On Wednesday, my esteemed colleague Mike Boylan wrote a rigorous criticism of religious moderation and, in so doing, the idea of religion itself. Religion, he says, starts from an “illogical premise.” The holy books contain beliefs that are “insane” and fuel our “insufferable ignorance” for “claiming to know things [we] can’t possibly know.”

Why atheism fails

On Wednesday, my esteemed colleague Mike Boylan wrote a rigorous criticism of religious moderation and, in so doing, the idea of religion itself. Religion, he says, starts from an “illogical premise.” The holy books contain beliefs that are “insane” and fuel our “insufferable ignorance” for “claiming to know things [we] can’t possibly know.”

His beliefs could be summed up with this sentence: “If we are ever to become serious about the tangible and cyclical problems borne of religious literalism, it is imperative that we call into question, publicly and incessantly, what Harris calls the ‘entire project of religion.’”

There is, however, a problem with this analysis: There is no justification for these claims.

Let’s assume that God does not exist. When we die, we will cease to exist in any form. Life was for naught. Our existence has no meaning.

If we live an ultimately meaningless life, then our actions on earth are meaningless as well. What we do does not matter. Your mother and Adolf Hitler are essentially equivalent. For if our lives are meaningless, then there is nothing to base our values on—values do not exist. It does not matter if we steal or give. It does not matter if we kill or save. What we do on this earth matters none.

This is troublesome. The only way this works is if we decide that no values are absolute and eternal, for something cannot be absolute and eternal without a God. But cold-blooded, unprovoked murder has never had justification. If it can be agreed that murder is always wrong, then some values are not relative to time, place or human construction. Some just are. And if values exist, something beyond them must exist to judge those who act upon those values.

There is also the problem of creation: Where do we come from? The very word creation presupposes a creator. Order, the fact that logic exists, implies one who does the ordering. Art implies an artist. If someone went around claiming that a painting came into existence without a painter, that person would rightly be decried as a lunatic. Only when it comes to God do we doubt that His creation necessarily needs Him as the Creator.

Yes, one might say, but there is a scientific response to every thing that exists on earth. Yet a simple child could unravel this argument by asking why? If we asked why for every scientific response explaining how things came to be as they are, our opponent would eventually get to a point where he must answer, “I don’t know.” For if it is said evolution created man, we can ask how the organism that evolved into man came to be. If it is said that the Big Bang created the earth, how did all the matter that banged together come to exist? And how did the universe get there in the first place? These questions cannot be answered.

Instead of asking Christians and believers in a God to prove why God exists, why don’t we ask atheists to prove why God doesn’t exist?

For Boylan’s argument could just as easily be turned around: Atheism starts from an illogical premise; a belief that God does not exist is insane and fuels our insufferable ignorance for claiming not to know things that have already been revealed to us; and it is imperative that we call into question, publicly and incessantly, the entire project of atheism.

This debate will go on long after this column is forgotten. Some atheists will never be convinced by religious arguments, and some religious people will never be convinced by atheistic arguments. But one side must be right.

And after examining all the evidence, the only conclusion I can come up with is that God most definitely exists.

  • Anonymous

    “Life was for naught. Our existence has no meaning.”
    -Well, actually we make our own meaning. What we do affects the now and is important.

    “If we live an ultimately meaningless life, then our actions on earth are meaningless as well. What we do does not matter. ”
    -Well, that’s a very sad opinion you have there. Luckily though that’s all it is, an opinion. I suppose if one agrees to define ‘meaning’ as following orders from a supposed divine dictator then I guess I live a meaningless life.

    ” Your mother and Adolf Hitler are essentially equivalent. For if our lives are meaningless, then there is nothing to base our values on—values do not exist. It does not matter if we steal or give. It does not matter if we kill or save. What we do on this earth matters none.”
    -Well this is a bunch of bull. The actions people take and how they affect the world now is what matters. We can value certain types of actions more than others because of what they do in the world. I’m having a really hard time not swearing at this ignorant drivel so the prudes at the collegian don’t censor my comment, which they might since I called them prudes.

    “This is troublesome. The only way this works is if we decide that no values are absolute and eternal, for something cannot be absolute and eternal without a God. But cold-blooded, unprovoked murder has never had justification. If it can be agreed that murder is always wrong, then some values are not relative to time, place or human construction. Some just are. And if values exist, something beyond them must exist to judge those who act upon those values.”
    -Well, first it’s your baseless assertion that something cannot be absolute and eternal without a god, but I digress, that’s not important right now. Murder is only wrong TO US. A rock won’t care if we murder people. A tree won’t care. WE create the value. It is dependent on US.

