The Truth about Religion

Please send any reasoned disagreements to me. If your facts and logic are convincing, I'll change my mind !       

People should believe facts and reality, not lies and delusions and scams. Accept Reason !

The Big Picture section
Religion section
Debating section

My Anti-Science page

The Big Picture

Evidence and reality:
Something is real and true if it matches reality (facts, evidence) and you can test it against reality.

If something can't be tested against reality (facts) and has no effect on reality, it might as well not exist. In a real sense, it doesn't exist.

Every time you start your car, you prove that science and critical thinking work. You prove that physics, chemistry, mathematics, and a dozen engineering disciplines work. They match reality, and pass tests every day.

Our world would be better off if we got rid of false beliefs, and concentrate on real issues and facts.

There's no good evidence that these things are true, so they're probably false:
The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense
XKCD's "The Economic Argument"

There are common threads to many examples of these things:'s "The Red Flags of Quackery"
Skeptoid's "How to Spot Pseudoscience"

These delusions are not just "fun" and harmless:
From Phil Plait on Bad Astronomy:
... astrology promotes the worst thing in the world: uncritical thinking. The more we teach people to simply accept anecdotal stories, hearsay, cherry-picked data (picking out what supports your claims but ignoring what doesn't), and, frankly, out-and-out lies, the harder it gets for people to think clearly. If you cannot think clearly, you cannot function as a human being. I cannot stress this enough. Uncritical thinking is tearing this world to pieces, and while astrology may not be at the heart of that, it has its role.

From someone on reddit:
> what has the church brought
> to America that is so awful ?

It makes people believe in things that aren't true. It also makes people stick the government's nose in people's private affairs. I'm referring to laws against miscegenation, gay marriage, blue laws, drug prohibition, teaching evolution, denying global warming, abortion, and supporting slavery, among others.

And to quote Bill Maher, "maybe a President who didn't believe our soldiers were going to heaven might be a little less willing to get them killed".

My take on it:
Believing things that have no evidence is bad. Often leads to bad behavior. Religion, racism, sexism, xenophobia, conspiracy theories, climate change denial, anti-vaccine beliefs all operate in similar ways. It is a dangerous way of thinking, bad for our society.

Many of these belief systems or groups have the same characteristics. They encourage "we know the one truth, we don't have to listen to any fact or person who disagrees with us, you're either with us or against us, no doubts or compromises, the other side are scum or animals or malicious".

Do you want people who think that way to be holding office, making laws, serving on juries ?

From Greta Christina's "The Armor of God":
Religion is ultimately dependent on belief in invisible beings, inaudible voices, intangible entities, undetectable forces, and events and judgments that happen after we die.

It therefore has no reality check.

And it is therefore uniquely armored against criticism, questioning, and self-correction. It is uniquely armored against anything that might stop it from spinning into extreme absurdity, extreme denial of reality ... and extreme, grotesque immorality.

From Bill Maher in "Religulous":

The irony of religion is that because of its power to divert man to destructive courses, the world could actually come to an end. The plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge having in key decisions made by religious people, by irrationalists, by those who would steer the ship of state not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken. George Bush prayed a lot about Iraq, but he didn't learn a lot about it. Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It's nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith, and enable and elevate it are intellectual slaveholders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction. Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don't have all the answers to think that they do. Most people would think it's wonderful when someone says, "I'm willing, Lord! I'll do whatever you want me to do!" Except that since there are no gods actually talking to us, that void is filled in by people with their own corruptions and limitations and agendas. And anyone who tells you they know, they just know what happens when you die, I promise you, you don't. How can I be so sure? Because I don't know, and you do not possess mental powers that I do not. The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is not the arrogant certitude that is the hallmark of religion, but doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting s**t dead wrong. This is why rational people, anti-religionists, must end their timidity and come out of the closet and assert themselves. And those who consider themselves only moderately religious really need to look in the mirror and realize that the solace and comfort that religion brings you comes at a terrible price. If you belonged to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, violence, and sheer ignorance as religion is, you'd resign in protest. To do otherwise is to be an enabler, a mafia wife, for the true devils of extremism that draw their legitimacy from the billions of their fellow travelers. If the world does come to an end here, or wherever, or if it limps into the future, decimated by the effects of religion-inspired nuclear terrorism, let's remember what the real problem was. We learned how to precipitate mass death before we got past the neurological disorder of wishing for it. That's it. Grow up or die.
[Video can be found by searching YouTube for "Religulous ending".]

