Frequently Asked Questions by Atheists (FAQA)
I’m frequently asked the same questions on social media, so I decided it would be helpful to have a convenient one-stop FAQA where the most common questions and objections could be addressed. (See here for the regular FAQ.) If you’re an atheist who wishes to contact me on social media, please read through this FAQA in its entirety, as you will most likely find your question/objection has already been addressed.
Keep in mind that if you’re an obvious time-waster, I’m probably going to mute you or ignore you. The obvious time-wasters are those who use what I call Atheist Bingo words:
- sky daddy
- sky fairy
- imaginary friend
- Jewish zombie
- Flying Spaghetti Monster
- “your god”
The reason for this is that my time is limited. If this is how you communicate with Christians, you’re not interested in a sincere exchange of ideas. I simply don’t have the time or patience to engage with people who are not serious.
Now, if this doesn’t describe you, and you have questions or objections for me, I still encourage you to read through this list first. I’ll periodically add to the list as needed.
The List of FAQA
1. You’re a scientist and you believe in God and Jesus Christ?
Yes. You can read the story of how I converted from atheism to Christianity here.
2. Were you really an atheist?
Atheists often try to disqualify people who claim to be converts from atheism — “I doubt she was really an atheist” — but the sad truth for them is that I fully rejected atheism after being raised atheist by socialist ex-Catholic atheist parents in a secular country (Canada). Later, when my father embraced free market principles, he introduced me and my brother to Objectivism — an explicitly atheist philosophy — at a young age, and Objectivism went on to form the basis of my worldview for many years.
My brother and I both went on to reject atheism and convert to Christianity while getting our science doctorates. My father — who is still not Christian but no longer an atheist — says he doesn’t understand how he managed to produce two Christian children.
3. Why do you believe in God?
I came to believe in God mostly through my work in science. I was convinced by:
1. The teleological argument. The universe seemed to me far too logical and intelligible to be the product of a random cause. (20 demerits to anyone who falsely claims this is an argument from incredulity.)
- That which begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore the universe has a cause.
The KCA + logical inference of a personal cause doesn’t prove God exists, but it is a rational basis for belief in God. This is why I gave up on atheism and accepted the existence of God. If you think this doesn’t count as evidence for the existence of God, you and I have nothing to discuss. If you personally don’t find this line of reasoning convincing, that’s okay. If you have sincere questions about the details, that’s okay, ask away. But if you think this doesn’t count as evidence for God, please just google cat pictures or something, and don’t waste your time or mine by contacting me.
4. Why the God of the Bible and not some other god?
See above. The KCA + personal cause ruled out most everything except for the God of the Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam*. So, I picked up a Bible and started reading. After spending a couple of years investigating the claims of the OT, I continued to the NT and spent another year investigating its claims. When the Bible held up to scrutiny, I realized I had no choice but to accept it as true.
* I didn’t realize at the time that Zoroastrianism and Sikhism also hold to such a God. Zoroastrianism is an ancient and relatively obscure religion of Iran. Sikhism is a young religion (15th century) from the Punjab region of India, and is the ninth largest religion in the world. Both are intriguingly similar to Christianity in some ways, but differ significantly in others. Had I known that these two religions also hold to a transcendent, immaterial, and timeless God, it would have changed nothing in terms of my trajectory towards Christianity. I was persuaded that Christianity is not only supported by evidence and reason, but that it is the best explanation for evil in the world. That has not changed.
5. Do you believe Genesis is literal?
6. How do you square a literal Genesis with a universe that’s billions of years old?
Read Gerald Schroeder’s The Science of God or go through my slide show here.
7. Do you write scientific papers about God creating the universe?
8. Everyone is born an atheist … babies are atheists until they’re indoctrinated.
I never understood why this is supposed to be a convincing argument for atheism. No one is born knowing how to use a toilet, how to use utensils, how to do algebra, or how to speak a language, either. It requires a lot of indoctrination to train a child to do those things. Moreover, the natural state of humankind is poverty, disease, violence, and conflict. It takes a lot of effort to overcome this natural state. Does that mean we shouldn’t try?
One thing atheists consistently overlook when using this as an argument against religion is the ease with which the vast majority of humans have overcome this “innate” atheism. If it really required hard indoctrination to forcibly pull people out of their natural atheism, most people on earth would be atheist, and atheists in secular countries would never produce religious children. The prevalence of religious belief is such a problem for atheists that they’ve had to come up with peculiar evolutionary explanations for why 90% of people on earth have a need for the spiritual and a propensity for believing in the supernatural, even though it supposedly doesn’t exist.
9. Religion is a product of where you were born, your family, etc.
Many, if not most (meaning > 50%) people adopt the dominant belief system of their family, community, university, or society. So what? That number certainly includes all atheists, who adopt atheism because of where they were born, where they went to university, and the communities they live in — it’s why I was an atheist for the first thirty years of my life.
10. We’re all atheists, I just believe in one less god than you.
The rest of the quote goes, “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you’ll understand why I dismiss yours.”
The first part is a nonsense statement. It’s like telling a computer programmer that there’s no difference between 1s and 0s, it’s just that 0 is 1 less than 1. There’s a world of difference between theism and atheism, as atheists frequently remind Christians when they’re not using this quote against them.
The second part of the statement shows a failure to understand the nature of God vs. gods. God is held by those of the Abrahamic religions to be the creator of the universe, and as such is the creator of all things. If God exists, he must necessarily be outside of his own creation, which means he is outside of space, time, and material existence. Given all this, God is therefore by definition transcendent, timeless, and immaterial.
To my knowledge, the only religions that believe in a transcendent, immaterial, and timeless God are the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), their offshoots (e.g. the Bahá’í Faith), Zoroastrianism, and Sikhism. All other religions hold to very different sorts of deities, none of whom are creators. You can read through the various pagan mythologies to see that they invariably skirt the issue of the creation of the universe and deal instead with the establishment of the divinity of earthly rulers or the creation of a new world, land, or empire. Such is the case with the Mesopotamian and Egyptian creation myths that predate the writings of Moses, as well as others like the Greek, Roman, and Viking myths.
Philosopher Eve Keneinan explains why it’s important to understand the fundamental difference between God and gods:
In any serious discussion about theism, it is absolutely crucial to distinguish between God and the gods. If you don’t understand this distinction, you will literally never understand what serious theists are talking about. God is, by definition, the Absolute. The one, absolute, unconditioned ground and source of all that is; the Alpha and the Omega, as Christian scripture puts it. Perhaps there are, as Hindus believe, thousands or even millions of gods; perhaps there are not. But ifthere are, these gods, like everything else, receive their existence and being from Brahman, which is the absolute reality beyond all (mere) gods, and as Thomas Aquinas would say, “Et hoc omnes intelligunt Deum”, “and this everyone understands to be God.”
This is the reason we distinguish God with a capital G, from gods with the lower case g: gods are beings, entities, that—if they exist—exist as part of the totality of reality, the total ensemble of things that are. There can thus be many of them, or a few, or one, or none, and they may or may not exist, and these are all empirical questions: if they do exist, they do, and if they don’t, they don’t. But God is not a being or thing or entity that exists in the total ensemble of things that exist; rather God is the ground and source of the total ensemble of things that exist. It is, strictly speaking, improper to say that “God exists,” because the word “exists” fails to capture adequately the being of God (as does the word “being”; as do all words). This is also the reason why the existence of God is not an empirical question. It is not the case that God may or may not exist. If God exists, then God necessarily exists. Indeed, if anything exists, God necessarily exists. Existence or reality itself is an effect of God’s being.
For more discussion:
12. Which of the thousands of gods do you believe in and why?
13. Atheism is just a lack of belief.
Some people aren’t sure, and so they passively don’t believe — those people are more appropriately referred to as agnostics. However, if “atheist” is in your profile bio, if you make it part of your identity, if you lurk on Twitter looking for #Atheist and #Christian tweets to respond to, I guarantee it’s not just a lack of belief for you.
There are only two possibilities — God exists; God doesn’t exist. If you reject the former, you implicitly accept the latter, since there’s no other possibility.
14. Atheism isn’t a positive position. Whoever makes the claim that something exists has the burden of proof.
See above. If you say “God doesn’t exist,” you are making a positive statement. People frequently mistake this for an affirmative statement. Don’t make the error of confusing “positive” (philosophy) with “affirmative” (grammar). “God doesn’t exist” is a positive statement. If you make this statement, the burden of proof is on you.
For more discussion: