RationalWiki Atheism FAQ for the Newly Deconverted
This is a response article to the RationalWiki Atheism FAQ on the RationalWiki website. It is addressed in a point-by-point style. RW quotes in blue. Headings are the same, for clarity.
- 1 Okay, what is it that I'm supposed to believe now?
- 2 What about all these people who have spent time in college and seminaries learning what they teach? Shouldn't they know what they're talking about better than I would?
- 3 What about morality? I've always heard that to be a moral person, one needs a higher power.
- 4 If everyone were atheist, wouldn't people just do whatever they wanted, no matter who was harmed?
- 5 What's the meaning of life, without gods or an afterlife?
- 6 Can free will exist without gods?
- 7 What about science? You rationalists hold it up as the be-all, end-all of human knowledge, but how can that be when it's always changing?
- 8 Well, how did things come to be? What's before the Big Bang? If God didn't create the universe, how did it happen? And yes, I understand the problem of what created God...
- 9 What about, you know, sex?
- 10 Gambling? Drinking? Drugs?
- 11 What about the Bible?
- 12 What about other Scriptures? The Qur'an? The Book of Mormon? The Vedas?
- 13 But what do I do with my tithe money?
- 14 But I miss the social setting at church...
- 15 You haven't mentioned evolution.
- 16 Or abortion, or euthanasia?
- 17 What about politics? How should I vote?
- 18 If atheism is a lack of belief, why all the fuss?
- 19 Okay, anything else I need to know?
- 20 References
Okay, what is it that I'm supposed to believe now?
[We're] rationalists. This is the principle that belief systems, philosophies and worldviews, particularly those that inform your behaviour towards others, should reflect what can be observed and proven, not what someone or something tells you to accept as true without proof. That means everything - everything - is fair game for scrutiny, including this fundamental tenet of rationalism itself.
- Objection: how do you know that "rationalism" is correct? Christians and creationists are rationalists as well as empiricists and support dualism essentially adopting a far wider and robust worldview founded on an epistemology allowing reason and evidence with the human mind separate from brain, so that there is an immateriality, such as thoughts or numbers, that point to the supernatural. An epistemology of pure rationalism and empiricism leaves no room for thought life of human beings, or anything non-physical in any regard if empiricism (sense experience) or its derivatives of verificationism or scientism, is the only foundation rationalism may proceed from as RationalWiki implies throughout. Creationists use both the domains of traditional revealed theology and also natural theology. These epistemological domains equate to a reliance on one hand on authority or creator, and the other relying upon philosophical reason about creation independent of authority within scripture. Theistic natural theology finds reasons within creation itself to acquire knowledge about God.
- Second: Biblical Christianity has a wealth of supporting evidence in its favor, from archaeology to history to biology to astronomy. It also has proof (see Transcendental argument). In fact, Biblical Christianity is the only belief that can be proven. Knowing this, then, why should Christians be pressured to accept "...what someone or something tells you to accept as true without proof," in the RW author's own words, when it regards atheism, secular humanism and evolutionism?
- The RW author states that "rationalism" is fair game for scrutiny. Rationalism, as defined by RationalWiki is clearly not a rational (that is, logical) belief. Nowhere in the page does the RW author give a convincing proof for their own brand of rationalism, so the Biblical Christian is justified in adopting a skeptical attitude toward "rationalism". At least the variety adhered to by RationalWiki. To pigeon-hold an epistemology to rationalism and empiricism is far to restrictive of a theory of knowledge to really shed light on anything substantial in the daily lives of individuals, like thoughts and other immaterial substances we directly experience by way of introspection. Empiricism, as it deals with propositional knowledge which is the content of a sentence, is itself self-refuting because the propositional content of, "empiricism is true" cannot in of itself be validated by sense experience. While RationalWiki claims rationalism based on empiricism as the only authority to know something, RW fails to grasp that the empirical foundation of their rationalism cannot be proven empirically.
- Lastly, evolution in the macro sense is not empirical nor rational, if it is not observed. Therefore, since the RW author claims that rationalism discourages believing in things that do not "reflect what can be observed and proven," all people who consider themselves rationalists would by necessity be skeptics of the grand claims of common descent Darwinian evolution. In summary rationalism as put forth by RW is skeptical to embrace common sense introspection that declares thoughts (or the mind) have a incorporeal existence and are different from the physical brain. And at a more fundamental level the brand of rationalism based on empirical observation that RW applauds self-refutes its own foundation of empiricism and thus cannot produce sound logic as is claimed by them. None of these demanding objections are met head-on by RationalWiki in any substantial form.
Admittedly, you've already been bait-and-switched here, because this isn't really a document about atheism itself; there's really quite little to explain there and this is not a bad thing. Essentially, knee-jerk atheism is no better than unexamined religious faith, as it is as often as not a purely emotional response to an adverse religious experience.
I can't help but think that a rational person wrote this section. It's subtlety probably allows it to escape notice by admins. One may wonder if the site owners would have a knee-jerk reaction to seeing a piece of not-necessarily-flattering-information written on their page. At any rate, this segment bears noting. This author agrees entirely with the sentiment expressed in the second sentence above.
Be curious. Do outside research, then research the research. Don't ignore inconvenient data. Strive to find the truth about everything.
I emphatically agree. Doing just that, in fact, is what led many of us to become Creationists in the first place. A couple of famous examples of people who were led by their research to reject evolution or atheism include Lee Strobel, Kirk Cameron, Anthony Flew, and Michael Denton. I would strongly encourage nonbelievers to not "ignore inconvenient data," such as the wealth of archaeological and historical evidence in support of Christianity's claims, and instead strive to seek the Truth.
|“||Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.||”|
What about all these people who have spent time in college and seminaries learning what they teach? Shouldn't they know what they're talking about better than I would?
