3 Famous Atheists & Their Best Arguments

Updated on July 30, 2018
Dawkins correcting the position of his ol' windshield
Dawkins correcting the position of his ol' windshield

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Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins is an English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and author. He wrote the 2006 best-selling book, The God Delusion. In that book, he made some pretty compelling arguments for atheism.

We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.

— Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

We're All Atheists

In this argument, Dawkins is pointing out the obvious fact that we all look at historical religions with plenty of skepticism. It would be absurd to believe that Zeus and Thor really do exist, or that the gods of the ancient Egyptians are still out there wandering about. When a religious person stops to consider this, it will be a painful truth for them to realize that their religion is very much the same as those in the past. So it will logically follow that their religion is likely the same kind of desperation for supernatural control in the universe. These kinds of simple arguments are what made me seriously struggle to believe in the god of the bible. But the beauty of it is that this argument can easily be applied to all religions.

Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.

— Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

Indoctrination

Dawkins challenges religious people to train their kids in critical thinking instead of in religious tradition. In this way, the child will choose whether or not religion is true and real, rather than being constantly told by trusted friends and family that it is. This is a challenge to religious people because religion continues almost entirely because of the indoctrination of children. Children are easy targets because they trust that the adults around them have life figured out and are vastly more intelligent than them. Dawkins is pointing out that if we train children to think critically rather than indoctrinate them, we'll have an atheist society in a single generation.

Friedrich and the famous moustache
Friedrich and the famous moustache

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German philosopher, cultural critic, poet, philologist, and Latin and Greek scholar whose work has exerted a profound influence on Western philosophy and modern intellectual history.

I have not come to know atheism as a result of logical reasoning and still less as an event in my life: in me it is a matter of instinct.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Atheism is Instinctual

Atheism is completely natural. A primary tool of critical thought is to remember that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. When someone tells you that they saw a velociraptor in the forest, you're going to need evidence to believe them. Their claim is pretty extraordinary and so you would require some outstanding evidence for their claim. Religion is treated the exact same way. If a Muslim man tries to convert you to Islam, you're going to need some evidence for his claims about the truth of his religion. That's an important point about religion, that the burden of proof is on them to prove their fanciful ideas. The only reason people are convinced so easily about the madness of religion is that their parents or friends tell them about it, and they trust those people. I believed in Christianity for a long time, and when I had the strongest doubts, I would remember that my parents, friends, fellow church-goers, and extended family wouldn't lie to me about something so important. Atheism is instinctual, but so is trust.

Christianity was from the beginning, essentially and fundamentally, life's nausea and disgust with life, merely concealed behind, masked by, dressed up as, faith in "another" or "better" life.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Religion is Desperation

I've also noticed this painful truth about religion. It's made up of people who are intensely afraid of reality, and of the truth of the human condition. Religion comes from our hatred for our loathsome existence and our deep desire to deny the actuality of death and future loss. However, if we can be united in our dissociation from real life, we can be happy. We can call this dissociation "faith" and together we can be free from the horror of existence. Religion allows people to forget that we are on a rock zipping through the cosmic abyss at hundreds of kilometers per second and that eventually our sun won't even exist, our planet will not even be a memory, and this truth is something that people desperately scurry away and hide from. The reality is all we have is each other, connection, and this life, anything more is hopeful delusions.

Statue of Epicurus
Statue of Epicurus

Epicurus

Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher as well as the founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism. Only a few fragments and letters of Epicurus's 300 written works remain.

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

— Epicurus

The Problem of Evil

Apologists and theologists alike have been grappling with the problem of evil for nearly a thousand years, and I'll tell you why. It's because it's a paradox that cannot be solved. Paradoxes such as the problem of evil clearly show us that the concept of god is contradictory in and of itself and therefore is impossible. Religious people will say that god is outside of space-time and doesn't have to follow the natural laws of reality and so he can deny logic. The only problem with that is logic is not a natural law of space and time, it's a law of reasoning that applies to concepts, and that's why the problem of evil remains a common source of doubt for religious people. Logic can't be pushed to the side. Religious people will have to explain why god is in contradiction with his own attributes. Because he is either impotent, malevolent, apathetic to the suffering of his creatures (evil), or he doesn't exist. Applying Occam's razor, it would be reasonable to say that he doesn't exist.

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    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 

      3 weeks ago from Tasmania

      Brian, with respect, my atheist viewpoint does not say the world came about as an entire entity simply "by chance."

      I lean towards the concept that physical, i.e., finite phenomena, somehow developed from the non-physical, i.e., in-finite phenomena, incrementally in a way similar to the theory of evolution.

      I cannot describe my understanding more than that. Yet I am not going to ask yourself or anyone else to accept my perceptions; only to receive mutual respect for my point of view.

      In this I stand for free choice as to what I accept and what you accept.

    • profile image

      Brian Johnston 

      3 weeks ago

      I ran a program for three days trying to determine if the universe the way that it is could come about by chance. After three days the probability was still zero.

    • profile image

      OP 

      3 months ago

      Yes I too could be completely wrong, and it's up to the readers to accurately dismantle my arguments and point out my failures in logic, reason, and the provision of adequate evidence. Go ahead, I am not humbled by learning that I am wrong, I embrace the eradication of my own ignorance. Why wouldn't I? There is no ego invested in ideology for me to protect.

    • profile image

      Still Skeptical 

      3 months ago

      "To know, to accept, to respect the notion of being wrong, can open up the Universe to newness of Being."

      I concur, Alan.

    • profile image

      Still Skeptical 

      3 months ago

      "Yes, including the freedom to be completely wrong."

      As long as that means that YOU too COULD be "completely wrong."

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 

      3 months ago from Tasmania

      That, Sam, is the one facility open to all honest people. To know, to accept, to respect the notion of being wrong, can open up the Universe to newness of Being.

