Why I am an atheist – Paul

I was talking with a couple of Christians after a band practice one evening. It dawned on me how primitive but totally defended their ideas were. Of course if they were rational they would not be religious. I noticed the religious invoke God or the supernatural (capable of  something illogical or inexplicable) whenever I have cornered them or their arguments and was able to show their views were wrong, self contradicting or baseless. They use invoking the supernatural as a ploy in any argument they are losing. They also use a supernatural claim when they do not know, understand or accept evidence.

The standard scientific model itself gives potential explanations for what appears to the religious to be supernatural phenomena. It posits that the supernatural is a misinterpretation, misunderstanding, or anomalous variation of natural phenomena, rather than an actual supernatural phenomenon. It doesn’t explain the use of the supernatural as a trick in arguing, which is just religious sophistry. One complicating factor is that there is no universal agreement about what the definition of “natural” is, and what the limits of naturalism might be. Concepts in the supernatural domain are closely related to concepts in religious spirituality and occultism or spiritualism. Additionally, by definition anything that exists or can be measured or experienced naturally is not supernatural. The term “supernatural” is often used interchangeably with paranormal or preternatural — the latter typically limited to an adjective for describing abilities which appear to exceed the bounds of possibility.

Supernaturalism and why it is logically self refuting and contradictory.
There are some questions about a God that makes Christians come up with contradictions. However they defend against being held to account for the contradiction by invoking, mystery, supernatural explanations or plain superstitious “sleight of hand” answers. There are ways of plugging any religious argument or hole however impossible, stupid or irrational by using an excuse or copout of a supernatural nature, whereby the supernatural claim magically explains away any contradiction or anomaly. How, is not explained, it just does, because ,according to them, God is greater than you and so you do not understand. If there was something supernatural able to do this, how would you or they know? How can there ever be supernatural evidence?

Here are typical questions that end with a supernatural copout

If a God is immaterial how does it produce material changes?
If an immaterial God influences a material world where is your evidence for that? Why aren’t any such changes observable and measurable?  
 If a God is incomprehensible, how does anyone understand anything about it?
 If a God is untestable how do you know it exists?
If a God is invisible or outside this universe how can you know it exists?  
If a God is omnipresent, how do you know and why can it not be detected
Any theodicy arguments

The invoking of the action of the supernatural is a technique employed by believers in all sorts of religions. Supernatural explanations are used to make arguments which involve some of the following fallacies and fatal errors.

First is the appeal to incredulity i.e. stating any complex or seemingly unexplained process or phenomenon is supernatural because of their own lack of scientific knowledge, reasoning or understanding. Therefore their rejection of a natural hypothesis or science hinges on “incredulity” at any scientific explanation. The phenomenon is then explained away, by ignoring any natural explanation and invoking a supernatural one in preference, despite there being no supernatural evidence: which is why it is called supernatural.  Failing to see how science could solve or begin explain a problem is also a fundamental part of supernatural beliefs.

Second, supernatural explanations are also used as a ploy to fill any apparent natural explanatory gap (Real or due to ignorance) with the supernatural. This self-justifies the existence of the supernatural. These supernatural appeals may just be arguments from ignorance about the science or scientific method. Supernatural appeals may also be a formal argument from ignorance as follows:-There is no scientific explanation of XXX (They know of) therefore it must have a supernatural cause. Argument from ignorance, also known as argumentum ad ignorantiam or “appeal to ignorance”, is a fallacy in informal logic. It asserts that a proposition is true because it has not been proven false (or vice versa). This represents a type of false dichotomy in that it excludes a third option, which is that there is insufficient investigation and therefore insufficient information to satisfactorily prove the proposition to be either true or false. Nor does it allow the admission that the choices may in fact not be two (true or false), but may be as many as four, (1) true, (2) false, (3) unknown between true or false, and (4) being unknowable (among the first three). In debates, appeals to ignorance are sometimes used to shift the burden of proof.

Argument from ignorance is used as a rationalization by a person who realizes that he has no reason for holding the belief that he does.

The fallaciousness of arguments from ignorance does not mean that one can never possess good reasons for thinking that something does not exist, an idea captured by philosopher Bertrand Russell’s teapot, a hypothetical china teapot revolving about the sun between Earth and Mars; however this would fall more duly under the arena of pragmatism, wherein a position must be demonstrated or proven in order to be upheld, and therefore the burden of proof is on the argument’s proponent.

Third supernatural appeals are also used as an immunity strategy when a logical contradiction within a religious belief is identified by an atheist or philosopher. The supernatural is thereby used as a defence regarding a theistic or paranormal point of view, i.e. when it would be demonstrated to be false, contradictory or meaningless. It is used as a trump card whatever illogical nonsense is exposed. A magical explanation is then used. You hear statements like “God can make it so by his power which you cannot begin to understand as it is so great”. Where though, is the actual evidence for that? It is just an empty claim.

Fourth according to the religious, God can do anything however impossible and contrary to physics, biology, maths or logic, as science is only man made. This misses the point that the argument is a false dichotomy and does not prove anything let alone in itself, that anything supernatural can or does explain anything. It is an empty assertion with no independent evidence. This magical argument is used to enable a believer to explain and withstand any contradictory observation or evidence against their belief, as the argument can claim anything however impossible and implausible, as their God is supernatural. But assertion is not evidence.

Fifth When all observations are either compatible with a given God and nothing can falsify its existence, the observations have, without a falsifiable theory, no value evidentially. So as a corollary one can ask “Which of the long list of supernatural Gods is the right one to explain XXX?”.  How can you decide or choose if they all claim all the evidence proves their god? Using a proof that allows “  all data and everything  observed” which can only be seen as confirmatory evidence  supporting a God, without having an observation leading to a possible falsification,  means that any and all Gods with that characteristic of explaining “everything as it is” are just as likely and plausible as each other even a God made of spaghetti! The FSM created the world last Tuesday to appear just the way it is. That claim is fully explanatory of all observations, internally consistent, unfalsifiable and proof the FSM created everything including all other gods.

Is, sharing or feeling that a belief is true with thousands of others, evidence?

I can observe the sun apparently orbiting the earth; thousands believe that the sun goes round the earth. Does that make it true?

Sixth A religious person demonstrating a limitation in a scientific or natural explanation is not proof of the correctness of an obviously equally manmade superstition or belief. That God is clearly then just as manmade and fabricated. It is without supporting evidence, and is therefore even less likely or explanatory than the probabilistically imperfect science.

Supernatural explanations are used as magical ways to defend the believer against unacceceptable logic or Natural explanations when all else fails to support a believer’s perspective. Believers typically use it when they out of logical or natural explanatory support for their belief. E.g. God can do anything including making a four sided triangle. Any facile self contradictory, meaningless assertion, masquerading as an argument, can be made if the proponent’s belief is totally illogical and irrational. That does not make such an illogical irrational argument correct by virtue of it being immune to questioning or contradiction because it is incomprehensible and/or magic. Being unable to contradict an incomprehensible false premise on the grounds of its incomprehensibility does not make it true. Invoking a supernatural claim as in itself a proof of the aforesaid existence of the supernatural cannot be made on the basis of argument alone. Supernatural assertions explaining away phenomena cannot be used in themselves as a proof of the supernatural which would just be circular. How can there ever be supernatural evidence? Lack of evidence is not proof of the supernatural. Lack of evidence or testability is used as an excuse or immunity strategy to hide the lack of evidence for a God.

How then, can anyone have knowledge of something which leaves no evidence, and cannot be tested? If that is so, how does anyone have knowledge of an invisible, unknowable, undetectable thing and how can they tell it exists. How can you tell it does anything if it is immeasurable?

How can you use a lack of something to prove something exists? 

Example God does not answer all my prayers

Answer my prayer please God……..nothing….see there is nothing…thank you God for that answer, ergo  God exists because he said nothing

Kant argues that experience and reason cannot grasp reality, yet he also argues that he has established this conclusion by means of experience and reason. This argument is clearly self-refuting: its content contradicts the very method it purports to be relying on. One cannot rely on reason to demonstrate that reason is invalid because doing so presumes that reason is valid.

Hume’s maxim
A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence so that a miracle is only a miracle if the falsity of the miracle is more miraculous than the miracle. If the rejection of the miraculous explanation is more unlikely than the natural explanation, reject the greater unlikelihood.

Views on the “supernatural” include that it is indistinct from nature. From this perspective, some events occur according to the laws of nature, and others occur according to a separate set of principles external to known nature. For example, in Scholasticism, it was believed that God was capable of performing any miracle so long as it didn’t lead to a logical contradiction. But what happens when a contradiction is found? a, ”Supernatural explanation” is given.

Does God change the laws of science? (Fine tuning gone chaotic?)

As a thought experiment one might ask what the aftermath would be, as nature returns to normal, following a hypothetical miraculous intervention by God whereby for a moment all the laws of physics are changed by God in order to answer a prayer.

Scientists and atheists believe that all events have natural and only natural causes. They suggest that human beings ascribe or have in the past ascribed supernatural attributes to purely natural events, such as lightning, rainbows, floods, and the origin of life. This attribution of the supernatural to explain any data is potentially synonymous with wishful thinking.

Wishful thinking is the formation of beliefs and making decisions according to what might be pleasing to imagine instead of by appealing to evidence, rationality or reality. Studies have consistently shown that holding all else equal; subjects will predict positive outcomes to be more likely than negative outcomes. When we embark on a course of action which is unconsciously driven by wishful thinking, all may seem to go well for a time, in what may be called the “dream stage”. But because this make-believe can never be reconciled with reality, it leads to a “frustration stage” as things start to go wrong, prompting a more determined effort to keep the fantasy in being. As reality presses in, it leads to a “nightmare stage” as everything goes wrong, culminating in an “explosion into reality”, when the fantasy finally falls apart. In addition to being a cognitive bias and a poor way of making decisions, wishful thinking is commonly held to be a specific logical fallacy in an argument when it is assumed that because we wish something to be true or false that it is actually true or false. This fallacy has the form “I wish that P is true/false, therefore P is true/false.” Wishful thinking, if this were true, would underlie appeals to emotion, and would also be a red herring. Wishful thinking may cause blindness to unintended consequences. Related fallacies are the negative proof and argument from ignorance fallacies (“It hasn’t been proven false, so it must be true.” and vice versa). For instance, a believer in Gods may accept that most religions are wrong, but claim that the ones that haven’t been debunked must be considered genuine.

Thus many supporters of supernatural explanations believe that past, present, and future complexities and mysteries of the universe cannot be explained solely by naturalistic means. They argue that it is reasonable to assume that a non-natural entity or entities resolve the unexplained. This is a copout by invoking magic/supernatural phenomena which actually explain nothing at all, they are just assertions. Their incredulity at scientific explanations is partly due to the supernaturalism proponents’ lack of knowledge, part denial of observable processes and part laziness on behalf of the proponent to be involved in the process of investigating natural causes.

Ultimately invoking the supernatural is just a deceitful way of avoiding coming to terms with reality and arguments demonstrating certain religious beliefs are just superstitions and fallacious.



  1. God says

    Off topic- In reference to “Pinging is currently not allowed.” What is pinging in this context?

  2. Paul says

    Pinging is a way to notify the blogger that you’ve linked their post with one of yours, and creates a link to that content. Similar to what is called trackbacks on other blogs.

    As always, I wish I was as eloquent as this Paul. At least, I am assuming based on the writing style and content that it’s “Paul W.”

  3. Paul W., OM says

    I was trying to google up something else, and belatedly came across this…

    (another) Paul:

    As always, I wish I was as eloquent as this Paul. At least, I am assuming based on the writing style and content that it’s “Paul W.”

    Just for the record, it’s not me. It’s yet another other Paul. That’s why I generally go by at least “Paul W.”, and usually “Paul W., OM.” (Because “Paul W.” has repeatedly been confused with others (e.g., “Dave W.”) too, and at least one of the many Pauls commenting around here is a Paul W.)

    Good thing PZ goes by PZ.