    “There is also the problem of creation: Where do we come from? The very word creation presupposes a creator. ”
    -Yup and that’s why using that language is incorrect. As far as we have seen, nothing has ever been created, things have only ever changed form or been rearranged. A better way to phrase it is “what is the explanation for the universe?”

    “Order, the fact that logic exists, implies one who does the ordering.”
    – lol yeah and that was US. Logic is a human construct that has been honed to reflect reality as accurately as possible.

    “Art implies an artist. If someone went around claiming that a painting came into existence without a painter, that person would rightly be decried as a lunatic. Only when it comes to God do we doubt that His creation necessarily needs Him as the Creator.”
    – Sigh, this is an old, tired argument. For one, we can observe painters painting, and also we have an idea of the capabilities of humans by observation, and if we just randomly saw a painting we would have an idea it’s different from things around it by contrast. None of this carries over to a god and the universe in this analogy.

    “Yes, one might say, but there is a scientific response to every thing that exists on earth. Yet a simple child could unravel this argument by asking why?”
    -Yes this is childish. Asking ‘why’ IMPLIES a sentient being with a goal, it does not prove it or even suggest there’s a need for a why to exist.

    “If we asked why for every scientific response explaining how things came to be as they are, our opponent would eventually get to a point where he must answer, “I don’t know.” For if it is said evolution created man, we can ask how the organism that evolved into man came to be. If it is said that the Big Bang created the earth, how did all the matter that banged together come to exist? And how did the universe get there in the first place? These questions cannot be answered.”
    – Why is it so bad to say “I don’t know?’ It’s certainly no excuse to just make something up or abandon the method that has brought us the greatest understanding of the universe in human history.

    “Instead of asking Christians and believers in a God to prove why God exists, why don’t we ask atheists to prove why God doesn’t exist?”
    -Because this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the burden of proof. It’s not even necessary for atheists to think no god exists, all we have to do is think the burden of proof has not been met to believe a god exists. If neither of us makes any claim we are still left with no believe in a god.

    “And after examining all the evidence, the only conclusion I can come up with is that God most definitely exists.”
    -And if it’s anything like the stuff you wrote in this column it’s not sufficient at all.

  • Ian

    How absurd. The burden of proof lies with those who claim something exists, not with those who don’t believe it exists. I can’t believe someone even posted this writing on the collegian.

  • Anonymous
  • Double Espresso

    Only a few paragraphs in to the article and you’re deep in supposition on everything. Of course in secular absolutes basically anything and everything that happens is essentially meaningless given sufficient time. Do dinosaurs past existence matter today? Uh, not really. Lots of people find it fascinating, but that’s it. Interest. Your logic is working backwards. Rather than discovering facts and working to a conclusion, you have a conclusion and are finding “facts” to support it.

    “If we live an ultimately meaningless life, then our actions on earth are meaningless as well. What we do does not matter. Your mother and Adolf Hitler are essentially equivalent. For if our lives are meaningless, then there is nothing to base our values on—values do not exist. It does not matter if we steal or give. It does not matter if we kill or save. What we do on this earth matters none.”

    What in the world are you on about? Just because actions and memories reduce to nothing over time does not nullify existing morality and values. They still hold value today. But every single moral and value you have is a result of sociological constructs. Theft is considered a crime and morally taboo because people do not like being stolen from. Disgust at murder, theft, and various crimes existed long before “God gave man the Bible.” Indeed, morals and values have changed over time. Homosexuality has been taboo, hasn’t been taboo, then has been, and so on. Some things have been relatively constant throughout history, you mentioned murder. Good example. But saying that murder’s relative consistency as a moral implies that God’s will exists is a bit of a stretch.

    “And if values exist, something beyond them must exist to judge those who act upon those values.”

    Yeah, other people. That’s why people get the death penalty, fined, imprisoned, and so on. Basically for just doing things that other people don’t like. We are not innately born with a sense that hurting people is wrong. Kids hit each other all the time and have to be taught that it’s not right to hurt other people, and sharing is caring, etc etc. It’s a process called socialization. Morals have been built on thousands of years of refinement. If everyone on Earth was killed in some kind of disaster the Holocaust would absolutely not matter anymore. Because there’d be no people around to learn a lesson from it.

    We ask Christians to prove why there is a God because so far there has been no real evidence of a God. Only beliefs based on something that is, at worst, a creation of flawed men. And at best, written for God with a man’s bias.