Religion and understanding
David Niose's "Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America"
What's The Harm
William Saletan's "Rule of Lord"
The Tao of Reason's "The Problem with Magical Thinking"
Valerie Tarico's "6 Ways Religion Does More Bad Than Good"
Valerie Tarico's "Why religion unleashes humanity's most violent impulses"
Janet Allon and Kali Holloway's "9 senseless social panics that did lasting damage to America"
Why Beer Is Better Than Jesus
Barry Goldwater

I'm not 100% sure of any of this:

The key is "100% sure"; I am willing to admit doubt and the possibility of error, something most religious or conspiracy people will never admit. And new evidence would change everything; I will change my mind the moment clear, simple, repeatable, testable evidence is produced in any one of these areas.
Ebon Musings: The Theist's Guide to Converting Atheists
Greta Christina's "What Would Convince This Atheist To Believe?"

What do Atheists think ?

Basic Atheist thinking: "I have no belief in God".

Most Atheists probably think:

  1. There is no good evidence that any of the many different religions are true, or that any of their many different Gods exist.

    All of the "evidence" consists of dubious or vague or contradictory claims by people who have a vested interest in trying to prove their religion to be true, or old books written by people back in old times who had the same vested interests. Not a single clear, indisputable, repeatable piece of evidence has ever been submitted. Not a single God has ever manifested Himself and submitted to any kind of clear, indisputable, repeatable testing.

    It may be impossible for a human to sit down and write a "proof" that God exists. But it would be easy for God to provide simple, clear, material evidence. For example, a place or relic identified as "from God" that quickly, clearly, repeatably, simply cures everyone who goes to it. Or a place or relic identified as "from God" that clearly, repeatably violates basic rules of physics. Easy.
    Ebon Musings: The Theist's Guide to Converting Atheists
    Greta Christina's "What Would Convince This Atheist To Believe?"

  2. So far, the evidence is that a Big Bang, some equations, and some cosmological constants are sufficient to explain the existence and functioning of everything in the universe; everything can be derived from those three things.

    There is no evidence of what may have come "before" the Big Bang, or why those constants have their values, or how or why those three things were created or exist.

Of course lots of nuances and qualifiers could be added to this: not all atheists think the same things, scientific knowledge is incomplete and there are many things we don't know yet, there are many competing and speculative scientific theories about cosmology and many other things, etc.

Atheism is a conclusion, not a belief system or way of thinking. It is a decision to have no belief in God.

Wikipedia's "Atheism"

Science and atheism are related in this way:

A lot of people seem to think it's a binary choice, either atheism or Christianity must be true, it's one or the other, so they attack atheism. No, there is atheism and then there are hundreds or thousands of religions. Atheism or any one of the religions could be true, or they all could be wrong and something else could be right. Atheism happens to be the one that matches the facts so far.

Similarly, a lot of people seem to think it's a binary choice, either Science (usually specified as the Big Bang and Evolution) or Christianity must be true, it's one or the other, so they attack Science or BB and Evolution. No, there is science and then there are hundreds or thousands of religions. Science or any one of the religions could be true, or they all could be wrong and something else could be right. Science happens to be the one that matches the facts so far.

Similarly, either materialism or Christianity must be true, it's one or the other. Nope.

Atheists are not "Satanists". In fact, they're sort of the opposite of Satanists. Satan is part of the Christian beliefs, a supernatural being in the Bible.

Greta Christina's "Eleven Myths and Truths About Atheists"
The Brights
Greta Christina's "7 groups atheists can turn to in times of need"
Wikipedia's "Discrimination against atheists"

What do Anti-Theists think ?

Religion and faith are harmful.

Religion usually is based on false beliefs (God, supernatural, soul, afterlife, etc). People shouldn't believe false things.

Faith is a bad way to think. It is belief without evidence, and often belief despite contrary evidence. And it carries over to other arenas, such as politics (leading to anti-science, climate change denial, anti-vaxxing, etc).

Wikipedia's "Antitheism"
Wikipedia's "Antireligion"

What do Agnostics think ?

Two flavors of agnostic: Apparently, some people try to define agnosticism as "I am skeptical about any claims; you have to prove that", but that's just a statement of critical thinking, a position everyone should have about every issue. Plenty of atheists, and religious people too, would subscribe to that "skeptical" statement.

Wikipedia's "Agnosticism"


"Secular" and "atheist" are not the same thing at all.

Secularism: people should be free to practice any religion or no religion; government should be neutral on matters of religion.

Both religious people and atheists can be secularists.

Some ways to achieve secularism:
Jacques Berlinerblau says the Right tries to blur the distinction between "secular" and "atheist" because the Right opposes them both, and "atheist" is a much more toxic term.

USA today is not really a secular state. Religious people have written their beliefs into laws, textbooks, public buildings, the Pledge of Allegiance, onto the money. All serious major political candidates these days must end their speeches with "God bless America" or risk suspicion. Witnesses in court are expected to swear on a Bible or risk suspicion. Congress opens each session with prayers from their paid chaplains (annual budget for chaplains and staffs: over $800K). The White House has a chaplain (a military chaplain assigned there). The Pentagon has a Chaplain's Office; the military services each have a chaplain corps; the military academies have chapels and chaplains. Why aren't these functions done by churches, not part of the govt, and paid for by donations ?
Peter Lawrence Kane's "The Insane Hate Mail Collected by an Organization Fighting for Separation of Church and State in the Military"
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Dylan Matthews' "You give religions more than $82.5 billion a year"
David Niose's "Americans are leaving religion. Why are we still subsidizing it?"

Wikipedia's "Secularism"
Secular Coalition for America


From Steve Major's "What I Love About Religion":
"Atheism ... is the lack of belief in god(s). It speaks to what we are not, rather than what we are. Humanism builds on that foundation with a host of progressive ethical and moral beliefs, including a commitment to environmentalism, equality, and social responsibility."

What do Satanists think ?

Two completely different groups under this label:

Wikipedia's "Satanism"


From Skeptoid's "What Is Skepticism?":
"Skepticism is the process of applying reason and critical thinking to determine validity. It's the process of finding a supported conclusion, not the justification of a preconceived conclusion."

Wikipedia's "Skepticism"

From Daniel Loxton's "What Do I Do Next?":
Remember that "skepticism" is different from "atheism". Lots of active skeptics are religious.

Summarizing the terms:


Why do people believe in God or Gods ? Possibilities:

From Wikipedia's "Reductionism":
Religious reductionism generally attempts to explain religion by boiling it down to certain nonreligious causes. A few examples of reductionistic explanations for the presence of religion are: that religion can be reduced to humanity's conceptions of right and wrong, that religion is fundamentally a primitive attempt at controlling our environments, that religion is a way to explain the existence of a physical world, and that religion confers an enhanced survivability for members of a group and so is reinforced by natural selection.

Summarized from Josh Zepps interview of John C. Wathey:
For biological / survival reasons, a human baby is born with a hard-wired instinct to cling to its mother, an all-powerful nourishing protecting loving being. That instinct forms the basis of a desire to believe in God later.

Truths and lies

Scientists specializing in the mind have begun to unravel religion's "DNA"
Chris Mooney's "7 Reasons Why It's Easier for Humans to Believe in God Than Evolution"

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."
-- Albert Einstein

Ned Flanders: I don't understand. Is God punishing me ?
Reverend Lovejoy: Short answer, "yes", with an "if"; long answer, "no", with a "but".

Why do people join religions, or stay in them ?
It's hard to come up with something that would replace these things for religious people. For many of the religious, it's not enough to show that their beliefs are false. They need some way to keep the good parts, while discarding the false parts. It's hard to come up with something as compelling as "all-powerful parent in the sky, heaven after you die, hell if you don't do what we tell you".

How do such elaborate, widely-believed religions get created ?

How exactly do religions get created, if not by witnessing amazing miracles ?

Interesting how, as accuracy of reporting has improved, miracles have decreased:

Camera invented

Interesting that the shrine at Lourdes or other modern "miracle sites" have never miraculously healed an amputee, or brought someone back to life after cremation. Those would be clear, undisputable results. Most "miraculous cures" are debatable things that might have been fake illnesses, mistaken diagnoses, natural remissions, temporary improvements, etc.

The Bible:


I wrote this in a discussion:
So how can anyone use the Bible as the base of their beliefs ? I think the answer is: we were taught to, by our parents. If we didn't have all of that emotional investment in it, if it was just some book we'd picked up by ourself later, we'd reject it as unbelieveable, unreliable, not matching reality, self-contradictory. It's only because it was burned into our brain at an early age, by our parents and our entire community, that we stick with it.

It helps that the Bible is so big and often vague; we can find anything we want in some part of it, read what we want into it. And some people seem to have extended it by adding new-age concepts such as "the universe needs balance" to it. Some people seem to subtract out the pieces they don't like by saying "well, we don't have to obey those parts".

From captainhaddock on reddit:
[It's a misconception that Christianity is based on the Bible.]

Earliest Christianity as we understand it consisted of local churches that followed the teachings of various apostles and, later, bishops and theologians. The religion was incredibly diverse, and local church leaders began compiling their teachings and traditions into epistles, Gospels, Apocalypses, and hagiographies ("The Acts of So-and-So") for use in teaching, although the majority of the population was illiterate and books were too expensive for all but the richest to own. There were literally hundreds of these works, many of which still survive today.

Eventually, various church councils established acceptable doctrinal positions of orthodox Christianity, and lists of popular documents that were acceptable for use in church were promulgated by leaders like St. Athanasius. However, the importance of the texts was seen primarily in the fact that they preserved some of the teachings of the early apostles, and they were seen as a supplement to existing traditions and the apostolic authority of bishops.

At no point was Christianity ever "based on the Bible". On the contrary, the canon was written and compiled on the basis of church teachings and tradition. How the canon is regarded by regional branches of the church has also varied, from antiquity to the present. In the Eastern church, many canon lists were proposed, but none universally accepted, so that today's Orthodox churches have the largest canon lists, with many differences between them. In the Western church, the Vulgate established a de facto canon due to its status as the official Latin translation, but this list was not formalized until the Council of Trent in 1546.

The Protestant Reformation introduced the sola scriptura principle due to its break with the Catholic church and apostolic succession, but Luther also used his influence to throw out or demote much of the canon, again showing how the Bible's usefulness to the church depended on how much it could be used to teach currently acceptable doctrines.

Thus, it is a common misconception that some Christians (particularly those from recent denominations founded in the 19th and 20th centuries) as well as some nonbelievers think Christianity is founded on the Bible. Basing a religion on a book is a fairly recent and unusual phenomenon, with Islam and Mormonism being the most prominent examples.

From Skrp on reddit:
> Heard: Best way to increase your belief against
> God is to read the Bible ? Please explain.

The bible is so full of contradictions, morally reprehensible stuff touted as being morally good, historical inaccuracy, and supernatural claims that if taken literally go against everything we know about science.

And through all this, it never once puts forth a good reason to believe a word it says. It's completely circular. "This book is true because it's written by God, and we know it's written by God because it says so in this book, which if you remember from before, is infallible, because it's written by God."

I mean, you have to be a believer, in order to read that thing and not have a distinct feeling that this is a really antiquated piece of fan-fiction.

Haven't religions caused lots of good things to happen ?
From Greta Christina's "The Armor of God":
The thing that uniquely defines religion, the thing that sets it apart from every other ideology or hypothesis or social network, is the belief in unverifiable supernatural entities. Of course it has other elements -- community, charity, philosophy, inspiration for art, etc. But those things exist in the secular world, too. They're not specific to religion. The thing that uniquely defines religion is belief in supernatural entities. Without that belief, it's not religion.

Melanie Pinola's "Seven Important Lessons from World Religions Everyone Should Know"

Benefits of not believing in God and religion:

Religion versus morality:

It's entirely possible to be a good person and do good things, without being religious. And certainly it's possible to be a very bad person while being religious.

From interview of Marc Hauser in ??/2007 issue of Discover magazine:
I think that for many who come from a religious background, religion is synonymous with morality. Some people think that if you're an atheist, you simply have no morals. That is just wrong. There are an awful lot of people who are atheists who do very, very wonderful things. As an objective question, do people who have religious backgrounds show different patterns of moral judgements than people who are atheists ? So far, the answer is a resounding no.

From Greta Christina's comment after Greta Christina's "The Armor of God":
Countries with high rates of religious non-belief tend to be countries with very high rates of social functioning, low crime rates, strong senses of mutualism and social responsibility, etc. Countries with high rates of religious belief tend to be countries with high rates of crime, inequality, corruption, etc. Now, it's unlikely that atheism causes this social health -- it's more likely the other way around. But the idea that religion promotes ethical behavior is simply not born out by the evidence. (Source: "Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment" (on Amazon))

Bertrand Russell quote
Greta Christina's "Eleven Myths and Truths About Atheists"
Phil Zuckerman's "How secular family values stack up"
"The Reagan Doctrine" by Isaac Asimov

How could basic morals have developed, before religions got created ?
Perhaps morals developed from basic physical facts of life: So those roughly translate to:
Maybe all that is needed to develop morals is to have the capacity for empathy and reasoning ?

Jill Suttie's "Finding Morality in Animals"

Some people say "how sad, don't you believe in anything ?"
Yes, I "believe in" reality. It's beautiful, ugly, exciting, boring, simple, complicated, pleasant, painful. People are sexy, disgusting, friendly, infuriating, stimulating, predictable. Music, books, movies, internet, nature, exercise, work, play, emotion, choice. What an amazing world we live in ! Why would we have to believe fake stuff ? Oh, it's fine to let go and immerse yourself in a made-up book or movie or TV show for a while, but to really believe something false for your whole life ? Why ?

You get to invent your own life, decide what meaning and purpose your life has, how it proceeds. Be creative !

Prayer and belief
Prayers - no

Elements of a religion:

Some religions seem to be mostly ethics or morality, and very little theology. Maybe Buddhism, Confucianism, Jainism, some forms of Unitarianism fall into this category ?

But Buddhism includes supernatural things such as realms and planes of existence, ghosts, Buddhas of celestial origin that are projections of an eternal omnipresent being (in Mahayana), some vague "connection of all beings", etc. Although many people seem to pick-and-choose which pieces will be part of their Buddhism, define pieces or words as they wish, decide which pieces are to be taken literally and which are not, and there are lots of variants and sects. Many arguments end up at "well, my variant is the real Buddhism". And much of Buddhism seems to be useless word-play; it reminds me of Gertrude Stein's "there's no there there". Or Deepity.
Roberto A. Ferdman's "Why people think total nonsense is really deep"

From comment on Greta Christina's "The Top Ten Reasons I Don't Believe In God":
"... day to day Buddhism in Asia is effectively theistic; people pray to omnipotent beings to give them good luck, salvation, and so on, and build temples where a clergy does complex rituals involving these beings. Sophisticated 'atheist Buddhism' is a really, really Western thing for people who still have a religious impulse but find religion justifiably impossible to accept."

Foundations of various religions and systems:
System Old
Prophets God
came to
Buddhism Y   Y    
Taoism Y ? Y ? Y ?    
Confucianism Y   Y    
Little green men   Y (UFO's)   Y (UFO's)  
Judaism Y (Torah) Y Y Y  
Christianity Y (Bible) Y Y Y  
Islam Y (Koran) Y Y    
Greek/Roman gods Y Y Y Y  
Science         Y
Animism   Y Y Y  
Hinduism Y Y Y ? Y  

Parts of Christianity:

If you are just absolutely sure your religion is the one true religion, it's just completely obvious, think of this:
Suppose you had happened to be born into a different religion, and brought up with your parents and family and friends and community all believing and instructing you in that other religion all your life. Wouldn't you be just as absolutely sure today that that other religion was the true one ?

From reggiedixon:
"If there are 100 religions, then at least 99 of them are certainly false."

Brandy Zadrozny's "Judging by the GOP, God Can't Pick a Campaign Winner"

From Greta Christina's "The Top Ten Reasons I Don't Believe In God" and Greta Christina's "The Top Ten Reasons I Don't Believe In God, Part 2" :
  1. The consistent replacement [over time] of supernatural explanations of the world with natural ones.
  2. The inconsistency of world religions.
  3. The weakness of religious arguments, explanations, and apologetics.
  4. The increasing diminishment [over time] of God.
  5. The fact that religion runs in families.
  6. The physical causes of everything we think of as the soul.
  7. The complete failure of any sort of supernatural phenomenon to stand up to rigorous testing.
  8. The slipperiness of religious and spiritual beliefs.
  9. The failure of religion to improve or clarify over time.
  10. The complete and utter lack of solid evidence for God's existence.

An Atheist Debate Reference
Ricky Gervais: Why I’m an Atheist
Pat Condell's "God bless atheism" video
C. Coville's "7 'Ancient' Forms of Mysticism That Are Recent Inventions"

Many religious people say the end of the world is near, mainly because "things are worse now than they've ever been". But are things really worse now than they were when the Goths were overrunning the entire civilized (Roman) world, when the Mongols owned all of Asia, when the Black Plague had killed 1/3 of the population of Europe, or when the Nazis had conquered all of Europe and the Japanese much of the Pacific ? I think the world is better off now, in terms of medicine and science-provided comforts and democracy, than it's ever been. One exception is our ability to damage the world with nuclear or biological weapons. And of course the world still has plenty of war and poverty and disease; it's far from perfect.

And there is a long history, over a couple of thousand years, of various religious people saying the end of the world is imminent. They've all been wrong.

Terrific podcast episode: Sam Harris's "The End Of Faith, Session 1"

"When it comes to bullsh*t, big-time, major league bullsh*t, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, religion. No contest. No contest. Religion. Religion easily has the greatest bullsh*t story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time!

But He loves you.

AND god needs money! He's all-powerful, but he can't handle money!"

-- George Carlin

The Oatmeal's "How to suck at your religion"
At the Pearly Gates


The only question worth debating is "Does any god actually exist ?". I don't care about free will, sin, the soul, the afterlife, or any other issues "inside" religion. Let's talk about the main issue: "Do you have any good evidence that any god exists ?"

I find it very frustrating to debate religion with some religious people, because they debate dishonestly. They'll try to defend a position, lose that argument, and retreat into something vaguer or switch subjects without admitting that they've retreated at all.

For example, they'll quote lots of sayings that come out of the Bible. But when you cite examples of the Bible contradicting itself, they'll say the Bible doesn't really matter anyway, it's the faith and the beliefs. Then when you show them that their beliefs don't match reality, they'll say "well, what is reality or truth anyway ?". If you can get past that, they'll claim to be talking about "Mythos", without defining it as anything other than "stuff I want to believe and you can't talk me out of it". Often they'll claim that the words "know", "understand" and "believe" are interchangeable. Then they'll cycle back to quoting the Bible.

It would almost be comical, except that these people get an equal vote on what the government should do and the laws it passes and how it spends my tax dollars !

Another example: they retreat to vaguer and vaguer things. Start out as Christian and Bible-quoting, then retreat to "I have a faith instead of a religion" and a "personal Jesus" that can't be pinned down to anything specific. This represents a general retreat of religion in the face of science, a retreat down various "levels" of God:
  1. Intentional, interventionist God: runs everything in the universe, can be prayed to for help.
  2. Creator: God created the universe, then left it to run on its own.
  3. God is the universe or "connectedness": redefines the term "God" beyond common usage, making it mushy and irrelevant.
  4. I have a "personal God" who only I can talk to.
  5. God is just some vague thing I want to believe, outside of language or the real world.
[When philosophers and academics (Aquinas, Descartes, Mackey, etc) debate about whether God exists, they seem to be talking exclusively about the "Creator" type of God. It all revolves around how the universe started: was there an "uncaused cause", or a mind that created the universe, or an infinite series of causes, etc.]

Another tactic: quantity over quality. A simple question from me is answered with 5 pages of quotes from Scripture.

Of course, many times you can't even get a debate started:

A typical thing that happens to me:
  1. Religious Person: "God is great !"
  2. Me: "Most likely there is no God, see my web page for why I think that, I'd like to get your feedback."
  3. Religious Person: deletes my response, or un-Friends me, or blocks my email.
A very similar thing that happens to me quite a bit:
  1. Person: "Obama is an incompetent idiot, a Socialist trying to ruin America."
  2. Me: "Please give some specifics, instead of just labels and insults."
  3. Person: un-Friends me.
I've never un-Friended someone because they disagreed with me. It's a cowardly thing to do.

"How to convert an atheist: A simple step-by-step guide", from TheDerkus on reddit:
Hello! Are you a theist? Ever wonder why or how atheists don't see things your way? Want to change that? Then you've come to the right place!

Step 1: Define God.

It seems everyone and their mother has their own view of God. The plethora of different gods under the same name is confusing. Make sure you have established a coherent God. Only then can you proceed to discuss it.

Step 2: Evidence, not arguments

Philosophy is an interesting and fascinating subject, but it does not on its own tell us anything about the nature of the world around us. No matter what an argument's conclusion, it's meaningless if it can't be demonstrated.

Step 3: Put it to the test!

Alright, you've got a coherent God, and you wish to convince atheists of its existence. First, you must ask yourself a few questions. "If my God does exist, what would we expect as a result?" "How would it be different without my God?" "How can I falsify my God?"

That last one is very important! It's unfair to expect an atheist to be open if you will under no circumstances change your view. Prepare a reasonable set of criteria for falsifying your particular God.


Define God; Use evidence, not arguments; Put your God to the test.

Some religious people say "Why do you care what I believe ? Live and let live !"

I care because what they believe and vote for affects me. See the "these delusions are not just 'fun' and harmless" section of this page. And religious people are busy trying to force their beliefs on my country, writing "under God" into the government wherever they can, putting the Ten Commandments into government buildings wherever they can, saying that the USA was founded as a Christian nation (it wasn't). They're electing religious people who spend my money in religiously-motivated ways (Israel, wars to force democracy on the Mideast, etc) and write laws to force their religiously-grounded beliefs on others (laws against gays, against contraception and abortion, against teaching evolution, against using stem-cells, etc). They're writing their beliefs into textbooks used to educate everyone's children. They're bringing their religious views into how they do their govt job (Kim Davis), their job in a pharmacy, etc.

From Alyeska2112 quoted in reddit's "Atheism FAQ":
From an angry outsider's perspective, we [atheists] are just a bunch of know-it-all jerks who want to stick our noses in other peoples' business and piss on their beliefs. We're the ultimate trolls, raining on everyone else's parade for no reason other than we're huge meanies.

But what these folks are missing is that we're not merely pointing out their convictions out of spite. And we're certainly not upset just because we disagree with their point of view. The problem is that religion - and in the Western world (the U.S. especially), that would be squarely on the shoulders of Christianity - has been so much more than simply another way of looking at the world. It has been a tool of ignorance, hate, rape, slavery, murder and genocide. And in current times, it bombards us (again, especially in the U.S.) with an unceasing shower of judgement, scorn and bullying. Religion creeps into our schools, our science classes even. It makes itself home in our politics, our social views, our very laws. Those who adhere to religion FORCE their beliefs on the rest of us, from the Pledge of Allegiance, to testifying in court, to our currency, to the Cub Scouts. Religion has wormed its tentacles into every facet of our daily lives, often to cruel degrees.