      IMHO.

    • Sam Wickstrom profile imageAUTHOR

      Sam Wickstrom 

      3 months ago from High River, AB, Canada

      Yes, including the freedom to be completely wrong.

    • profile image

      Still Skeptical 

      4 months ago

      “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”

      Including the freedom to say "three equals one?"

    • Sam Wickstrom profile imageAUTHOR

      Sam Wickstrom 

      4 months ago from High River, AB, Canada

      “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”

      ― George Orwell, 1984

    • profile image

      Still Skeptical 

      4 months ago

      "They could be in subjective agreement, yet objective disagreement, at one and the same."

      Yes, according to Socrates. Yet that doesn't move us past the impasse.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 

      4 months ago from Tasmania

      The subjective opinion of a “bible thumping preacher” would differ from the subjective opinion of a “self-deluded atheist,” don’t you think?

      They could be in subjective agreement, yet objective disagreement, at one and the same.

    • profile image

      Still skeptical 

      4 months ago

      I feel that the word "evil" is a highly rhetorical definition.

      Say for example the sentence "killing human beings without right is evil." Then we have two problematic words here: right and evil. What is right or evil? According to who? In what context? What objective criteria can we use to determine the above? (Note that a new problematic word just cropped up: objective).

      The problem with logic is that it is highly subjective to say the least. Using it as a purely inductive argument for or against the existence of God, without recourse to rhetorical devices is bound to fail, whether you are a bible thumping preacher or self deluded atheist. In my opinion.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 

      5 months ago from Tasmania

      Justcurious, since what you believe can neither be proven nor disproven, you are in the very comfortable position of not needing to jump off that cliff !

      I prefer to not even think about such a jump. Life is life and each of us only gets one chance at it, then....wham! No more is or am. Nothing. We took billions of years before getting to Be. Then finish; nothing for ever more. You can wish and pray to come again, but ... lights out sleep to no alarm wakeup... ever.

      Enjoy you day.

    • profile image

      Lamentor 

      5 months ago

      Oh, the fallibility of man!

      So readily you fall into the trap of thinking that everyone else is either woefully misguided or actively manipulative.

      Let's try to go for some objectivity, although that is admittedly utterly impossible.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 

      5 months ago from Tasmania

      Justcurious, I hear your desire that there be a "higher purpose." That desire is a trait of the human mind. Religion is born when people having the desire to control others, use that trait and turn it to satisfy their own agenda.

      There is no need for you to drop your desire. Merely be aware of the ulterior motives in others who would suck you in to their web of entrapment.

      Your spirituality is your journey to becoming integrate with the wholeness of being. That is where you may find your higher purpose.

      Bon Voyage.

    • profile image

      Paul 

      6 months ago

      None of these can hold against a college student in philosophy. Most at best say not enough evidence or say food must be bad if he exist's. I can prove my neighbour didn't exist wit these arguments. My neighbour didn't exist because I have never seen him and if he did exist I don't like the way he allows his bid to bark.

    • profile image

      Justcurious 

      6 months ago

      Interesting... but what would one live for, if there's no higher meaning, if we're just animals without a higher purpose, if love is a result of chemical interactions in the brain, if goodness is a social construct... seems a pretty bleak worldview. I'd rather die than live in a world without a living, loving God.

    • profile image

      Map 

      7 months ago

      ''I've also noticed this painful truth about religion. It's made up of people who are intensely afraid of reality, and of the truth of the human condition''

      My question is what do atheist term as REALITY???

      Again what do these atheist refer to as RELIGION and is ATHEISM A RELIGION and if not a religion what is It????

    • profile image

      That guy 

      8 months ago

      Those arguments have been properly answered by Theologists, so I found then Irrelevant.

    • profile image

      Vineel 

      16 months ago

      Articles like these are exactly what theists should read. It's been pretty obvious that religion has been denying all logic and reasoning, and even after decades of research and developments in the field of science we still have people killing each other in the name of "God". Sad, but true.

      Great post by the way!

    • Sam Wickstrom profile imageAUTHOR

      Sam Wickstrom 

      23 months ago from High River, AB, Canada

      Thanks Jonny

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 

      23 months ago from Tasmania

      K&T, you stand on the one opinion that matters to you personally: your own!

      As always. No room for any other. You have spoken like a true theist. Welcome to the real world that is open other opinions. Enjoy.

      Well done Sam. Voted up.

    • Sam Wickstrom profile imageAUTHOR

      Sam Wickstrom 

      23 months ago from High River, AB, Canada

      Thank you for showcasing the standpoint or opinion which all these arguments have originated in response to.

      That's all I really have to say ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • Kiss andTales profile image

      Kiss andTales 

      23 months ago

      I will touch on your ending statement from your point and I must say limited understanding. As you would be limtied to space and what's up in the heavens as we speak. Does that mean there are no other planets or stars ? No. Do we personally own the earth in that are you responsible for its mass and size and existence, No ,you were born here but that's all. It provides you with necessities of life .

      We benifit from the sun and moon ,we don't own that either, have any human just said we own the sun an moon ! No would be madness to try.

      All we own is opinions of what we believe many times not the case at all.

      You talk about man suffering ? Why is man causing his own suffering ? Why does man make nuclear bombs to kill other humans, why do humans keep food and shelter from other humans based on greed and power. Why it may be easy to blame God for man's doings on earth the truth is ,what belongs to our owner or landlord of planet earth still belongs to him. He has allowed man to live on earth his way doing things to his demise.

      But he does not panic in that he can not stop and end all badness ,all threats to his planet earth.

      If he made it he can fix it.

      So lets be truthful there is no doubt where we live who we are, and neither should it be about who is charge of earth and heavens. Mean time all the bad things are about to end.

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