I have been asked why I am an atheist. Although I’ve never been much of a believer in any religion, it is only recently that I have really thought about why.
I was brought up in a nonreligious family, although at times I attended Sunday School or church. None of it seemed to stick for long so I usually gave it up fairly quickly. I was always in trouble for asking too many questions that no one wanted to answer. I was told to just accept and believe what I was told, but I couldn’t do that.
My main reason for rejection of any god is that I could only believe in, and hence praise, a god who worked for the good of his creation. It appears to me that the gods available to me always seemed to fail in that direction; they didn’t seem to help their devotees very much.
My main problem was with the amount of evil in the world. I couldn’t understand why a good god would allow it to go on, particularly as those most hurt by it seemed mainly to be innocent people, particularly children. If allowing evil to go on is the action of a good god how can he justify it? I believe that a good god who acted for the best for his creation would do something about evil. Even just protecting the innocent would be a good start.
I cannot praise a god who allows so much evil in the world. The religiously inclined would argue that it is humans who do the evil, but god allows it to go on despite the fact that much of it is done in his name. Allowing evil to go on without doing something about it is to condone it. A good god would act for the good of his people.
It seems to me that there are no good gods around.
If god is omniscient and omnipotent then he must take responsibility for the failings of his creation. If he is not omnipotent or omniscient then he isn’t worth believing in because he does not have the powers of a godhead. I shall argue here that god is not omniscient nor omnipotent by illustrating his lack of control of evil and its sources.
If god created humans and were omniscient, then he would have known how they would turn out and the evil they would do. If he were both omnipotent and good, then he would have created them otherwise. If he didn’t foresee that humans would become evil then he isn’t omniscient. If he couldn’t have created them otherwise he isn’t omnipotent.
If, as Christian apologists contend, the devil causes evil, god is still responsible. If god created everything then he created the devil and gave him the power to cause evil. God also has the power, if he is omnipotent, to stop the devil. If he cannot stop the devil then he isn’t omnipotent. If he didn’t foresee the problems caused by the devil then he isn’t omniscient.
Not all evil is necessarily thought up only by the followers of one god or another–it has often been the religious leaders, themselves, who start or support such actions by calling for holy war or a jihad in the name of their god. Some evil is actually demanded by their god!
Many religious people believe that theirs is the only true god and that all other gods are false–or worse. This justifies the persecution or killing of the followers of those other gods. Indeed, some gods demand this: they insist that they are the only true god and that all nonbelievers be eliminated.
Many religious evil-doers are persuaded by the writings at the basis of their religious beliefs that their god wants evil done. Thus evil is condoned–or even demanded–by the godhead itself. The god of Judaism, the god of Christianity, and the god of Islam all insist that they are the only true god. How are we to know which one is true? Or if any of them are?
People who do evil in the name of their god are doing what they believe he wants them to do. Since they are not in any way dissuaded from their actions by their god they must feel justified in believing that it is what he wants and that he approves of their actions. Thus, if he does not correct their thinking by punishing their wrongdoing or telling them to act otherwise, he must accept responsibility for their actions done in his name.
It follows from the above that either god allows evil to manifest itself and continue, or he cannot, or will not, stop it. Whichever it is then god must take responsibility for the occurrence and continuation of evil in the world, and thus he is not in a position to expect my praise, worship, or prayers.
It also follows from the above that if god cannot or will not control the evil then he is either not omnipotent, or he chooses not to step in and do something about it. It also follows that he either foresaw that evil would happen, and allowed it to happen, or he did not foresee it and is thus not omniscient. Either way god is not the supreme being his followers claim since he is either not omniscient and/or not omnipotent.
You might think it unfair to use logic to argue about the ineffable ways of a god, but how else are we to understand and work out what a god would want? Surely, religion is an emotional practice, but if it leads to evil then it is emotion gone mad, uncontrolled by reason or civilization, and it therefore deserves to be argued against by whatever means are available.
This is my argument for not believing in god. If others choose to believe despite his failings then that is their business. I have no argument with them; they are entitled to believe whatever they want. But don’t expect me to go along with them and agree.