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In apologetics,arguments,Atheism,Nic Bertsch

Atheism Requires a Little Humility

By Nick Bertsch

When conversing with various atheists, I have encountered sort of a self-righteousness that confuses me. There is a certain sense in which many have a very condescending view of anyone they deem stupid enough to believe in a creator of the universe. The funny thing is, there are more problems in explaining reality for those who deny God’s existence, than there are for those who affirm it. Here are a few off the top of my head, just to start.

First, most atheists are also naturalists or materialists. They believe all that exists is matter. In other words, “In the beginning were the particles.” If this is the case, then it follows that wherever each person is at this moment is the result of physical processes. We are basically molecules in motion, or “moist robots.” This should mean that our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, etc. are not rational but chemical, and we have no control over them. Whatever sense of morality we have, whatever view of God we have, and whatever else we think, are not something freely chosen or deduced rationally, but rather caused by chemical reactions in the brain. In other words, we don’t reason, we just react. There is no free will in this view; we are biologically determined. This means that the atheist has no grounds to think his view is rational, because his beliefs are caused by his biology. Chances are though, most atheists will switch categories, claim they have free will, and yet cling to a worldview that undermines it completely.

Atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel argues as much in his book Mind and Cosmos. He writes: “Evolutionary naturalism provides an account of our capacities that undermines their reliability, and in doing so undermines itself.”[1]

Second, although I am sure some will disagree, it seems that it is atheists who, more often than not, will take the wildly counter-intuitive position of denying such blindingly obvious things as objective morality and consciousness to argue against a creator. Richard Dawkins, a well-known atheist, has famously said, “DNA neither knows nor cares, DNA just is, and we dance to its music.”[2] There are many atheists who will even argue that our consciousness is an illusion. Despite such bold statements, they will then proceed to argue about the immorality of religion (which is really just people dancing to their DNA, supposedly) using what they feel are rational arguments produced by their consciousness which is supposedly illusory . . . for everyone but them. Makes sense, right?

not-atheist-symbol1Third, when the best answer your worldview can provide in many cases is “we don’t know,” then it would be polite not to look down on those who draw an inference to the best explanation by positing God. The origin of life, the origin of the universe, and the origin of consciousness are a few things that have no plausible explanation within the worldview of naturalism, and it would be nice to see an atheist or two be a little more charitable with Christians, since “we don’t know” is the best they can ultimately come up with when pressed.

Fourth, even though it’s a standard atheist tactic to blame religion for causing more wars and violence than anything else, it is actually atheism that has the higher body count. Regimes like those of Stalin, Lenin, and Mao Zedong made atheism the institutionalized position, resulting in the slaughter of over 100 million people combined, many of whom were religious people. Is it because all atheists are evil? Of course not. It is because atheism reduces us from human beings created in the image of God, with intrinsic value, to glorified animals with extrinsic value, who can be killed if they are not useful or oppose what you want. If a person has the power these men had, and views people this way, there is nothing logically incoherent about killing anyone who disagrees. Those claiming to be Christians who committed violence did so against the teachings of Jesus. Read for yourself. However, those who believe we are all animals and are accountable to no one have the logical backing for some pretty ugly things. Most atheists don’t think like this, which I am glad for, but there is nothing in the logical outworking of their worldview which would prevent them from doing so. In other words, they are inconsistent yet again, and should be a bit more charitable to those with a worldview that doesn’t lead logically to these kinds of things.

Fifth, since most atheists think evolution is really to blame for the way we all think and behave, why is it so impossible for them to keep their evolution to themselves and let Christians and everyone else believe what they want? Why are they so threatened by us? Why do some feel the need to remove any mention of God from anything in society, and silence or ostracize anyone who dares to dissent? I find it a little telling of the weakness of their worldview. If religion is a product of evolution that has helped people survive, then there is no explanation for the irrational hatred so many atheists have for it.

Finally, it is seemingly impossible for many atheists to accurately represent the Christian worldview before they proceed to argue against it. They consistently build a straw man of what we don’t believe (with a few verses ripped out of context from the Old Testament thrown in), and then proceed to tear it apart. If you can’t argue confidently and logically against a view someone actually holds, then don’t look down on them with such disdain for holding it.

I could probably rant forever on this, but I think I have made my point. I love when good conversations happen, but find more and more that the tone, and the tactics, are often unhelpful. There are many like me who have not blindly accepted belief in God, but have logically thought it through and find His existence undeniable. The reality is, there are massive problems with the atheistic worldview, and it would serve some atheists well to have a little humility in view of this. Christians are not the only ones with questions to answer.


[1] Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 27.

[2] Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 133.

  • I agree that atheism requires a little humility. Of course, a corollary to this statement is that fundamentalism requires none: only shameless self-assuredness. 🙂

    I think the reason many atheists actively resist religion and decry the god of the Tanakh as immoral is because of the influence they see religion having in their lives. Maybe for the same reason that many Christians actively resist Islam, specifically: they think Islam is starting to have too much influence in their lives, but that doesn’t mean they think Islam is true, right?

    So if I say that Yahweh committed genocide, for example, it’s not because I believe he actually did (because I don’t think he’s real). What I’m arguing against is the (typically Christian) interpretation that the character Yahweh was morally justified in doing what he is depicted doing in the Tanakh.

    We could argue whether the character of Susan in the Chronicles of Narnia was treated fairly or unfairly by the author — C.S. Lewis obviously thought her a pariah, but there are a long list of people who feel sorry for her rather than the contempt the author seems to want us to feel. Similarly, the writers of the Tanakh seem to want us to agree with them that the character Yahweh was a mighty and righteous god. But we don’t have to agree with the narrators, right?

    I also love good conversations. And I wouldn’t call most people stupid who believe Yahweh is real and love him. Religion isn’t the result of stupidity, in my opinion. It’s something else.

    Cheers.