Atheism’s Inconsistency with Human Experience (Part 1).


This is part 1 of a two, or possibly three, part series.

1. On Getting Everything from Nothing.

Persuasive scientific evidence, coupled with philosophical reasoning, tells us that the universe began to exist in the finite past some billions of years ago. This has been troublesome for the atheist since on atheism God, nor any supernatural entity, exists. So, any possibility that a powerful transcendent being could bring the universe into existence is immediately rejected. Now, the problem arises for how does the atheist explain the beginning of the universe?

Atheists have traditionally believed that the universe never actually had a beginning and that it is eternal. According to contemporary religious humanists: “[We] religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created” (1). I would speculate that most atheists would disagree with this manifesto simply because such overwhelming scientific evidence contradicts an eternal universe. Other atheists such as Lewis Wolpert admit that “there’s the whole problem of where the universe itself came from,” and then asks “How did that all happen? I haven’t got a clue” (2). Many atheists are content to admit that they do not know probably because, as atheist scientist Stephen Hawking concedes, “Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention” (3). I’d argue that claimed ignorance can be intellectual laziness since it merely refuses to adopt a position (that either the universe began to exist or it did not). It is far easier to settle on the fence that have to explain how a universe with a beginning sits with one’s atheism.

Moreover, atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett agrees that the universe has a cause and that it began to exist a finite time ago, but he then argues that the cause of the universe is itself (18). This is an example of irrational reasoning. Dennett is essentially saying that the universe had to have already existed in order to bring itself into existence; it would have to exist before it existed! Clearly the reasonable reader would determine such a view to be logically incoherent since it defies the laws of logic.

The underlying fact is that we all know that something cannot come from nothing, the universe included. But that is literally what the atheist has to believe. Philosopher William Lane Craig thus explains, “suppose something could come into being from nothing. If that were the case then it is inexplicable why just anything and everything doesn’t pop into being out of nothing. But no-one here tonight is worried that while you’re listening to debate a horse may have popped into being uncaused out of nothing in your living room, and is there defiling the carpet right now as we speak” (4). Craig concludes that “To suggest that things could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is literally worse than magic. It is to quit doing serious philosophy and appeal to magic… when the magician pulls a rabbit out of the hat, at least you have the magician” (19).

2. On the Question of Morality.

I am confident that the overwhelming majority of human beings, both today and in history, would view rape as being morally abominable. Sure, you might get cultures/sects/religions/people that would deny this but the majority would agree that it is evil. In other words, the overwhelming human view is that many acts are objectively evil. To rape is to commit an objectively evil act. The holocaust, the Columbine massacre, and the Rwandan Genocide would all be classified as objectively evil acts. Now, the alternative to this would be moral subjectivism. Namely, that morality is merely personal taste because there is no such thing as objective evil. So, person A might find that raping as many victims as he can would do well to advance the human race and enhance survival (or he could justify why rape is good in any way he wants), whereas person B finds that forcing oneself onto another against her will is always objectively evil. But if moral subjectivism is correct then who gets to say whose right? It is merely opinion versus opinion in an indifferent universe that cares nothing for our existence. We really can just pick and choose what morals sound good to us.

In all this, however, atheists present not only a massive inconsistency but also a denial of human experience. On the one hand the atheist denies the objective nature good and evil, as in the words of Richard Dawkins, “if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies… are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention …. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music” (5).

So, if followed through to its logical end, raping a helpless child is really no different to kicking a football at the park, as Ravi Zacharias aptly poses, “How, then, may we know what is good for us? Thinking atoms discussing morality is absurd” (6). It might be my opinion that there is a massive difference between raping someone and kicking a football at the park, but that is just an illusion that has been fobbed off onto me from the physical forces of nature. Now, I would strongly challenge that this is profoundly antithetical to human experience. Every fibre of our being screams that rape, murder, and torturing puppies are objectively evil acts. However, the philosophy of atheism asks that we reject that and define it as an illusion. According to the former atheist turned Christian, Philip Vander Elst, our moral intuitions “have, on this view, no more validity or significance than the sound of the wind in the trees” (7).

Finally, not even atheists can live consistently with their philosophy. Subsequent to Dawkins making that grandiose claim we have him defining faith as one of the “world’s great evils” (8), terrorism as “evil” (9), explaining that science can be used for evil ends (10), that religion is a conduit for unparalleled evil (11), and that Islam is the “greatest force for evil today” (12). Dawkins also tackles subjects that contain hefty moral baggage such as the topics of abortion (13), feminism (14), eugenics (15), paedophilia (16), and sexual abuse (17).

I think we’re all in good company if we are confused by this. Out of one side of his mouth the atheist denies there being objective evil but then lives and acts, on a daily basis, as if certain things are objectively evil!

3. On the Denial of Miracles and Eyewitness Testimony.

I’ve pointed out why I am confident that miracles of healing occur. I interacted with some evidence and will forward readers to a separate article. In fact, the argument from miracles is my favourite one. It provides for me persuasive evidence of an entity, one not part of the natural, that intervenes within the natural order in such a way as to bring about an intended purpose.

However, when it comes to the hard evidence, no-one would deny that much of it derives from human testimony. Some of this testimony is quite excellent whereas some clearly isn’t. On the good side I’ve seen studies where atheists and atheist families have witnessed and converted to belief after witnessing a miracle. Entire villages have converted after a miracle, as well as actors, sports players and so on. Beyond some of the persuasive medical evidence and corroboration we still very much rely on human testimony. This is where, as I’ve routinely encountered, atheists generally try to undermine the argument. Their claim is that “testimony” is too unreliable and that it can’t be used as evidence for these claims. They will then link one to sites and studies that show that under certain conditions eyewitness testimony is unreliable. This challenge is quite weak considering many, if not most, claimants and witnesses to miracles aren’t susceptible to certain “states” as identified in certain studies, or when there are dozens of corroborating eyewitness accounts of an event, and so on. They might then go on about alien encounters (as if such encounters are even remotely analogues to the miracle evidence that academics have written on), or the oft repeated claim that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” (which is really nothing short of one outright rejecting evidence one can’t fit into their worldview, and besides that “extraordinary” sounds very subjective) and so on. On other occasions the atheist will throw in David Hume’s antique, and mostly rejected by philosophers, argument that miracles are the least likely explanation of an event and that it is far more likely that an eyewitness is wrong than that a miracle actually occurred (which is a way of simply defining a miracle out of existence before even considering the evidence, also known as beginning the question and circular reasoning). The main contention, however, is the atheist’s challenge that human testimony isn’t enough. This is where I counter that there is another obvious inconsistency.

The atheist has to undermine eyewitness testimony to a miracle because it threatens his worldview. If one eyewitness is actually correct in that a miracle really occurred then atheism is outright false. Miracles are persuasive evidence for the supernatural of which cannot exist on atheism. Of course the atheist is aware of this and has to explain it away. However, I challenge him that it is fully impossible not to rely on human testimony, and that undermining such testimony in relation to miracles is unwarranted. We rely on such testimony every day. We do it when we go to the doctor and take our prescribed medicines, when we talk to our managers, friends, spouses, relatives, lecturers and so on. The entire faculties and disciplines of science, history, and law are constructed upon human eyewitness testimony. Take such testimony away and we can close the doors to pretty much all our educational institutions, law courts, and so on. Thus, in order to deny the reliability of human eyewitness testimony the atheist denies far more than he actually realizes. This is not only inconsistent with our daily experience but is also inconsistent in the way the atheist himself functions. The atheist who denies eyewitness testimony himself relies on it daily. He even expects others to trust his own eyewitness testimony to certain events. It is so ingrained into him and his world that if everyone doubted his eyewitness testimony he would probably lapse into depression. Moreover, he, as I’ve mentioned, will bring up Hume’s argument and expect us to trust Hume’s testimony! Besides this inconsistency the atheist’s argument just doesn’t follow that because some eyewitness testimony is mistaken that all, if not most, eyewitness testimonies are incorrect. It’s analogous to sense perception. Sense perception, the very thing that helps us navigate the world, has been shown to be unreliable on occasion. But is that warrant for outright rejecting perception as a totality for understanding and functioning within the world? Of course not. Neither does it when it comes to eyewitness testimony.

Again, this denial is not only at odds with our everyday experience but is also clearly inconsistent.


1. Humanist Manifesto I. Available.

2. Wolpert, L. 2007. The Hard Cell. p. 18.

3. Hawking, S. 1988. Brief History of Time. p. 46.

4. YouTube. The Wit of Dr. Craig – Part 7 “A random horse from nowhere defiling your carpet.” Available.

5. Dawkins, R. 1995. River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life. p. 132—33.

6. Zacharias, R. 2004. The Real Face of Atheism. p. 128.

7. Vander Elst, P. From Atheism to Christianity: a Personal Journey. Available.

8. Dawkins, R. 1997. “Is Science a Religion?” in The Humanist.

9. Quoted by Gordy Slack in “The Atheist” (2005).

10. The Richard Dimbleby Lecture: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder (1996).

11. Documentary: The Root of All Evil? (2006) Part 2, 00:35:01.

12. Twitter tweet. Available.

13. Twitter tweet. Available.

14. Twitter tweet. Available.

15. Twitter tweet. Available.

16. Dearden, L. 2014. Richard Dawkins tweets: ‘Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse. Available.

17. Twitter tweet. Available.

18. Dennett, D. 2006. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. p. 244.

19. Craig, W. 2010. The Best of the Kalaam Cosmological Argument. Available.

12 responses to “Atheism’s Inconsistency with Human Experience (Part 1).

  1. 1. “On getting something from nothing”: This is a common (and very weak) argument against atheism. First, many Physicists believe that the universe did NOT come from nothing, but rather, that all the mass of the universe was compressed into an infinitesimally small volume prior to the big bang. Even if this is not the case, the argument is flawed, since it attempts to infer classical (Newtonian) rules of causality, at the instant in which space and time came into existence. How many Christian apologists have the slightest understanding of Quantum Physics (where rules of causality also break down)? So because the Physics that is known doesn’t make sense to you, and because there is much that is still not known, you infer the “God of the Gaps”

    2. “On the Question of Morality”. Your first flaw here, is to discuss an “Atheist Philosophy”, which doesn’t exist, anymore than one could claim there is a single “Theist Philosophy”. Atheism defines what the person does NOT believe in. It says nothing about what the person DOES believe in.

    So to that end, since you like to quote Dawkins, he is a Secular Humanist, and based on the premises of that philosophy, one can make rational discrimination between good an evil acts (not everyone will necessarily agree on those decisions, but the same is true within every religion on earth).

    And your arguments for theism failed to note that your own bible condones many of the same acts that you now acknowledge to be immoral/evil (e.g. rape). So what is your source of objective morality, if your own Bible cannot be trusted?

    3. “On the denial of Miracles…”. Yes, we’ll continue to reject claims of the fantastic, unless or until someone provides adequate proof of those claims. Do you believe that Muhammad was visited by an angel, who gave him the words of the Quran? Do you believe that Joseph Smith was visited by the Angel Moroni? Do you believe that Benny Hinn cures people every Sunday? Do you believe every person who claims to have seen some miracle or other, but NEVER has any objective proof?

    You commit a logical fallacy when you impugn the atheists motives – accusing him of rejecting eyewitness testimony “because it threatens his worldview”.

    And you misquote Hume. “A wise man … proportions his belief to the evidence”, and “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.”

    Those statements are NOT saying that human testimony can never be accepted. They merely state that we must apply substantial skepticism to any extraordinary claims. If I claimed that I could fly, would you believe me? If three of my friends told you that they had seen me fly, would you believe them? (Hopefully the answer is no). The simple fact is that people lie, people can be confused, and people can be tricked. And there is no question that Christians want to believe in miracles, and routinely assign miraculous explanations when there is no cause to do so. I have heard countless Christians, for example, referring to their cure from cancer, for example, as a miracle (and then, when pressed, admitting that they received surgery and/or radiation treatments and/or chemotherapy).

    You can dismiss these arguments as simply “explaining miracles away”. Provide incontrovertible proof of miracles, and we’ll talk.

  2. You’re making the mistake of discussing what atheists believe as if there is a standard philosophy and even a leader (Dawkins). This is wrong, the only thing you can say about atheists is what they don’t believe.

    • I thought all atheists believed that there is no God? If so, the 3 statements put forward in James’ excellent article above are perfectly valid as each one automatically and logically follows on from that basic belief.
      Seems to me that atheists “believe” what they wish to believe, but then insist they have no “beliefs” in the first place.

  3. Disbelief is not a belief. They are opposites. Do you believe in Santa Claus? If not, does that disbelief define you in any way?

    Atheists don’t insist that they have no beliefs. They insist that they don’t have a common set of beliefs.

    • No, I don’t believe in Santa Claus, therefore I believe that he does not exist. You don’t believe in God, so you believe that He does not exist – yes or no?

      • Ah then you’re an aSantaist, then. You and all the other aSantaists are all alike – all having the same beliefs!

      • “You don’t believe in God, so you believe that He does not exist – yes or no?”

        The answer is no. “I believe there is no God” is a positive assertion; “I do not believe in God” makes no assertions about the existence of God, and it is generally used as a shorthand for saying “I have not found enough evidence to convince me that there is a God”.

        The only common belief that all atheists have is that they do not believe in God. It does not follow that all atheists take a certain stance on morality, for example. One prominent atheist’s views don’t represent all atheists views.

Let me know your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s