    Just like laws only have power if people agree to be bound by them, morals only have weight if people agree to abide by them.

  • Shaun Slade

    I believe that there are blue penguins that live in Peru. Prove to me that they don’t exist.

  • Matt

    Oh boy, this is like a textbook example of fallacious arguments. You fell into almost every logical trap the typical uneducated unquestioning Christian falls in to the first time they are confronted with an atheist.

    > “Let’s assume that God does not exist. When we die, we will cease to exist in any form. Life was for naught. Our existence has no meaning.”

    Speak for yourself. You don’t know what happens after death, if anything happens. You pretend to know, but you only have a strong case of wishful thinking. Even if an eternal afterlife existed, I could easily argue that it would render mortal life completely worthless, as an eternal afterlife would literally be infinitely more important. In any case, life has whatever meaning you give it.

    > “If we live an ultimately meaningless life, then our actions on earth are meaningless as well. What we do does not matter. Your mother and Adolf Hitler are essentially equivalent.”

    Or my mother is in Hell while Hitler is in Heaven, if we were to assume that what the Bible says about the requirements for Heaven is true.

    This is also a fallacious emotional appeal. The world is not a fair place, and expecting divine cosmic justice has absolutely no basis. If you want to appear credible, don’t try for lame emotional arguments. Try actual logic instead.

    > “For if our lives are meaningless, then there is nothing to base our values on—values do not exist. It does not matter if we steal or give. It does not matter if we kill or save. What we do on this earth matters none.”

    Once again, speak for yourself. These things do matter, because they affect people.

    It’s terrifying to me that you think that without some magic man in the sky watching us that it’s okay to commit crimes and hurt other people.

    > “This is troublesome. The only way this works is if we decide that no values are absolute and eternal, for something cannot be absolute and eternal without a God. But cold-blooded, unprovoked murder has never had justification. If it can be agreed that murder is always wrong, then some values are not relative to time, place or human construction. Some just are. And if values exist, something beyond them must exist to judge those who act upon those values.”

    That does not prove any deity in the slightest. Does God give us these values because they are true, or are they true because God gives them to us? With the former, God is irrelevant, with the latter, they are not absolute, as God can change them on a whim.

    > “There is also the problem of creation: Where do we come from? The very word creation presupposes a creator.”

    And we know that the universe is a creation because…?

    > “Order, the fact that logic exists, implies one who does the ordering.”

    No, it does not. This is a baseless statement. Order can occur naturally just fine, or have you never heard of crystals?

    > “Art implies an artist. If someone went around claiming that a painting came into existence without a painter, that person would rightly be decried as a lunatic.”

    Yes, but those are human inventions. We know that paintings are made by painters because they do not naturally occur, and we know exactly how they do occur. Once again, if you are trying to say paintings require painters and creations require creators, you have to explain in what way the universe is a creation.

    > “Yes, one might say, but there is a scientific response to every thing that exists on earth. Yet a simple child could unravel this argument by asking why?”

    There has to be a reason? What makes you think that? Can the universe not simply exist?

    > “If we asked why for every scientific response explaining how things came to be as they are, our opponent would eventually get to a point where he must answer, “I don’t know.”

    Correct, but what’s wrong with that? “I don’t know” is NOT an excuse to shoehorn a “god of the gaps” into places scientific knowledge has not yet reached.

    > “For if it is said evolution created man, we can ask how the organism that evolved into man came to be. If it is said that the Big Bang created the earth, how did all the matter that banged together come to exist? And how did the universe get there in the first place? These questions cannot be answered.”

    They cannot be answered or have not yet been answered? There is a big difference. I still don’t see how any god fits into this.

    > “Instead of asking Christians and believers in a God to prove why God exists, why don’t we ask atheists to prove why God doesn’t exist?”

    The burden of proof is on the one making the positive claim. That is YOU. I should not have to explain this concept to you, because it’s so rudimentary that I feel I would be insulting your intelligence.

    > “This debate will go on long after this column is forgotten. Some atheists will never be convinced by religious arguments, and some religious people will never be convinced by atheistic arguments. But one side must be right.”

    Not really. I guess you couldn’t end you article without another logical fallacy. This is a false dichotomy. We could all be wrong. Every single human on the planet could be completely wrong about this, but I digress.

    > “And after examining all the evidence, the only conclusion I can come up with is that God most definitely exists.”

    It’s only too bad that you left all of the evidence out of this article. I would have been thrilled to read about it, that is of course if you actually have any evidence.

  • TehRiddles

    “Instead of asking Christians and believers in a God to prove why God exists, why don’t we ask atheists to prove why God doesn’t exist?”

