Argument from Quantum Physics
• Science only studies the natural, and therefore has nothing to say about the existence of gods.
This question assumes that everything about the existence of gods is supernatural. But if that was the case, then the god-concept would be irrelevant. Any entity that interacts with the universe, necessarily leaves material evidence of some sort. This evidence can be examined by science. For the kinds of evidence, see the previous answer.
• How can the universe exist without a god?
A pressing question in discussions of strong atheism is the question of origins. Where does the universe come from? Did a god create it?
What grounds do we have to believe that a god is necessary? Cosmological arguments for the theistic side argue that, since everything is caused, there must be a cause to the universe as well. But this is a Fallacy of Composition, which is to say, it transposes attributes of parts to a whole without evidence. Why should we posit that the universe as a whole must also be caused? It is also a fallacy of Special Pleading, since God himself is said to not need explanation. But if this is the case, why does the universe need explanation? We cannot grant it to God and not to the universe. Both explain the same facts.
The more sensible alternative, which is also supported by modern cosmology, is that the universe always existed. According to cosmology, the diversity of the universe arose from a singularity-like state where the laws of physics were unformed.
One can then ask about the origin of the matter in this state, but that is a loaded question. According to this position, there is no “before the Big Bang” for origins to exist. The matter always existed in different forms.
This position is confirmed by the atheistic cosmological arguments, which show that it is illogical to believe in divine creation.
• If materialism is true, isn’t meaning impossible?
No. Meaning is the specificity of a concept or proposition – or more simply, how much we can identify facts of reality based on that concept or proposition. The meaning of a concept or proposition is the same whether they are made of neurons, “god stuff”, “soul stuff”, or any other substance. “1+1=2” expresses the same facts of reality regardless of what it is made of. As such, the issue of materialism has nothing to do with meaning.
• If there are no gods, isn’t life ultimately meaningless?
How does believing in a god give your life meaning in the first place? If you think that being a part of material causes makes your life meaningless, then how does being a part of a divine plan you do not even understand make it any better?
All individuals, even theists, find meaning for their lives on their own terms – by what they do, what they believe in, what they want. No god is necessary to do that!
• If there are no gods, isn’t objective morality impossible?
This question may be more complex than it looks. It is important not to confuse objective morality with absolutist morality. The latter is a hallmark of religious doctrines, which make statements of the type “thou shalt not”. But an objective morality, i.e. a morality based on the facts of reality, does not need to be of that type. All it needs in order to be objective is to refer to some facts of reality as source of moral judgments. Because of this, atheism is perfectly compatible with objective morality.
For more information on the problems of moral subjectivist positions, consult our article Answering to Moral Nihilism. For the basis of objective morality, see The Case for Objective Morality.
• My personal experiences are better evidence than your arguments.
We do not deny that you had an important experience. But have you considered that your experience may be explainable by purely material causes? Furthermore, people of all religions have religious experiences. Does that mean you should accept all religions? Or rather, that everyone can have such experiences, and that they do not necessarily prove that a god exists?
It is undeniable that a firm and clear conviction can have a powerful effect. But this is true of all convictions, not only religious ones.
• Isn’t strong atheism a belief, just like any other position?
Any position can be a belief, in the sense that it is held by the individual without sufficient evidence. So the short answer to this question is, yes, just like any other position, strong atheism can be held as a belief.
However, if by this question we mean to question whether strong atheism must be a belief, the answer is no. As you will read on this web site, there is an abundance of rational evidence in favour of the strong atheist position, and against theistic and skeptic positions, making it knowledge.
Some people, especially non-rational pragmatists, argue that our criteria for knowing things are flawed or relative. Everyone, however, does share such criteria: without it, we could not have the knowledge to survive, communicate meaningfully, and appraise the validity of various positions. What is at issue is the validity of specific epistemic positions. We defend rationality and discuss these issues in the “Against philosophical skepticism” section.
• Why can’t you accept god-belief? Everyone needs to believe in something.
We do not need to believe in anything, and even if we did, that would not mean that we should accept god-belief as valid. This argument is as invalid as saying that because we need to eat, we should accept that some parents force their children on a vegetarian diet. God-belief damages people’s mental health and makes them socially irresponsible.
People do not commonly hold beliefs. When we lack knowledge about something, we either use competent authorities to find what we need, or we calculate probabilities based on what we do know. Having beliefs does not improve our knowledge, but rather uses the imagination to give us the certainty we crave. No reasonable person should have faith.
• Why can’t you accept there simply are things we do not know about?
This question, although frequently asked to strong atheists, does not really apply. Most of us do accept that there are things we do not know about.
However, that does not mean that we have to accept your belief about those things we do not know about. If you believe that there may be a god beyond our understanding, we can accept that. But unless you can move on from “I don’t know about it but I just believe” to “I can demonstrate it”, we have no more reason to accept your belief than we would any other currently illogical position that “we don’t know about yet”.
• What is the point of being a strong atheist?
There are as many answers to this question, as there are strong atheists. Some simply want to know the truth. Some others are interested in the philosophical ramifications of strong atheism. Yet others are distressed by the evils that reilgion fosters in society and seek to fight it.
• I have a question you do not cover on your web site.
You can send me email at franc at strongatheism dot net. We welcome all your comments, positive or negative.