In theory, perhaps, but to assume so would be an argument from authority. Far too many people of all persuasions tend to forget that they don't know as much as they think they do.
Once again, I'm led to agree with the RW author on this matter. Of course, I'm thinking about evolutionist scientists as I write this; a common claim is that since the majority of the "scientific community" believes in evolution (purportedly), it has to be right--the logical fallacy of appeal to authority is often used as an attempt to imply that Creationists are wrong, because they're not in the majority. Clearly this is inane reasoning. However, just because someone doesn't believe what you want them to doesn't make them unintelligent. The appeal to authority may be a faulty appeal on its own face, but considering that it's nearly impossible to know anything outside of one's own physical experience without accepting others' authority, it must be noted that the fact that someone is well-learned (has a degree of some sort, for example) should at least indicate to the skeptic that there may very well be something substantial behind their claim. Ignoring claims simply because they are made is idiocy--if a PhD scientist makes a claim, it is worth checking out. When the appeal to authority is a fallacy is when it is blindly accepted on faith. One can justifiably appeal to authority on any matter that one doesn't have any authority to speak on themselves--the one making the claim ought to have checked out the argument by the quoted authority for themselves first, and the skeptic likewise ought to research the claim on its own merit to determine whether it holds up under scrutiny.
A subset of the appeal to authority is the fallacious rejection of a claim because the authority making it is perceived by the opponent as not having any authority worth speaking of on the matter at hand. This is a fallacy because the value of a claim is independent of the position of the person making it. For example, a credentialed biologist might tell you about how they discovered how transcription works, but if your front-porch-rocking-chair-high-school-dropout-grampa explained the same thing to you, you wouldn't reject the information because he's not credentialed. At least, you couldn't do so rationally. If an untrustworthy source makes a trustworthy claim, it doesn't make the source trustworthy, but if a trustworthy source makes a claim, there's no guarantee that the claim is also trustworthy. A claim can be true or false, regardless of the credentials or trustworthiness of the person making the claim. This is why it is important to investigate the claims themselves, and not just accept them as true or deny them as false---THAT would be the faulty appeal to (or denial of) authority.
The importance of the fact that religious apologists were often indoctrinated with outlandish beliefs from childhood simply cannot be overstated. This is why Christians must excuse rationalists for wanting authorities, if they must constantly appeal to them, who have started with minimal religious influence in their environment. Practice of religion clouds judgment; understanding of religion does not.
The bigotry is strong with this one.
- The author immediately begs the question (a fallacy, ironically enough) by assuming that anyone who is a religious apologist has
- been indoctrinated
- believes outlandish things
- was taught these things as a child
- this further assumes that the person did not have a chance to rationally consider their beliefs, but that the only reason they believe it is because they were brainwashed when they were young and impressionable. Further, it subtly suggests that religious beliefs are "childish."
- The second sentence is unintelligible to this author. The final line, however, is another loaded example of begging the question, since they give no supporting argument for the case that religious belief actually does cloud judgment.
Note: This author recognizes that there is a difference between Faith and religion. Unbelievers lump these two together. Whereas religion has to do with habits, cultural traditions, etc, Faith is not restrictive. That does not mean that there aren't certain rules that apply to oneself depending on what one's Faith is (for example: if one has Faith in Jesus, then there are rules to follow), but the emphasis is not on the rules. In this case, the RW author is indicating that they think that any belief including deities clouds judgment. Unfortunately, this is a Hasty Generalization/Begging the Question/Poisoning the Well combo fallacy. This author doesn't consider this a very good display of rational thought.
What about morality? I've always heard that to be a moral person, one needs a higher power.
Our morality governs how we act and treat each other so understanding and justifying the ideas behind our morals undoubtedly plays a huge part in philosophy.
I am including this as a reference in order to make it very clear that the RW author seems to agree that beliefs have consequences. Please note that evolution is a belief, and humanism is a philosophy that affects morality.
Think about this for a moment: if someone says that all that is preventing them from stealing, lying, raping, and killing to reach whatever ends they want is the dictates of God (or their fear of Hell), can that person really be trusted?
This is an oft-cited misrepresentation of the claim that morality comes from God.
- What the author is saying is that Christians et al only behave morally because they are afraid of punishment if they break God's laws.
- THE TRUTH: Christians behave morally for a number of reasons, including a desire to please God, doing so feels good, they have love for other people, etc. The reality of the claim about morality is not that you can't be moral unless you believe in God, but that you can't be moral unless God exists--that is, any source of morality other than God is really an arbitrary claim. See the Transcendental Argument and the Argument from Morality.
- If God doesn't exist, then there is no absolute law in the universe.
- Therefore, there is no absolute moral law.
- Therefore, it is impossible to know what is moral and what is not.
- Think about it--you might think something is moral, but if someone else disagrees, how will you convince them? What authority will you defer to to support your claim?
- Since atheists don't acknowledge God as the source of Morality, they cannot behave morally and be consistent with their own worldview.
- Note that this is not saying that atheists can't behave morally. They can, and many do it very well. This is just saying that they can't make any logical sense out of WHY they behave morally, or why anyone else should, either.
- Christians behave morally generally for the same reason that atheists do--they know that it is the right thing to do. But WHY is it the right thing to do? Only Biblical Christianity can give the answer. It is because we are made in God's image [Reference needed] and His Law is imprinted on our hearts. That means that whether we believe in God or not (e.g. atheists for example), we still have a general understanding of what is moral and what is not, and a desire to behave morally. THAT is the claim. The claim is that morality doesn't make any sense if there is no Absolute LawGiver to give this absolute Law.
- Note that because of sin, not everyone will intrinsically know everything that is moral, or have a desire to behave morally. That's one of the reasons we have the Bible: it fills in the gaps and lays it out for all to see, what is good and what is bad.
Anyone reading the above can no longer in good faith continue to make the claim that Christians only behave morally because of a fear of Hell. If someone does, good for them. Whatever means one achieves salvation by is a blessing. But this is not a general rule, it is not a central tenet of the Faith, and there is no logical support for supposing it to be true.
To be held to a view of morality only by an external force, implies that should that force be taken away, the individual would resort to immorality almost immediately.
Again, this is not true, because God exists and you can't take Him away. This hypothetical scenario can't happen. Secondly, even if someone suddenly chose to believe that God doesn't exist, that a) doesn't make Him not exist and b) doesn't require that person to behave logically. After all, one can only behave completely logically when one holds the position of Biblical Christianity. Therefore, when someone leaves the Faith, they are bound to behave irrationally. One example of irrationality is when atheists behave morally. Since they have no rational basis for behaving morally, they are inconsistent and therefore irrational whenever they choose to behave morally or expound moral virtues. However, this doesn't mean that the atheists have to believe or acknowledge this. After all, they're irrational. So, to sum up, when someone falls away from God, they are still bound to behave morally, because they're irrational (we already know they're irrational because they rejected God). In fact, if he was to behave immorally, that would be a logical decision based on his conclusion that God does not exist.
This removes any external factors, and allows us to make our own informed decisions...
The author is referring to his belief that God's morality is arbitrary and has no real-life reasons for following it. It is, in fact, logically admissible that God can be arbitrary. You would have to do whatever He says, because HE'S GOD. However, it is also true that God often gives us reasoning for why to behave morally. Even in cases where He hasn't explained rules (not just moral ones, but ceremonial law, and various commands), it has become apparent after-the-fact why He said what He said. Space precludes a dissertation on this topic, but a couple of examples include commandments against incest (which we learned from royal marriages was detrimental to health, and only in the 19th and 20th century discovered why) and eating of undercooked pork/shellfish (they carry trichinosis and salmonella, and moreover spoil very quickly in the region where the Israelites were at the time, allowing bacterial growth). God doesn't have to explain Himself to us, but in the numerous cases where He has humored us with the knowledge, we have been able to confirm that He has our best interests in mind, and therefore we trust that other commandments, which we don't yet know the ultimate reasoning behind, are also for our own good and therefore cheerfully submit ourselves to obedience.
Humanity (and its ancestors, and many other species besides) has long found it advantageous to live in communities governed by an ethic of reciprocity, best summed up in the many formulations of the Golden Rule ("do unto others as you would have them do to you", although this position is not without its critics). This moral code appears in some form in virtually all of the world's religious texts, but also in virtually every secular philosophy, and has been central to human society throughout history. This is not, as some people claim, because we obey God's moral guidance, but because it is basic common sense to treat others as we expect to be treated, that is, with courtesy, dignity and kindness rather than loathing, spite and murder.
Besides the glaring assumption of macroevolution, the attempt to divorce the Golden Rule from Jesus' teachings is humorous to watch. Persistent denial does not a refutation make. The author claims it is "common sense" to treat others as Jesus commanded, yet on the Common sense page that is linked to, common sense is described as
- something which you think you know to be true but that may not actually be true.
- inappropriate for understanding complex scientific concepts
- often confused with rational thought, which it is not
- "Common sense is often made up of much prejudice and snap judgement, and therefore is not always useful and can certainly be irrational even when it is useful."
Interestingly, if morality is "common sense" to the evolutionist, then the RW author has successfully demonstrated that they are indeed irrational.
- First, they claim that treating others as you would want to be treated is "common sense,"
- Second, on the "Common sense" page, common sense is clearly indicated to be an unreliable means of acquiring knowledge, and often irrational.
- Thus, the author acknowledges that when nonbelievers follow the Golden Rule, they are being irrational.
Despite what the works of Ayn Rand might tell you, selfishness is often counterproductive and altruism often helps society.
I agree with the second half of this. However, I find it laughable that Ayn Rand is an ardent, outspoken atheist. Is someone employing the No True Scotsman fallacy, perhaps?
Aiding the weak and sick, who might never get to contribute to a less social society, helps improve the lot of society at large.
Why? The Biblical Christian has an answer. But why does the RW author believe that expending precious resources to help someone who doesn't contribute to society is a good thing to do? It seems that the result would be a net loss of production and wealth, at least in the short term. Does the author have statistical evidence to support the idea that helping weak and sick will aid society in the long term? If not, why on earth should these people be helped? Hedonism says that you should help yourself, at the cost of the weak and sick. What is the reasoning behind the above-quoted assertion?
Many religions and nationalisms work against this, dividing society into "in-groups" and "out-groups", and frowning on helping those who are not part of the favoured in-group. While a certain amount of competition is necessary in business and scientific research to foster new ideas and provide an incentive for product improvement, it is not always a useful thing in society, and is sometimes outright deadly, such as with war.
What is the RW author's suggestion for dealing with this? It seems that they have no answer. It is unfortunate that some people, professing to be believers, cause division. The Bible says to avoid these people:
|“||17I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.||”|
The Biblical Christian (e.g. someone who believes the Bible is the Word of God and follows the teachings therein) will not be someone who favors certain groups of people over others (regarding sex, ethnicity, physical or mental ability, age, social standing, etc)--that doesn't mean that they have to show no preference for people of various ideologies. Biblical Christians are under no obligation to let a sinner into their house, so to speak, but are to be graceful to those who believe false teachings, always ready in the manner of 1 Peter 3:15.
The types of people who believe that it is our duty to help to make society better generally fall under the label humanist.
This is a poor definition, because this would make many of the same people whom RationalWiki labels as "fundamentalist" fall under the category of "humanist." A better definition is cordially suggested to the RationalWiki editors: a humanist is someone whose philosophy is human-centered (as opposed to being God-centered). As per the Humanist Manifesto, a humanist also must believe in evolution, so whereas CreationWiki's editors falls under the humanist label by the first definition, the second definition more accurately divides the beliefs based on their central tenets.
If they are non-religious, they're secular humanists - those infamous nasty words preachers love to spit out as if they're a term of abuse. Nobody's perfect, and everybody has prejudices, but it does seem as if most people, absent a reason to hate The Other, are humanists at heart.
This commits a loaded language fallacy. Again, the definition is poor. Biblical Christianity is marked by love for others, so all non-humanist Creationists are officially humanists, which makes no sense. Perhaps if the author would spend some time investigating secular humanism and the logical results of it (see here), then they would not be so insulted by the frequent decrying of that philosophy. Most Christian leaders use this term in a descriptive way, not an insulting way. If it is insulting, then the person feeling insulted should spend some time reflecting upon why they feel insulted.
Remember, morality is not acting under the promise or threat of rewards and punishment, but acting because one thinks it to be the right thing to do regardless of the consequences to oneself.
Remember, morality is not acting upon your urges without considering why you're doing what you're doing, but acting because one desires to do the right thing, and has learned what the right thing to do really is. Wanting to do the right thing is destined to fail if one doesn't know what the right thing to do IS. That's where the Bible comes in. It details what the right things to do are, and what the wrong things to do are. People wanting to do the right thing can then align themselves with Scripture.
If everyone were atheist, wouldn't people just do whatever they wanted, no matter who was harmed?
No. That would only happen if people stopped caring about or respecting other people, not just because they stop believing in God.
It bears repeating: It is not a professing of belief in God that is required for people to behave morally, but simply the existence of God Himself. Again, see the Argument from Morality.
Regardless of religious beliefs, there are two main things that prevent most people from wilfully harming their fellow humans. One is the gift of empathy - "how would I feel if somebody did that to me?"
There is a serious problem with this claim. Doing something that hurts someone else does not make that same thing happen to you. That is karma, a Hindu belief that many people subconsciously believe to a greater or lesser degree. Perhaps the widespread appeal of this is that it is in fact rooted in Truth:
|“||7Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.||”|
But if you don't believe in a supernatural power (God or karma), then why would it be imperative to do good to others? Why should you be afraid of consequence--there's no guarantee that you'll be punished, so there's no reason to be empathetic.
The second thing which prevents us from harmful behaviour is our knowledge or prediction of the consequences. This does not have to involve visualisations of Hell, since there are plenty of consequences here on Earth for antisocial behaviour. Depending on the level of the transgression, we may suffer embarrassment, the disappointment of those around us, punishment, possible attacks on us, setbacks in our life or career, etc. With these possible consequences in mind, we do not commit that crime, no matter how much we want to, or if we do, we suffer those consequences.
Again, there's no guarantee that there would be any consequences. But even if any of the above occurred, what good would that do to stifle someone's attempt to hurt others? If none of the above consequences serve as enough deterrent, then whatever it is that the person does is not immoral to them. How would the author attempt to convince someone that killing someone is immoral and not to do it, if they were unafraid of going to jail?
Of course there are different levels of selfishness, and it isn't always harmful to do whatever we want. A lot of the time it can be harmless fun to indulge ourselves moderately in small ways. Religions often instill a sense of guilt about these small acts of selfishness, which is unnecessary since they usually harm nobody else.
And what if a person considers dog-fighting, rape, libel, etc "small acts of selfishness?" What does the author have to say about this? It doesn't appear that they attempt to answer this objection in the FAQ.
But would those consequences still be there if everybody was an atheist? Of course. Theists sometimes claim that we only have laws because of their God's commandments, but in fact the basic laws - prohibitions of murder, rape, violence, theft, etc. - have actually been common in some form to virtually all societies, regardless of religious beliefs.
This assumes evolution, which postulates that religion "evolved," and that laws and societies were in existence before the date of Creation. Of course if this hypothesis is wrong, which we at CreationWiki insist it is, then empathy has not been in operation since before belief in God. God created man on day 6 and was there at the start. The "basic laws" listed above find firm support in Scripture. Outside of that, insisting that people follow them is an act of forcing one's personal preference on others. The reason these things have been "common in some form" in nearly all societies is because ALL people are made in God's image, and therefore have His Law imprinted on their hearts. This bears repeating.
This is because they are founded on the principles of empathy (treating others as we wish to be treated) and to maintain a stable and peaceful society, something that every government, and every member of society, has an interest in upholding, no matter what they may believe or not believe about invisible forces or life after death.
Unfortunately for the RW author, the principles of empathy stem from God, and so "no matter what they may believe or not believe about invisible forces or life after death," the concept of morality can only be explained by God's Divinity and the fact that we are all made in His image.
What's the meaning of life, without gods or an afterlife?
Rationalism tells us that, in all probability, what awaits us after death is pretty much what we experienced before birth...
Actually, that's what secular humanism and evolution tells us. It is poor scholarship to reappropriate definitions to suit one's own purposes. Rationalism, in the RW author's usage, really only means the attempt to think logically based on illogical principles, namely humanism and evolutionism. In logic, if one uses good logic to arrive at a conclusion, but uses false premises, then the conclusion will be wrong.
An "afterlife", on the other hand, actively diminishes the value we put on life as we see it now despite how comforting it is to believe that consciousness can transcend the temporary nature of life.
In the spirit of rationality, I would like to offer the RW author an opportunity to attempt to give any substantiating arguments for how or why an afterlife "diminishes the value [of life]..." I believe the evidence supports the opposite view, but let's let the author speak for themselves. They can put a subheading under this section on their page with the response.
Existentialists believe that life has the meaning you bring to it. One of the great liberties of being an atheist is being able to decide what it is that is important for you to get out of life, rather than have it thrust upon you by the weight of history and tradition.
In other words, an existentialist believes what he feels like, for whatever reason he chooses.
Of course, what exactly constitutes a "good work" differs with each philosophy, but most agree fundamentally that living a good life is doing the best you can with what you have.
This is laughably vague. The explanation is almost more vague than what it's trying to explain.
Some things are seen as inherently more meaningful than others, and what is meaningful is not left up to personal discretion but typically that which will make the world a better place in the present and for future generations.
So in other words, meaningful things don't "have the meaning you bring to it," but are "thrust upon you by the weight of history and tradition" of philosophers who have gone before and have already determined for you what is meaningful. Is someone being inconsistent?
If living on in some semblance after death is important to you, you have some practical options...Achieving a novel feat or creating some new invention or idea is a great way to ensure something of yourself survives after death and benefits the future. Of course, performing acts of great evil will likely result in your being remembered in future generations, but acts of evil generally conflict with the principles of fulfilling one's responsibilities as a person and making the world a better place.
Not necessarily, Hitler's experiments on unwilling participants greatly increased medical knowledge of the human body, which have made the world a better place. Think about that next time your doctor examines you. Secondly, if someone simply wants to be remembered, or leave a mark, but doesn't hold the "principles of...making the world a better place" in high regard, what would the author say to that person to dissuade them from incinerating millions of people they've chosen for "natural selection?"
Suffice it to say, this philosophy is utterly flawed. It assumes that all people are motivated to "do the right thing," and that all people agree upon what the "right thing" is. Both are clearly false, as history has shown and continues to show.
Can free will exist without gods?
The short answer is no. If everything is matter and reacts with other matter according to laws of physics that can be determined, then if conditions are known then the future can be known. Free will is impossible, because it is possible for someone to know exactly what you're going to do before you do it--theoretically. See Neuroscience and Determinism.
Free will is something of a mental abstraction, others would re-conceptualize questions involving free will, and ask: "how could free will exist in the presence of an all-knowing God?". Indeed, the question can be more generally asked; "does free will exist at all?"
It is understandable that since the author doesn't believe in God, they will ask the question of whether it exists at all.
It appears that the RW author has pondered the same concept that I have, when it comes to how to determine if free will exists. The discussion is lucid enough that I feel justified in copying it below so that readers may have the privilege of encountering one of the trickiest philosophical conundrums in existence. Note that the quote is written from a materialistic viewpoint.
|“||It is very difficult to devise a test for free will from the inside, since from the inside it is impossible to tell free will from post-facto rationalisation. We cannot physically run 100% identical situations and see if someone can exercise their will to take a different path. The human mind can be described in terms similar to those of computers, and can be called a "state machine", which has particular properties. As a state machine becomes larger, it becomes exponentially harder to predict what state the machine is in now, and what state it will be in at some time t in the future. It is entirely possible that the human mind is simply a very large state machine, and some physical evidence may suggest this is the case. If all human actions are the result of a chain of causality, that chain is so complex as to be almost completely unknowable. To determine an individual's future behavior with precision, one would have to know and understand every aspect of that person's brain and hormone system, as well as the state of any matter or energy which might interact with the person in the future. To simulate reality with this degree of accuracy seems impossible. Thus, the illusion of free will and the unpredictability of humans, as individuals, is simply generated by a great many inputs from various external stimuli, and the internal chemical balance of each person's body - and this interaction, while deterministic, is too complex to predict and free will is what it appears to be.||”|
This is entirely correct in theory. If such a test could be devised, with a large enough computer, then it would be possible to prove or disprove free will, in theory. If the computer successfully predicts the person's choices, then materialism and determinism win. If it is still impossible to predict the person's choices, then free will has a good chance of being real. Unfortunately, it is only possible to disprove it in this conceptualization, though it is exceedingly difficult to do so, and for practical purposes it is impossible to determine with certainty.
Since it seems likely that we will never be able to prove or disprove that free will exists, a rationalist could alter the question further to reflect this reality; "does the existence or otherwise of free will have any bearing on your life?"
Unfortunately, it is impossible to have free will unless materialism is false. Is the author having their cake and eating it too?
Most people make the assumption that free will is real and ignore the paradox it forms with an apparently predictable universe...
Which is predictable. After all, atheism is an irrational worldview, so this blithe acceptance of paradoxes is no surprise.
What about science? You rationalists hold it up as the be-all, end-all of human knowledge, but how can that be when it's always changing?
A lot of people misunderstand the idea of scientific change, as if what we learn tomorrow will outright contradict what we think we know today.
The media is to blame for a great deal of this, especially given their habit of hyping half-baked results and attention-seeking reports from groups...
I agree. But is most of the media Creationist?
In reality, scientific change is better described in an old saying most famously stated by Isaac Newton: "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Any truly earth-shaking scientific discovery (as well as all of the more mundane ones) is what it is not only because it explains something unexpected, but also because it explains why the previous theory explained everything, but not the new observations. Thus it was that Einstein's theory of relativity supplanted Newton's classical mechanics in physics - Einstein's relativity explained why Newtonian mechanics broke down when trying to observe objects traveling near the speed of light, and in turn quantum mechanics explained why Einstein's physics did not apply in the obvious manner on very small scales.
Likewise, whereas materialism and naturalism explained why polytheism broke down when it came to proving the existence of the mythical gods, and Creation Science explains why evolution breaks down when it enters the realms of physics, archaeology, history, and metaphysics.
Science is also self-correcting...
