and written by humans, not by gods.
As someone who regularly and consistently studied the Bible for many years, I can assure you it
does not deny the existence of life on other planets. Clearly, the book is not concerned
with the question of life on other planets, nor would it need to be, as it was clearly written
with humans of planet Earth as its main audience.
However, depending on what kind of aliens we found, it could certainly have an impact on
belief here on Earth, especially if they were sentient beings able to communicate with us.
Consider the following three scenarios:
• The aliens have religions that are important to their society. At least one of the major religions
is very similar to one of our own.
• The aliens have zero religion, zero belief in gods, and no record in their history of ever having
• The aliens have religions that are completely different than ours, but similar in levels of
devotion and incompatibility with other religions.
In the first scenario, however improbable, whichever Earthly religion matched one of the aliens’
would have bragging rights for quite some time. Everyone else (on both home planets) would have
some serious reconsidering to do. In the second scenario, religious people on Earth might have tough
questions to answer: If there is a God, why did it create these aliens and not tell them about
itself? I think the third case is the most probable, but would prove very little either way.
Maybe they started with the same information about God that we had, but then distorted it just
like we did. Or maybe there were no gods and they created religions for the same reasons we did.
For me, the only way that sentient alien beings could prove or disprove anything about gods are
as follows: (1) they have reliable historical records showing they populated Earth with life
at some point or witnessed the development of life here, or (2) they have a religion that is
identical with one of our own religions. The first would not disprove gods per se, but would
disprove all our creation myths. The second would be such an incredible coincidence that for
many it would indeed prove a particular god’s existence. (Keep in mind, it might not be
your religion; it might be some sect you’ve never heard of.)
Second, it’s a logical fallacy
(appeal to authority or
argument from authority) to
claim something is true simply because an authority says it’s true. In the same way, it
wouldn’t prove the existence of gods if most scientists did believe in gods —
and at some point in history, most of them did — for example, Isaac Newton and Charles
Darwin both believed in God.
God could still exist even if every scientist in the world said otherwise, mainly because
most of science is concerned with observable reality, while god is — by many definitions
Atheists Are More Intelligent Than Believers
This one is actually true, at least according to
of 63 different studies. The studies, conducted from 1928 through 2012, using various measures
of intelligence and religiosity, show that the more intelligent someone is, the less likely
they are to be religious.
However, there are a couple of problems with this argument. One is that the differences are very,
very slight, and there are many exceptions — incredibly intelligent believers and incredibly
unintelligent atheists. Another problem is that it depends on contested definitions of
“intelligence”, something that scientists are still struggling to precisely
But perhaps the biggest issue is that it doesn’t explain people like me, who once believed
but no longer do, or people who grew up without faith and then converted to religion. Did my
intelligence suddenly jump up a notch when I realized I was an atheist? Or was I
an exceptionally intelligent believer (or am I an exceptionally unintelligent atheist)?
And one reason it will never work in a debate against believers is that it comes across as either
ad hominem (“you’re an
idiot”) or argument from authority (“I’m
smarter than you”), both logical fallacies.
Religion Is Responsible For So Much Bad Stuff
This is just a reason for religion to be better. Yes, people have used religion and
“holy” books to justify slavery, wars, treating women and children poorly,
the worst forms of capitalism, dictatorships, and monarchies. But saying it doesn’t
mean gods don’t exist.
Even showing that God himself did bad things (for example)
doesn’t disprove God. At most, it proves that a particular god isn’t as moral as
some claim. At worst, it might mean there’s a real god that is simply evil.
Because of this, it’s a red herring and gives the believer a chance to list all the
good that religions have done, and the good that religious people still do. Further,
there is a long list of atheists who have done bad things too.
False Dichotomy: Atheists vs. Fundamentalists
It’s a mistake to assume that all religious people are fundamentalists, just like
it’s a mistake for believers to assume that anyone who disagrees with them is an infidel.
There is a wide range of belief and devotion in the world, not only between various religions, but
even within specific denominations. Everyone who sits in a pew is not necessarily a
“crazy”. Many believers are political moderates or liberal. Quite a few people believe
faith is a private matter and can’t be equated with the irritating ones who knock on your
(In the same way, there are many agnostics and atheists who just don’t think it’s
important enough to talk about.)
Everyone Is Born An Atheist
While technically true, I don't think it’s helpful to belabor this point when talking
to believers. It certainly doesn’t prove the non-existence of gods, and only opens the door
for arguments over semantics and definitions. Of course a baby doesn’t believe in God; it
has no capacity or understanding to do so. Babies are also born without political parties, without
the ability to fend for themselves, and without many other beliefs or abilities.
The only time it might be worth bringing up is in a theoretical discussion about how religion
gets passed on. Most people seem to have the same general religion as their parents or wider
society, for example. I would be interested to know about any studies done on babies/children
raised without gods or the supernatural ever being mentioned to them, to see how they react to the
stories when they eventually hear them. (In my experience, though, it’s difficult to live a
single day without hearing about it; references to God and religion abound in movies, TV shows,
books, billboards, and casual conversation.)
Religion Is A Mental Illness
Saying this ignores several factors. First, it ignores people like me, who were once religious and
then became atheists. Were we mentally ill and then “cured” ourselves? Or just
magically “got better”? Second, it ignores that mental health problems are almost never
the fault of the person suffering from them — they are often physical in nature (genetic,
injury-related, exposure to neurotoxins, etc.) or related to past traumas (abuse, for example).
Third, it’s simply ad hominem and doesn’t prove anything. It’s a personal attack
to make you feel better.
While it’s true that most believers — at least all the ones I’ve met
— don’t believe in any other gods except their own, this isn’t an argument
against the existence of that one last god they do believe in.
For me, thinking of this in a roundabout way did help, but only after I’d long doubted my
own God’s existence. I had searched out several other religions, but realized that because
I already didn’t believe in them I couldn’t just start believing in them
without some kind of convincing evidence. By the time I got back to my own God, I saw it the same
way. But that was part of my personal journey, and had to happen
Saying to a believer “I simply believe in one less god than you” isn’t helpful.
The phrase is meant to imply a similarity when in fact it highlights a huge difference.
The huge difference is that they believe their God is real, while you don’t believe
any gods are real.
There are a few other arguments I’ve seen atheists use that seem weak or pointless to me,
but I’m withholding judgment on them for now. I’m still kind of new to this. The
above are the ones that have jumped out at me the most.
Lest anyone misunderstand, I think all of these topics are fine for discussion, and a few of
them might warrant further study. However, I’ve seen them used in debates and arguments.
Arguing poorly and using logical fallacies is best left to the theists, in my opinion.