    Because you are the ones making the claim here, atheists merely aren’t buying what you are selling and a very small percentage (the gnostic atheists) even claim there is no god.

    As for the “problem of creation”, thats a loaded premise, you are already tilting the discussion in your favour by claiming that the universe is a creation without actually proving it is.

    Regarding science, it doesn’t have an answer for everything because it has to work for the answers, unlike your particular religion which claims it has them all. That and evolution says nothing about the formation of life but the diversity of species. The big bang says nothing about the formation of planets but the formation of the universe.

    The wonderful thing about science is that if it doesn’t have an answer then you don’t make one up but rather say “I don’t know, lets see if we can find out”

    You haven’t examined any evidence at all since you got many different sciences wrong, you completely misunderstood the basics of atheism and you even make the mistake of assuming that atheism is without morality in your ridiculous analogy with Hitler. You even think atheism is “without religion” rather than “no belief in a god” since there are many atheistic religions and non-religious theists.

  • Guest

    “This debate will go on long after this column is forgotten. Some atheists will never be convinced by religious arguments, and some religious people will never be convinced by atheistic arguments. But one side must be right.”

    Which religion? The different religions contradict each other. Some claim gods created the universe, some claim it was stolen from them. Some claim the universe just exists, and the gods have lifetimes and are born and die like mortal men. There are not two sides here, as there is no consistency in religion at all.

    “And after examining all the evidence, the only conclusion I can come up with is that God most definitely exists.”

    Yes, praise be to Aten.

  • j

    College must not be working for this guy if he still believes in invisible sky zombies. I am assuming the next collegian article will be on the absurdities of the denial of the existence of Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Society as a whole is doomed by these Bronze Age thinking religious types.

  • Grimalkin

    “Let’s assume that God does not exist. When we die, we will cease to exist in any form. Life was for naught. Our existence has no meaning.”
    That may be true for you, but I – an Atheist – happen to find a great deal of meaning in my life. There are people I love, there are causes I believe in, there is the mark I want my life to have made on the world. It isn’t fair to allow your personal lack of meaning and direction to serve as proof that _no one_ can find meaning in their own lives.

    “The very word creation presupposes a creator.”
    Really? You’ll argue from semantics? Perhaps you are forgetting that the English language developed, for the most part, in a time when it was simply assumed that the world did have a creator. I would not elect you to hitch my cart to my horse, as you would likely get the order of things entirely muddled.

    “Order, the fact that logic exists, implies one who does the ordering.”
    Logic is a human construct; it’s a way for us to examine and learn about our environment. The only “orderer” it requires is your brain.

    “our opponent would eventually get to a point where he must answer, ‘I don’t know.'”
    There was a time when “our opponent” would have had to answer in such a way regarding the origin of lightening, and this was considered proof that Zeus personally hurled the bolts from his seat in the clouds. We now understand how the whole process works and “I don’t know” is no longer the answer we are forced to give. Again and again, questions that were once met with “I don’t know” have been answered. Rather than assume that a lack of evidence must be evidence for magic, wouldn’t we be more prudent to simply say “I don’t know, yet” and continue looking until we do?

    “Instead of asking Christians and believers in a God to prove why God exists, why don’t we ask atheists to prove why God doesn’t exist?”
    Because you are claiming that something is; we are not. If I claim that there is an invisible unicorn in the room, it is not your duty to prove that there isn’t. This is the ‘logic’ business you were talking about earlier.

    “Atheism starts from an illogical premise; a belief that God does not exist”
    Why don’t we ask an Atheist where Atheism starts from? I do not see myself in your statement. I start with the premise that something must be demonstrated to exist before I will believe that it exists. The concept of a God has not been demonstrated to exist to my satisfaction, therefore I won’t waste my time believing in it. I am perfectly open to the possibilty that a deity exists, or that there is such a thing as the supernatural, or even that you could shoot lightening from your fingertips, but I won’t believe in any of those things until you can demonstrate to me that it is true.

    It’s the difference between not believing in God and disbelieving in God.

    “And after examining all the evidence, the only conclusion I can come up with is that God most definitely exists.”
    All the evidence? I can’t imagine that you are much older than 25, so it seems rather surprising to me that you have had the time to examine _all_ the evidence. I’m going to assume that there’s some rhetoric going on here. In any case, I assume that you have examined some evidence, probably only a small percentage of what is available. As have I. And yet, I have arrived at the opposite conclusion. Strange, isn’t it? I will further make the assumption that you began examining the evidence as a Christian, even if only marginally so. So did I. Yet one of us saw in the evidence a confirmation of our beliefs, while the other saw our entire understanding of the world shaken to its core and were forced to re-evaluate all the beliefs we had taken for granted. I suspect that one of us examined our evidence with an open mind while the other did so with the intention of steering clear from anything that might be challenging or faith-shaking. What do you think?

    I have proved that I have an open mind, at least in the area of religion, because I have had my mind changed. Where is your proof?

  • Ricky

    Even if there is a god, how do you know that it’s YOUR version. And how do you know that he wants you to follow YOUR flavor of christianity?

  • Sakodak

    Philosophy fail.

  • The meaning of life does not come from an external deity. Life’s meaning comes from within. You make you’re life’s meaning. Whether it’s helping others, excelling at sports, creating new life or new art, you make your own meaning.

  • DKLounge

    Your logic is on the right track but you are missing a bigger picture. Think about how old the earth is…It is estimated to be around 4.55 billion years old. If the earth is that old we have been around (since religion) around 6000 years. Dinosaurs are only millions of years old. In the concept of time our lives are meaningless. But in terms of us our lives our everything. We only get one as far as I know. You the choice whether to enjoy life or not. The majority of people don’t care what you do or how you live its all in your hands.

    PS. Books thousands of years old that were not updated are not evidence (the update things now almost yearly) if we held everything to those standards we would never progress.

  • John 3:16

    Why do Christians have to prove there is a God? Why should non-believers have to prove there isn’t one? Who cares either way? You can hold onto your view, I’ll hold onto mine. The fact is nobody knows for sure if there is a God or if there isn’t one.

    I would argue that it takes just as much faith to believe that we are all here by pure chance and circumstance evolving from nothing than it does to believe in God. I can call my belief Christianity and you can call yours your world view, either way they are both beliefs systems. Because some of you do not like the term “religion” doesn’t make your belief system superior or somehow trump everything else.

    I would say the real danger in our society is bigots that masquerading under the banner of tolerance (i.e. got to stop those bad religious people because they think differently than me). So I ask people like Sam Harris and Mike Bolan once you eradicate religion though fear tactics, intimidation, harassment and even violence, who will you go after next?

    I close by saying if the anit-religious folks can believe that we are here by pure chance and believe in the tooth fairy, than I have the equal right to believe that there is a God and the ester bunny.

    • Kristen P.

      Christians want to make laws in America based on their belief in God; therefore, they need to prove he exists. The real danger is people disguising their bigotry with religion and then claiming offense when their religious “values” are rightfully questioned.

      Also, I don’t think you are right that your so-called “anti,” oops, “anit-religious folks” believe we are by pure chance AND believe in the tooth fairy. You can believe in the Easter bunny all you want, but don’t tell me I’ll go to jail for not hiding eggs in my yard.

  • codeman

    I’m greatly disheartened by this article. All it succeeded in doing was make you look like a fool for trying to prove God in a couple paragraphs.

    I also am saddened by your claims at life being meaningless without God. As a secular humanist, I look at the power, creativity, and innovation humans have achieved, and I am left marveling at the human experience. I see a light bulb, a book, or a painting with the same amount of immense wonder and awe.

    I wish you luck Mr. Petersen. I hope you see one of the weak points of your logic: it comes from the mind set of a believer. The conviction you wrote with bleeds religious ideology, so it will only resonate with people who are already christian. To be a member of our global society, I encourage you to adopt a more relativistic mindset, and try to see things from other perspectives and frame arguments accordingly.

  • Alex

    While you meant well, your article will only bring to mind the tired old discussion that Atheists and Christians have had for years, which ends with one side being “right” and the other “wrong.”

    So I offer this bit of advice, instead of using examples that have been used before, try forming your own example. What does believing in God do for YOU? What has faith done for YOU? How has YOUR life been changed by believing in what some could call a “zombie living in the sky” or any other term? (no offense to the person who used that term in another comment.)

    Perhaps by using your testimony you can provide a new angle to this discussion of what a belief in God does for someone. And after all, being a journalist is all about finding the right angle to approach a story with.

  • Eliana Banuelos

    Very Brave article. You bring up some key points that one who does not believe, and really everyone, should really ask themselves. I actually remember saying a comment like the one you made about “What we do does not matter. Your mother and Adolf Hitler are essentially equivalent.” And the class went nuts.

    Your statement is logical but unfortunately way more than half the population does not like to take it’s logic to it’s full end, but like to dwindle it in the happy grey area they know and are comfortable with.

