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 one-stop FAQA where the most common questions and objections are addressed. (See here for the regular FAQ.)
If you’re an atheist who wants to contact me on social media, please read through this FAQA first. You’ll probably find that your question has already been answered.
I enjoy interacting with people on social media, answering questions, and getting into discussions. However, I’m not inclined to throw away my time on questions from people who are not truly seeking answers. If you’re an obvious time-waster, I’m most likely going to ignore you, mute you, or feature you as a “Don’t Be This Guy” to my followers.
I’ll know you’re a time-waster if you use phrases like:
- “sky daddy”
- “sky fairy”
- “imaginary friend”
- “invisible friend”
- “your god”
- anything that smacks of scientism
If this is how you communicate with Christians, odds are 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.
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, because it makes them feel uncomfortable. But the sad truth for them is that I rejected atheism after being raised atheist by ex-Catholic socialist 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 — which formed 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.
July 2017 update: After years of study and contemplation, my father says he is now a Christian. (My mother, who passed away many years ago, had drifted back to her childhood faith over the years. She was more or less square with God by the time she died.)
3. Are you a young earth creationist?
No. Given the multiple lines of evidence, I believe the universe and the Earth are billions of years old.
4. What is your repeatable, scientific evidence for God?
What is your repeatable, scientific evidence for your objective existence as a human being? Seriously. On what basis do you assert your own existence as a person reading these words as opposed to a brain in a vat hallucinating all of this as “real”? When you figure out why I’m asking this (two whys, actually), you’ll know why #4 is not a legitimate question.
5. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Astronomer Carl Sagan popularized this statement decades ago. Atheists like to repeat it in reference to the supernatural, because it sounds right. However, there are two major problems with it.
1. It’s logically wrong. Christian commentator, Vox Day, refers to Sagan’s slogan as “pop illogic,” and explains why it doesn’t hold up:
A proper scientific study of the supernatural, as proposed by the likes of Daniel Dennett, will look no different and provide evidence that is no more extraordinary than the evidence that is provided for any natural claim. Whether one is studying the utility of prayer, Vitamin C, or surgery in curing cancer, the means and the evidence produced will be the same.
… the only difference between an “extraordinary claim” and an ordinary one is that there is usually less tangential knowledge surrounding what is described as an extraordinary one. But that tangential knowledge should not be confused with evidence in itself, especially when it does not even support the specific claim being made.
The rationale for disbelieving in the supernatural on the basis of an absence of ordinary scientific evidence for it is a perfectly logical one. (It’s inconclusive given the various forms of evidence, of course, but logical nonetheless.) However, this perfectly logical rationale also happens to directly belie the very illogical “extraordinary claims” argument. This should be obvious to any rational thinker, considering the problem that advocates of this pop illogic regularly evince in distinguishing between ordinary claims and extraordinary claims, and ordinary evidence and extraordinary evidence.
2. When it comes to the existence of the supernatural, who’s making the extraordinary claim?
Even if we accept the illogic of Sagan’s statement, the problem for the atheist is that it works against him. The vast majority of people in the world claim the supernatural exists. This, by definition, is therefore an ordinary claim. Whoever says the supernatural doesn’t exist is the one making an extraordinary claim.
6. So, 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. (Twenty demerits to anyone who falsely claims this is an argument from incredulity.)
The KCA goes like this:
- That which begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore the universe has a cause.
I was also convinced by:
3. Objective morality and justice. God is the most philosophically satisfying basis for morality and justice in the world.
None of this proves God exists, but it is a rational basis for belief in God.
These arguments are why I gave up on atheism and accepted the existence of God. If this evidence doesn’t convince you of God’s existence, that’s okay. If you’d like to talk about the details, that’s fine. But if you think these arguments don’t count as evidence for God, I’m sorry to say that you and I have nothing to discuss. If after reading this you still insist there’s no evidence for God, please just google cat pictures or something, and don’t waste your time or mine by contacting me.
7. There’s no evidence for God.
See #6. There are other compelling evidences for God, including:
- The fine-tuning argument
- Life / consciousness
- Near-death experiences
- The life and ministry of Jesus Christ
8. Why the God of the Bible and not some other god?
See #6 and #7. 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. I found Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ, helpful in this process. When the NT held up to scrutiny, I realized I had no choice but to accept it as true.
I didn’t realize at the time that KCA + personal cause also included Zoroastrianism and Sikhism. 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.
9. So, if you believe the universe and Earth are billions of years old, do you think Genesis is figurative?
No, Genesis is literal.
10. How do you square a literal Genesis with a universe that’s billions of years old?
Read Chapters 3 and 4 of Gerald Schroeder’s The Science of God or go through my slide show here.
11. Do you write scientific papers about God’s involvement in the universe?
No. As far as my scientific work goes, I agree with Laplace, who famously said “I have no need of that hypothesis.” (It doesn’t mean what you probably think it means.) I don’t need to invoke God to explain why black holes and galaxies behave the way they do. I invoke physical laws to do that. (Not to be confused with the origin of those laws and the universe described by them, which is a different matter.)
12. Everyone is born an atheist … babies are atheists until they’re indoctrinated.
I never understood why this is supposed to be a compelling argument, even when I was an atheist. First, we have no idea what babies believe until they can tell us. But we do know they’re illiterate and incontinent little savages until they’re indoctrinated to read, use a toilet, and treat other people with respect. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s good.
If hard indoctrination was really required to force people out of their natural atheism, most people on earth would be atheist, and atheists in secular countries would never produce religious children. But consider how easy it is for most people to overcome their “innate” atheism. More than 90% of the world’s population believes in the supernatural, even though it supposedly doesn’t exist. The prevalence of religious belief is such a problem for people who use this argument that they’ve had to come up with peculiar evolutionary tics to explain it away. The law of parsimony applies here.
13. 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.
14. 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. As atheists frequently point out, there’s a world of difference between theism and atheism.
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. He is therefore 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. God is therefore by definition transcendent, timeless, and immaterial.
To my knowledge, the only religions that believe in a transcendent, timeless, and immaterial 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 deities, none of which 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.
For more discussion:
15. Which of the thousands of gods do you believe in and why?
16. Atheism is just a lack of belief.
There are only two possibilities: God exists; God doesn’t exist. If you reject the former, you implicitly accept the latter.
Some people aren’t sure and lean towards disbelief. They’re 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 religious hashtags and categories, it’s not just a lack of belief for you. You’re not fooling anyone by claiming otherwise.
17. Atheism isn’t a positive position. Whoever makes the claim that something exists has the burden of proof.
See #16. If you say “God doesn’t exist,” you are still making a positive statement.
Don’t confuse positive statements with affirmative statements. “Positive” (philosophy) and “affirmative” (grammar) are not the same thing. “God doesn’t exist” is not an affirmative statement, but it is a positive one. If you make this statement, the burden of proof is on you.
For more discussion: