All the time people approach me with questions and assertions over my position as an atheist. The questions I get are the usual stuff, but there are a few assertions that are worth mentioning.
1) The harmony and balance in nature is so perfect, it must have been created by a super intelligent designer.
2) Prayer really does work. Jesus helped me find my car keys. He also cured my horrible throat infection.
3) The bible is perfectly in line with modern science and every word printed in the bible is fact.
4) Without the bible, there would be no morality.
5) Hell is real and if you don't accept Jesus as you personal lord and saviour, then you will spend the rest of eternity there.
6) Heaven is real and if you accept Jesus as your personal lord and saviour, then you will enter this paradise.
7) The bible is the true word of God and Christianity is the one true religion.
8) God has given you free will to accept him or reject him.
Although some denominations of Christianity may disagree with one or more of these assertions (there are about 38 000 denominations of Christianity), the majority of them claim these points to be true. I'm going to talk a bit about them.
So starting from the top:
There has to be a creator:
For those who haven't been paying attention to what scientists have been doing in the past decade, particle physicists stationed at CERN's LHC have made a few rather remarkable discoveries. They have *almost* confirmed the existence of a particle that gives matter mass. So far, what they found looks like a duck, it quacks like a duck and they are now doing very thorough research and doing very expensive upgrades to the LHC to confirm that it is in fact a duck. This will prove that a universe can come into existence without a god. But I sense this may not be satisfying to you. I'm guessing you're still hanging to the designed belief. Let's say the universe has been designed. I now have a question for you. If your argument remains "The universe looks designed, therefore bible", then how did you get from "The universe looks designed" to "therefore bible"? If it looks like its been designed, then how did you get to bible being your answer? Why did you not go with the Quran?
Prayer really works:
People from all over the world and from all abrahamic religions claim that prayer works. If that is the case, then why haven't any amputees in recorded history ever been healed? People claimed to have their illnesses prayed away, or have prayed for lost belongings to be found and all sorts of other things, but amputees are for some reason totally ignored. Why is this? If you really look at it from a logical and rational perspective, you will find that answered prayers are perfectly in line with chance and coincidence. If you done a little research, you would find that the survival rate of illnesses like cancer are equal among the Christians, Muslims and atheists. Why is that? If you had to pray for something that could not be delivered by chance or coincidence, you will find that the prayer will not be answered. Amputees are a perfect example. Not one amputee has ever been healed anywhere in the world. It has never happened. Matthew 17:20 says "And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." Do you believe that with prayer you can move a mountain? If so, care to demonstrate? You see, moving mountains are impossible and is another example of something that cannot be done by chance or coincidence (unless we're invaded by aliens or a comet hits us), so you will find that praying for it will not show any results. You can pray for a grain of sand to appear from nothing in your hand and it will show no results. Why is that?
Everything in the bible is fact:
There are a number of factual errors in the bible. You don't even need to look far to spot them, in fact, the first of many is right in the beginning at Genesis 1:1 in the creation story. It claims that Earth came to be before the sun, where we know it happened other way around. It also states that plants appeared and grew to the age of bearing fruit before the sun appeared. Taking into account that plants need the sun for photosynthesis in order to survive, this is too great an error for a book that is supposedly divinely inspired. Stars, like our sun, is formed out of one element: hydrogen. They are formed out of massive clouds of hydrogen floating around in space. Matter attracts matter and that is how gravity works. As hydrogen clusters together, its gravitational force increases. As the gravitational force increases, more hydrogen gets pulled in. As more hydrogen comes in, the gravitational force gets even stronger, causing pressure and heat to rise. As this goes on, more and more hydrogen gets pulled and in the pressure and heat keeps rising more and more. With enough pressure and heat, hydrogen fuses into helium, and a new star gets "ignited". If the star is big enough, it's life will after a few billion years end with a supernova. A supernova gives the right conditions for hydrogen and helium to fuse into other heavier elements. Our sun is the product of a supernova. After the sun was formed, Earth and the other planets formed out of left-over materials. What the bible says about how Earth came to be is complete nonsense. A lot of modern Christians knows it is nonsense and accepts it as nonsense, but there are also a lot of fundamental Christians who will still defend it with the "out-of-context" card or the "poetry" card. More errors include snakes eating dust, rabbits chewing the cud, 4-legged insects, etc.
Without the bible, there would be no morality:
This statement is very wrong. If the bible is the ultimate moral guide for all actions, then how does one know which parts of the bible to follow? If you follow the bible for your morality, and it says in the bible you can own slaves, and stone your children to death for disobedience, then isn't it okay for people to be doing these things? Leviticus 20:13 clearly states that gay people should be executed. Deuteronomy 21:10-14 condones rape. 1 Timothy 2:12 states that women are inferior to men. 1 Peter 2:18 promotes slavery. Exodus 21:7 states that you can sell your own daughter into slavery (and even gives you the rundown on terms of sale). Deuteronomy 21:18-21 permits you to kill your children for back-talk. Deuteronomy 25:11-13 commands you to cut off a woman's hand if she grabs your junk during a bar-fight. If the bible says all this is okay, then how you figure out not to kill your children and keep slaves? You know it's wrong to do, you're not a monster after all. How did you figure out which parts of the bible are relevant today and which one's aren't. Perhaps, you have a sense of morality, independent from your religion. Perhaps, you have a sense of morality based on empathy for others (like every other human). By saying that you only have morals because of a religion, you're saying it's not possible to figure it out by yourself. Humans have a conscience, a moral compass based on things that our parents and elders taught us and based on things experienced growing up. Personally, I would keep a close eye on any person who says that it is his god alone that keeps him in check.
You will burn in hell if you don't follow the Jesus faith:
This is by large a scare tactic employed by early Christians to keep their followers in line and to scare people into converting to Christianity. The concept of hell was only introduced in the new testament. The closest you'll find to hell in the old testament is "Sheol", which is described being very different to hell. Christianity is by large a fear based religion. If it was not then the concept of hell would be unnecessary (not a lot of Christians would admit this).
You will go to heaven if you follow the Jesus faith:
When was the last time you saw someone thanking a drunk driver for hitting and killing a pedestrian? When was the last time you saw someone throw a party to celebrate a terminal illness? When was the last time you saw someone thanking the state for receiving the death sentence even though he was wrongly convicted? Every religious person knows what the concept of heaven is and really wants to go there, but at the same time, those same people cling to life and do whatever they can to preserve their lives for as long as they can and mourn the deaths of those close to them. Why is that? Perhaps people don't really believe there is a heaven. Perhaps they just really hope that its there.
The bible is the true word of God.
What led people to that conclusion? I spend a lot of time in debate rooms. The one thing to note from what I have learned in debate rooms with Christians and atheists all around the world is this: the only thing Christians have to validate their holy book is the contents of their holy book. They quote scripture to prove their scripture. There is nothing else. So a good question to ask is what makes the bible any more valid than the Quran? What makes the Quran any more valid than the book of Mormon? All the holy books in the world all claim that particular book is the one true book while all the others are false. Peculiar, isn't it? Now consider the following: All races from different parts of the world natively have their own religion or beliefs. If a person is born in Israel, chances are he will become a Jew. If a person is born in India, chances are he will become Hindu. If a person is born in Iran or Pakistan, chances are he will become a Muslim. What religion people follow depends on where they are born. This tells us that a person will take on what ever religion his parents belong to. Does this mean that all religions are the one true religion, or does this mean that people only follow their religion, because they were brainwashed to believe what they believe by their parents and elders? If you think about this with a rational mind, then clearly only one of the following assertions are true: All religions are the right religions or none of them are. All of them have holy books, all of them have millions of followers and all of them have their own god(s). So how sure can one be that the bible is the true word of the one true god?
God has given you free will to accept him or reject him.
Pretty much all Christians will tell you that humans have free will. At the same breath, they will tell you that God is omniscient. To complicate things further, they will tell you that God has a plan and that God works through people (in mysterious ways). At first, this may make perfect sense, but once one starts to think about it, a few problems arise. In reality, this is a serious paradox. Omniscience is perfect knowledge of past and future events. Free will is freedom to choose between alternatives without external coercion. A paradox can be simply explained as statements or events that have contradictory/incompatible and inconsistent properties. Christianity cannot claim that God is omniscient and also claim that humans have free will. The claims form a paradox, a falsehood. If God is omniscient then even before we are born God will have complete knowledge of every decision we are going to make. Any apparent choice we make regarding the acceptance or denial of Jesus as a saviour is predetermined. This must be true to satisfy the assertion that God is omniscient. Effectively we have no choice in the matter. What we think is free will is an illusion. Our choices have been coerced since we exist and act according to the will of God. Alternatively if human free will is valid, meaning that the outcome of our decisions is not pre-determined or coerced, then God cannot be omniscient, since he would not know in advance our decisions. If God knows the decision of every person, before they are born, regarding the acceptance or denial of Jesus as a saviour, then why does he create one set of individuals destined for heaven and another set destined for eternal damnation? This seems unjust, perverse and particularly evil. If God is omniscient then humans do not have free will (see argument above) and the apparent arbitrary choice of God to condemn many individuals to eternal damnation is evil. If that isn't enough, then consider this: If your choices are eternal pleasure or eternal torture, is that really free will? If you exercise your free will to reject beliefs you don't agree with, then you're screwed. That can not be classed as free will.
Personally, I have reached a conclusion. Gods are imaginary. If you remove the god concept entirely, then the world makes perfect sense. There is no correct religion. They are all wrong. The math works. We have free will, because gods are imaginary. Prayers are not answered, because gods are imaginary. Sometimes you get what you want, some times you don't. Amputees do not get healed, because gods are imaginary and its up to humans to create the technologies to assist them. All the holy books are wrong, because gods are imaginary. By teaching small children about ghosts, demons and Satan, you are in reality telling your child that the boogey man is real and wants to devour his soul. This is child abuse and it will be your own fault if your child is afraid of the dark.
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.