    I like this article because it shows the other side of the argument and it helps the Collegian not be one sided about issues. Keep doing what you guys do and don’t be discouraged by looong bashing comments!

    • joshua4234

      Brave article? How so? We live in county that is largely conservative and is dominated by Christianity…guess it’s rough being in the majority.

      The class probably went nuts because it’s an incredibly stupid take on why we value certain actions more than others.

      • to mr. joshua

        maybe you could settle down on being a jerk and we would all be happy. :) since you comment on EVERYONE of tony’s articles.

        • Anonymous

          I guess writing my opinion down is being a jerk. I suppose that makes Tony an even bigger jerk since his opinion gets in a paper. If my being a ‘jerk’ stops anyone from being happy then they have far bigger problems since they let some random person on the internet affect them.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    “Let’s assume that God does not exist. When we die, we will cease to exist in any form. Life was for naught. Our existence has no meaning…. ”

    This is an argument for absolutism: if something is not perfect/eternal/infinite/absolute, then it may as well have no value at all. I will offer a counter-argument by example: I have $5 in my pocket. It will not feed me for infinity. It will not even feed me for a lifetime. But it will buy me lunch today, and that is certainly better than nothing.

    “But cold-blooded, unprovoked murder has never had justification.”

    “Cold-blooded, unprovoked” – Why the qualifiers? Is it because he is aware that Yahweh commanded and committed murder in the Bible? And “murder” is already a loaded word, it means wrongful killing. So let us ask a more honest question: is killing ever justified?

    “Art implies an artist.”

    And in a time before science, lightning implied a lightnigist. These are word games, not serious arguments. At least state the question honestly: does the origin of the Universe require a divine explanation?

    “If it is said that the Big Bang created the earth, how did all the matter that banged together come to exist?”

    You’re not a physics major, are you?

    “This debate will go on long after this column is forgotten. Some atheists will never be convinced by religious arguments”

    If the religious arguments are of the quality on exhibit above, those atheists will be justified.

    “And after examining all the evidence, the only conclusion I can come up with is that God most definitely exists.”

    Oddly enough, not a single one of your arguments explains why God with a capital G would be favoured over Zeus, Odin, Vishnu, Amon-Re, et al. as an explanation for anything.

    To sum up: Petersen’s arguments rely on loaded rhetoric rather than substance. They are not honest, they are not convincing, and even if they were all successful they would not carry the weight he places upon them.

  • You need this very badly: http://atheist-experience.com/archive/

    • Vgerdj

      Matt, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Thunderfoot are speakers that I never tire of

  • Aubrey

    Tony – very brave of you to take on this topic and to spark such a great discussion with believers and nonbelievers.

    j – your line really made me chuckle. I’d encourage you to read “The Language of God” by Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, Director of the NIH (appointed by Mr. Obama) and one of the world’s leading scientists. He also has a PhD from Yale, an MD from UNC Chapel Hill and, though once an atheist, his study of science led him to believe that Christianity is truth and science supports and enhances Christianity. Education can often lead us towards God. We shouldn’t necessarily assume it will lead away from him.

    I’d also encourage any of the atheists who are interested (even for the reason of merely being able to enhance their arguments against Christianity) to read “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel, another well educated man (law degree from Yale), and former journalist for the Chicago Tribune, who as an atheist set out to disprove Christianity when his wife became a believer, and instead couldn’t help but accept that the more he researched and learned, the more clearly he was pointed to a God, and specifically Jesus Christ.

    I would not describe either of these men as Bronze Age thinking religious types, but glad to have the dicussion with you.

    • I’ve read both books and neither is very good.

      Collins does NOT believe in god BECAUSE of science. He is a good scientist so he understands the EVIDENCE that evolution is true, despite what Christianity teaches. However, he simply likes the way Christianity makes him feel. He also accepts the spurious argument from the “Anthropic principle” but he does not address the serious evidential/mathematical problems this argument has.

      Strobel may have gone to Yale law, but he doesn’t know anything about historical method, archeology, or even the basics of where the bible came from and who wrote it. He basically presupposes Christianity is true, and then interviews evangelical “experts” who agree with him. If you want to learn something about the bible you should try to read some Bart Ehrman.