Stop the presses. First of all, this sentence commits the Reification Fallacy, because it attributes self-awareness and intelligence to the concept of "science." The scientific method is a process that one uses to investigate reality. The process itself says nothing--the interpretations of the results received from the process is what says anything. And a claim cannot self-correct itself. The scientist who made the claim can correct it. So can other scientists. May I suggest that instead of conflating the issue by claiming "science is self-correcting," that RationalWiki writes "scientists correct each other?" Even then, it is only occasionally that this happens. If all the scientists believe the same interpretation, they're not going to correct each other; that takes an outsider with a different interpretation. Where was the self-correcting science when people believed in geocentrism for 1500 years of recent history? To be nice, we can allow for the invention of the scientific method by Creationist Francis Bacon. So then, where was this self-correcting science when people believed humans were divided into different "races" for hundreds of years? As early as the founding of Virginia, William Penn, in a document referring to the native Americans in the region, said that "we are all of one flesh," because he believed the Bible.[Reference needed] But it took "science" until the Human Genome Project (also led by a Creationist) to be able to say that "there is only one race: the Human race."[Reference needed]
"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," saith the skeptic, and scientists seek to oblige.
They've already had 150 years to work on it. Where then is all the extraordinary evidence for evolution?
If the evidence is there, papers are published, perhaps a Nobel Prize is issued.
This Nobel Prize claim is seen far too often. Nobel Prizes are issued to a maximum of 12 people per year, and there are far more than that making important contributions to scientific knowledge. Moreover, there are actual documented cases that seem to strongly suggest that Nobel Prizes are generally not given out to those who would upset the status quo.
Well, how did things come to be? What's before the Big Bang? If God didn't create the universe, how did it happen? And yes, I understand the problem of what created God...
Apart from "there is no before" as time did not exist, the only answer is "We don't know." Is that so terrible? We're trying to work it out though, which is better than accepting the unsupported claims of ancient writers.
- The "before" can easily be restated as "outside" of time. What happened when time didn't exist? The author skirted the question.
- The answer is not "We don't know," except for materialists, and those whose gods don't exist apart from the Universe. The Bible clearly states that God created the world, so He had to exist to do that. Thus, when time did not exist, God did. He then created time, and the Universe.
- If "scientists" "don't know," then why should we believe them when they tell us "this is true." If they don't know that, then it might not be true. Therefore, secular scientists should allow for alternative views to be heard.
- "Is that so terrible?" -- It is when nonbelievers in political and financial control of government, media, science research, etc use their power to prevent others from attempting to answer the questions that they are failing to.
- Creationists have already worked it through, which is better than accepting the unsupported claims of modern writers.
What about, you know, sex?
It should go without saying that we, the FAQ writers, generally feel that what (and who) you do in your bed is your business. The important thing is informed consent, and since that's quite a bit more general than the simple question of, you know, sex, we'll talk about that first, then get back to the good stuff.
It should also go without saying that Christians aren't interested in what others do in bed, either, no matter what anti-Christians want you to believe. Christians, however, know that certain actions lead to perdition, and would rather suffer the scathing but ultimately worldly and material cost of trying to help the sexually immoral than to see those people go to Hell for their materialism. The Christian realizes that while all of us deserve to go there, no one deserves to go there, if you understand what I'm saying. The preachers of fire and brimstone? They often care the most, because knowing what awaits for the unsaved is more than enough motivation to make them try to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to others. It is unfortunate that Christians are seen as hateful for discouraging extramarital and non-heterosexual sex, when it is more likely love that is the underlying motivation. Informed consent is not a problem for the Biblical Christian. He/She would never approach another person for sex unless they were married to them, and marriage constitutes much more than informed consent. This is a non-issue.
What is informed consent?
Well, you've heard preachers and politicians complaining that if you allow gay sex, then you'll allow incest, and polygamy, and man-on-dog, yada yada. This is an example of a slippery slope argument (which we'll discuss later), and is invalid for one simple reason: sex is a very private and personal thing to most people,...
Public Service Announcement: Please turn your attention to the NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association, a group dedicated to empowering adult men and young boys to pursue the full course of their sexual desires together.
|“||NAMBLA is strongly opposed to age-of-consent laws and all other restrictions which deny men and boys the full enjoyment of their bodies and control over their own lives.||”|
It may be worth noting that in the list of things which the RW author mentioned as "slippery-slope," man-on-boy relationships were not included.
There is such a thing as an appeal to authority, no true scotsman, and slippery slope. These things can be legitimate arguments, and are only fallacies if used improperly. That's why when someone wishes to indicate that it is a fallacy, they typically include the word "fallacy" after the phrase. This is a case of the slippery slope NOT being a fallacy. But there is indeed a slippery slope. Let's briefly examine what objections an atheist might have to the things in the above list.
- Possible excuse for decrying: It is unhealthy because it has a high risk of genetic disease for the children.
- If there is no risk of them having children, then what objection can be made?
- If the objection is made that it is emotionally or medically unsafe, then the two consenting partners would be unjustly prevented from doing whatever they want to do with their own bodies by the government. Isn't a woman allowed to do what she wants with her own body? If she gives it to her brother, then what can the government do about it, without violation constitutional rights to self?
- Possible excuse for decrying: It is unhealthy because it has a high risk of genetic disease for the children.
- Possible excuse for decrying: None? As far as this author knows, there are no legitimate legal reasons for refusing to grant polygamous relationships. If there is a law, it must surely be arbitrary, and therefore an infringement upon the rights of the individual.
- Since, if there are laws against it, they must be based upon arbitrary decisions, then it will not be difficult for a motivated alliance of polygamists to overcome this in court or congress, and win the right to polygamy. After all, homosexual marriage is against the law, and since there is no good reason, apart from the Bible, to refuse it, the homosexuals are winning the privilege all over the nation. There is no fundamental legal difference between restrictions against homosexuality and polygamy. The latter is, if possible, even more socially acceptable, given the long history of its practice in various ancient cultures.
- Possible excuse for decrying: it's animal cruelty.
- If it can be scientifically shown that the animal experiences no pain, then what reason does the atheist have to refuse this behavior? Moreover, if the animal is a willing participant (think dogs humping people), then the act passes both the animal cruelty and informed consent test. The animal is informed to the extent at which it can be informed.
- Other reasons: it's bad for your health
- Why it also fails: Isn't it a man or woman's right to decide whether to be healthy or not? We choose what to put in our bodies, whether it's food, drugs, tar (cigarettes), or sexual objects, so the government has no right to interfere.
- Possible excuse for decrying: it's animal cruelty.
The RW author is cordially invited to explain their proposed legal objections to such behaviors, or otherwise declare that they are legally admissible.
If you've ever done or witnessed any evangelism efforts, you probably noticed that many people don't really like being approached cold by a stranger attempting to change their most fundamental mindsets. Whether distributing tracts or selling a product, most evangelists tend to ignore that people have their own sense of personal space, and do not particularly appreciate strangers encroaching on that space. Such approaches are perceived as intrusive, not because of unwillingness to hear a message or demonic influence, but because they're confrontational and set off people's fear mechanisms -- "What is this person doing? What do they want from me?" They are being subjected to a sales pitch they have no interest in and have not consented to receiving. IF the cause is clear and the person is interested, they may change their mind and stop, but the fundamental reason any evangelization effort is difficult is because it violates informed consent.
To my knowledge, "informed consent" deals with sexual relationships. Restricting an evangelist's right to speak to people in public would violate Free Speech.
So yeah, about sex.
The author spends this segment giving a typical sex-ed spiel, resting on the assumptions of Darwinism of course (that sex outside of marriage is natural and good, and moreover ought to be encouraged).
Gambling? Drinking? Drugs?
Now that's an interesting question. Essentially, the answer is to a) know your limits and b) stop when the disposable cash and/or fun runs out, whichever comes first. It's certainly true that addictive behaviors ruin lives, and trying to suppress them is a big cause of people falling into the faith trap to begin with. The answer, as always, is education.
Is this meant to be educational or insulting? Oh, that's right, it's written for atheists. No wonder about the reference to the "faith trap." More questionable, however, is the implication that people become Christian because they've become alcoholics. May I suggest a ? The Bible does speak about Drinking Alcohol. It's abundantly clear from contexts that having alcoholic beverages is not treated as a sin, because even Jesus did it. Anyone believing otherwise has a lot of explaining to do over the widespread consumption of grape juice in ancient Judea. Here is what the Bible has to say about drunkenness (which, based on the language, refers to any kind of drug-induced "high"):
|“|| Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise. Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate— bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart. Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?
From these lines it is clear that alcohol consumption is acceptable, but drunkenness is not. Note that you are not to linger over wine, have bloodshot eyes, drink from morning until evening, have dulled pain sensation as a result of drinking, get into fights, or have confused thoughts and sight. This justifies the claim that drunkenness is contrary to God's will, but the verses mentioning wine as something that God has made for man to "gladden his heart" indicate that it is not the consumption that is inappropriate.
The Biblical Christian has absolute, final answers to these questions: The Bible. The nonbeliever does not.
What about the Bible?
Ah. The source of all good things according to Judaism and Christianity, yet a source of endless vexation to nonbelievers. But not for the reason you'd think—while many preachers would have you think the Bible's truths are self-evident and all-sufficient, most non-believers believe it's anything but.
That much is true.
...the Bible, as important as it is to Western literature and thought, was begun in an area that was almost a backwater—Iron Age Judah,...
I just feel compelled to point out the...ahem, irony here.
- Atheists often claim that "the Bible was written by ignorant stone-age goat-herders," without much substantiation. It is humorous to note that more recently it has been "ignorant bronze-age goat-herders," and according to this RW author, it would be "ignorant iron-age goat-herders." Considering the numerous fallacies with the statement, I would hardly be surprised if the atheists behind these claims feel a bit...sheepish.
The author then summarizes a bit of history. Whether correct in the slightest is not of paramount importance here. Then,
Seeing an opportunity for development, the priestly caste of Judah combined the related but divergent religious stories of Israel and Judah into a common tradition, and any previously believed gods into the single personage of YHWH, the God now worshipped, in various variations, by Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions, ruthlessly suppressing other traditional Semitic faith elements in favor of those that promoted Judahite—Jewish—identity.
Ahem. 
This is blatant prejudice, which assumes that the Jews created God, essentially, and did so from polytheistic personages, which they apparently morphed into a super-god. Where is any substantiating evidence for this claim? It boldly asserts evolutionary naturalism as the truth in supposing that God is the culmination of creative mythologies.
- Question: why, if they were polytheist before, as the author claims, did they not do as the Hindus and simply worship all of the gods together?
Moreover, the supposition that the Jews "ruthlessly suppressed other traditional Semitic faith elements" (what they would be we are left to guess at) is similarly without scholarship. Perhaps this FAQ was created recently and hasn't been updated with references yet. It almost seems as if the author, knowing that Islam was spread by the sword, wishes to likewise delegitimize Israel by casually suggesting that they did the same. I would be pleased if the author would either correct this comment or support it with real scientific evidence, which they seem to hold in such high esteem. A deletion would be most appropriate.
Middle East researchers have found a great many elements common to many other Semitic peoples in the area—many of the details of Noah's Flood date back to the Sumerian (i.e. pre-Semitic) Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, and the book of Job is known to be an elaboration on an ancient pan-Semitic folktale.
The Biblical Christian easily recognizes the gross errors in the Gilgamesh epic, such as
- sending the dove out first
- the gods were afraid of the flood
- the gods fought with each other
- one god subverted the others' will by saving humanity
- the sacrifice was to feed the gods, who "hovered like flies" over the altar.
- The ark was described as a cube, which is neither stable nor seaworthy.
It is plain to see that the Biblical record is the more accurately preserved story, and it is with good reason that Biblical Christians assign the Epic of Gilgamesh a "later" designation relative to the Flood event. The distortions are consistent with oral tradition, which probably happened until a written language was developed. This makes much sense if Hebrew was the original spoken language, which is uncertain but possible. The author is encouraged to cite any relevant information about this supposed precursor to Job that Job is allegedly based on.
The author rants about the New Testament, again without citing sources. Comment is hardly necessary, but I would recommend the author check out the History of Christianity on this site.
The author presents these as "contradictions" in the Bible:
- It got the value of pi wrong. Refuted here
- Jesus' genealogies are contradictory. Refuted here and here and here, and many other resources also exist that shatter this claim.
- Genesis 1 and 2 are contradictory. Refuted here
What about other Scriptures? The Qur'an? The Book of Mormon? The Vedas?
Very little is said in this section. There is nothing to respond to, currently, except in to answer the question. This is up for edit by other CreationWiki users.
But what do I do with my tithe money?
There is nothing explicit to respond to here.
You can still attend church if you have backslidden from your faith. Especially if your friends are Christian, there is no reason to cut ties with them simply because you don't agree with their beliefs anymore.
You haven't mentioned evolution.
True, we haven't. Atheism and evolution are separate entities, although both are complimentary in the way that they tend to apply methodological naturalism to the world.
They're about as separate as the Bible is from Christianity. I appreciate the acquiescence of their relationship to naturalism, however.
Fortunately, if you are curious about the subject the TalkOrigins.org FAQ archive can answer virtually all your questions and then some far better than we can or need to in this document.
I also encourage readers to investigate the CW's [[Index to Creationist Claims (Talk.Origins)|response] to TalkOrigins's Index to Creationist Claims. It may be enlightening.
Or abortion, or euthanasia?
Despite the smears by the Religious Right, atheists, rationalists and humanists value life as much as any other person,...
...They just define it differently.
That said, the trend is that rationalists and humanists consider both abortion and euthanasia to be a matter of a person's own right to determine what happens to their bodies,...
and the unborn person's right to their own body, is it considered?
What about politics? How should I vote?
To accept someone else's commands to vote a specific way, or even to cast a vote in ignorance, is to throw away your vote. Don't do that.
I emphatically agree.
If atheism is a lack of belief, why all the fuss?
You will be hard pressed to find any atheist who acts consistently with this. Those who have a lack of belief, simply put, haven't thought about the God question enough to identify themselves as atheists.
...the burden of proof will always lie with the Believer,...
Incorrect. It depends utterly on what is the topic in question. The burden of proof lies with whoever is making the claim. Atheists make lots of claims, but don't often present proofs.
Due to the fact that atheism is such a fringe belief in places, the US "Bible Belt" for instance, atheists are one of the most denigrated and persecuted minorities.
Are as many atheists murdered each year as are Christians? Whence cometh these outrageous claims?
People have been driven from their homes and places of work for their lack of belief, essentially being the "them" in the prevalent "us and them" mentality.
In countries ran by fundamentalist Islamic states, atheism and apostasy is punishable not with a cold shoulder and a blank look, but death.
The extremes of victimisation are fortunately quite rare...
Those of us who truly face persecution appreciate your honesty.
Okay, anything else I need to know?
The most important thing: no matter what anyone tells you, you're your own person.
The Christian knows: we have free will.
You may not be accountable to God
The Christian knows: you are.
but you still have to answer to yourself and your society; that said, however, you're also in command of who you are, what you do, who you associate with.
The Christian knows: this is true, and finds support in the Bible. Otherwise the author's opinions must be accepted on blind faith.
...never be afraid to laugh at your mistakes and madnesses.
The Christian knows: never be afraid to ask for forgiveness. Only then can you be forgiven. Mistakes are fine, unless you think you're entitled to make them without consequence.
Be flexible about everything but inflexibility; tolerate anything but intolerance.
The Christian knows: if you don't tolerate something, then you're intolerant of it. Moral relativism fails.
"Get a library card." A worthwhile investment. "Watch a horror movie." I recommend the movie Creation. "Buy some porn." What?? That's good advice? "Do volunteer work..." Which God tells us to do. Check.
"Befriend someone your family just wouldn't get." A Creationist, perhaps.
- "The best embodiment of this way of gaining knowledge is the scientific method; hence, rationalists tend to give high regard to science, designating it as the primary or sole proper source of truth."
-  "Also empiricism (that all knowledge must be obtained by experience), is self refuting. In other words, empiricism can never be proven empirically."
- In an interview, Richard Dawkins stated that "evolution has been observed. It's just that it hasn't been observed while it's happening." He added that "it is rather like a detective coming on a murder after the scene... the detective hasn't actually seen the murder take place, of course. But what you do see is a massive clue... Huge quantities of circumstantial evidence. It might as well be spelled out in words of English." Decide for yourself. Source: Moyers, Bill (3 December 2004). "Now with Bill Moyers". Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 2006-01-29. Secondarily retrieved T 8:17 am August 31, 2010 from Wikipedia.
- Strobel has produced the series The Case for... with the sub-topics Christ/a Creator/Faith. Denton produced the book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. The list goes on.
- 1 Corinthians 1:20-21. The entire passage, verses 18-31, is reproduced below:
18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." 20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
- Common sense, from RationalWiki. Accessed T 10:25 am August 31, 2010.
- 1 Corinthians 16
- Galatians 6, on BibleGateway.
- NAMBLA welcome/informational page. Accessed 7:25 pm T August 31, 2010.
- John 2:1-11; Matthew 26:29
- Ephesians 5:18
- Proverbs 20:1
- Isaiah 5:11
- Psalm 104:14-15
- Proverbs 23:29-35