  • Jamesright

    1. you cannot prove a negative
    2. “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.” — Marcus Aurelius

  • Glorianne Outlaw

    I entirely disagree that without God our lives have no meaning. Our lives have the meaning that we give them. The people whose lives we help and enrich just by living, smiling and loving. Our actions and accomplishments live on in the people that we leave behind on this earth. We make an impact with whom and how much we love. I don’t know what I believe in, but I know that I don’t believe in God. I do know, however, that human emotion is the biggest thing we leave behind. Causing others pain and sorrow or giving them an abundance of love- it gives meaning to everything that we do. Hitler may be dead, but even so there are still people alive that he hurt through his actions, or those peoples relatives and they too are affected. My mother has been a teacher for 18 years and she has enriched the minds of hundreds of children from kindergarten to high school. In no way are those two people comparable.

  • Thought

    Here’s the deal Mr. Peterson. There are only two things that will change one’s opinion: facts and feelings. Instead you used suposition. Even though your conclusions and reasoning may be uderstood and justified by like-minded individuals, this type of writing only spurs on more debate, which is what it has done.

  • Aubrey

    Thanks for the recommendation Daniel. I’ll be sure to check him out.

  • Mankind invented the various religions to control other people. Some of them inventors may have had good intentions, some may have wanted to benefit themselves or their group and in one case it appears to have been started simply a wager between friends. In most cases they appear to have outlived their usefulness and are likely holding society back in many ways. The burning question of life that existed 1900 years ago when the bible was assembled from borrowed and rehashed stories from older religion and cultures years ago have been a been resoundingly answered science and common sense. As for life having no meaning well I say life is what you make of it and all you can do is be happy and try and leave the planet in better shape for the next generation.

  • Vgerdj

    WHY TONY FAILS

    “Let’s assume that God does not exist. When we die, we will cease to exist in any form. Life was for naught. Our existence has no meaning.”

    This is not an either/or position. This is an unknowable position. No one knows what happens after this life. You fear us into believing that you are right because the picture you painted of the afterlife is soooo bad without YOUR god/religion/superstition. In your fantasy world this might be the case. How do we know if YOUR god/religion/superstition even exists; Saying that this life sucks without YOUR god/religion/superstition is an argument from extortion.

    “If we live an ultimately meaningless life, then our actions on earth are meaningless as well. What we do does not matter. Your mother and Adolf Hitler are essentially equivalent. For if our lives are meaningless, then there is nothing to base our values on—values do not exist. It does not matter if we steal or give. It does not matter if we kill or save. What we do on this earth matters none.”

    My life has meaning right now. I enjoy life, I try to be a better person, but I still make misstakes.

    This is why I stopped believing in religion. Religious people are so devoid of life, this life. They spend their existance for a ‘pot of gold’, instead of just being human.

    Tony argues that “our actions on earth are meaningless” if we don’t believe in HIS god/religion/superstition, yet if you accept jesus as your lord and savior, then you are forgiven for all your sins and all your actions were meaningless as well. As the bullet broke the skin on Adolfs temple and he regretted his actions and “got saved”, he’s kickin back with some heavenly wine right now with all the other sociopaths that found jesus at the last second. The reason humans have made it this far is that we do more good than evil to our fellow humans, no matter how much religion tries to prove us wrong.

    “This is troublesome. The only way this works is if we decide that no values are absolute and eternal, for something cannot be absolute and eternal without a God. But cold-blooded, unprovoked murder has never had justification. If it can be agreed that murder is always wrong, then some values are not relative to time, place or human construction. Some just are. And if values exist, something beyond them must exist to judge those who act upon those values.”

    This argument is just so painful, you don’t murder because some goat herders 3000 years ago wrote a book. Murder is wrong because we as a society agreed WE DON’T WANT TO BE MURDERED, and stealing is wrong because I like my stuff to remain my stuff. And all the other things that we have laws for as a society to make living with each other meaningful.

    “There is also the problem of creation: Where do we come from? The very word creation presupposes a creator. Order, the fact that logic exists, implies one who does the ordering. Art implies an artist. If someone went around claiming that a painting came into existence without a painter, that person would rightly be decried as a lunatic. Only when it comes to God do we doubt that His creation necessarily needs Him as the Creator.”

    It’s funny that logic was actually used in his paragraph. “Creation presupposes a creator.” And creation presupposes creation. You started this extortion by saying “Let’s assume that God does not exist..” If god does not exist then there was no creation by god. How everything got here is unknowable today. Maybe we will find out the meaning of it all, but claiming that logic accounts for your god/religion/superstition beliefs is lunatic.

    “Yes, one might say, but there is a scientific response to every thing that exists on earth. Yet a simple child could unravel this argument by asking why? If we asked why for every scientific response explaining how things came to be as they are, our opponent would eventually get to a point where he must answer, “I don’t know.” For if it is said evolution created man, we can ask how the organism that evolved into man came to be. If it is said that the Big Bang created the earth, how did all the matter that banged together come to exist? And how did the universe get there in the first place? These questions cannot be answered.”

    So what you are saying is that scientists are very tall children. Scientists say ” I don’t know” and “why” all the time, that’s what science is. ‘I don’t know but I’m gonna figure it out’ is tattooed inside the skull of everyone who has done an experiment. That’s what seperates us from all of god’s other creatures./scarcasm If you don’t believe in Science and use that to justify your religion, you have failed at being human. Science works. If you don’t believe that evolution is a fact, then you should never take another prescription, visit a doctor, drink clean water… The Big Bang was not a bang, or explosion, it was an expansion of matter and it was very hot; and if you believe in gravity, then things cooled and clumped together, and we got an earth in the center of 5 planets, a moon, and a sun, and then we got Science and found out that religion is a crock.

    “Instead of asking Christians and believers in a God to prove why God exists, why don’t we ask atheists to prove why God doesn’t exist?”

    Because proof requires a positive position. You claim something and go about trying to proving it, Atheists do not believe your assertion that a god exists because your proof is nonexistant. I can’t prove that there is an invisible FSM holding everything down on the planet; but I still believe it because that theory of gravity is just so asinine.

    “For Boylan’s argument could just as easily be turned around: Atheism starts from an illogical premise; a belief that God does not exist is insane and fuels our insufferable ignorance for claiming not to know things that have already been revealed to us; and it is imperative that we call into question, publicly and incessantly, the entire project of atheism.”

    Again, you started this extortion by saying “Let’s assume that God does not exist..” and keep saying that not believing in your god/religion/superstition is insane, WITHOUT ANY PROOF.

    “This debate will go on long after this column is forgotten. Some atheists will never be convinced by religious arguments, and some religious people will never be convinced by atheistic arguments. But one side must be right.

    Actually, MANY atheists are convinced by religious arguments, Budhists have religion but no god. Your problem seems to be you have no idea what an atheist is. Let me define it for you ‘An Atheist is someone who does not believe you have provided adequate proof for your god or gods’.

    “And after examining all the evidence, the only conclusion I can come up with is that God most definitely exists. ”

    What is amazing is that you provided NO evidence, and then based your conclusion on that.

    lanoitnetni saw ekatsim

  • a Christian Professor

    Tony:
    I applaud your courage. And as a believer in God (and a Christian) I agree with you. Science can answer many “how” questions, but it can never answer the “why” questions, which are ultimately more significant. You are right that most atheists and most religious people will never change each others’ opinions through argument, nevertheless, it is important to engage in the debate. Silence, otherwise, may be taken as assent.
    A Christian Professor

  • “Instead of asking Christians and believers in a God to prove why God exists, why don’t we ask atheists to prove why God doesn’t exist?”

    Tony, the burden of proof is always on the one who makes the positive claim. You claim that God exists therefore you need to prove this statement.

    I do not claim that God does not exist. I merely claim that you have not given me sufficient evidence to believe in a God.

    If you insist on shifting the burden of proof from your own shoulders to mine, then this burden is freed to act like the puck in a game of air hockey. In other words, I am free to shift the burden back again.

    Here, I’ll demonstrate, by proving that your God does not exist:

    There is an invisible elf sitting on my shoulder. The race of invisible elves is very old, and they are very long lived. They remember a time before humans existed, and watched us evolve. The invisible elf on my shoulder has told me of this. He also says that the invisible elves made up the whole idea of religion in order to mess with Humans. They thought this prank was very funny.

    You don’t believe in invisible elves? You don’t believe there is one on my shoulder? Well, why should I be the one to prove that they exist? I submit that you must instead prove that invisible elves do not exist – and until you do so, I have proven that your God does not exist.

    There. As you can see, uprooting your burden of proof creates an endless air hockey game that neither side wins. The only way around this is that the person making the positive claim must bring the evidence!

  • Roger L

    Atheists are more concerned about God because they know they are wrong about Him not existing. An atheist will talk about God 10:1 more often than a Christian because atheists know they are wrong.
    Christians are in no way burdened with a requirement to proving anything…..atheists are burdened by not having proof that God does not exist…..this drives them insane and I thoroughly enjoy watching them in their state of desperation, grasping for any excuse they can to justify their denial of having to face a consequence for ignoring God.

  • Roger L

    No willful ignorance is more destructive than the willful ignorance of an atheist.

  • Paprika

    “…after examining all the evidence.. ”

    Is this satire?