Thanks to religion, our social norms dictate what entertainment we can and can't consume. Thanks to religion, our political leaders feel obligated to thank GOD as our savior. Thanks to religion, my son can't openly admit at Cub Scouts that he thinks the idea of worshipping a god ("Poseidon", to use his example) is just silly. Thanks to religion, countless people die every day in third world conflicts, and in developed countries, folks still have to worry about coming out, or dating outside their race, or questioning moral authorities. Most U.S. states still ban gay marriage, and most fail to specifically make gay adoption legal. Hell, we only let gays serve in the military openly this year. Thanks to religion.

So when someone rolls their eyes and tells you to get over it, remind them how full of nonsense they are. Our waking lives are policed, lawyered, governed and judged nonstop by the effects of two thousand heavyhanded years of Christianity, and those who don't think that still holds true in our modern day haven't got a clue. You can't even buy a beer on certain days in certain places thanks to religion. It infests us and our society like a cancer. But because most people like this particular cancer, they don't see the problem. And when we get pissy about it all, they call us jerks and whine about their beliefs.

I hate living in a zealous world, and I hate having to constantly play by their nonsensical, fairytale rules. If I need to vent once in a while about yet another right-wing religious leader banging some guy in a motel room, or yet another church cover-up of child rape, or yet another religious special interest interfering with my political system while simultaneously receiving tax-exempt status, it's not because I'm being mean where their "beliefs" are concerned. It's because I choose to use my brain, and when I open my eyes, the world I see pisses me off. If they could form a critical, independent thought, they'd feel the same way.

From "To atheists: Why do you spend energy and attention on religion?" on reddit 2/2014:
From Skololo:
When an acquaintance believes obvious bullsh*t, it's silly.

When a friend or a family member believes obvious bullsh*t, it's distressing.

When a politician believes obvious bullsh*t, it's a farce.

When 47% of a nation that controls enough nuclear weapons to detonate the solar system believes that the earth is 6000 years old, it's a f**king crisis.

Anti-rational thinking causes, and has the potential to cause, enormous problems for the human race, and for individual human beings. Religion is both a symptom and a cause of this phenomenon. I'd prefer if people believed true things, or at least were more hesitant to believe false ones.

From DrewNumberTwo:
Religious people spend energy and attention to create laws and situations that influence my life in negative ways.

From thingandstuff:
And to be specific, they don't just use their energy, they waste the resources of society at large.

How many resources of our legislature have been wasted on irrational attempts to outright ban all forms of abortion?

From heidavey:
Because I believe religion is detrimental to society.

Because Christianity is my state religion.

Because I believe in the value of evidence.

Because I believe that belief in an afterlife of some sort leads us to not care enough about this life.

Because I believe that belief in a caretaker deity leads us to not care about the planet.

Because the religious claim moral authority over me.

Because of the anti-intellectualism.

Basically because the religious cannot, do not, and have no inclination of letting their religion influence only them.

From stringerbell:
The only thing that has ever improved the lives of humans is education.

Religion is the antithesis of education. And, today, the vast majority of the world's children spend a large portion of their time being forced to learn (divisive) bullsh*t masquerading as truth. It's disgusting, and has set the world back centuries. And, not only is religion responsible for holding back education, but it's directly responsible for absolutely massive amounts of human and animal misery.

Atheists as bad as fundamentalists
Why do you care ?

Sometimes I get hate: Accept The Love Of Christ

The general shape of the debate I seem to have again and again:
  1. Religious Person: "God is great !".
  2. Me: "Most likely there is no God."
  3. RP: "YES, THERE IS !!!!!!! BIBLE SAYS SO !!!!!!".
  4. Me: "Bible is wrong."
  5. RP: "Every word of the Bible is literally true".
  6. Me: "Old Testament was written centuries or millenia after the events; New Testament was written decades or centuries after the events. Bible has been translated through several languages; the words have changed, often drastically, sometimes for political reasons. Books were thrown out by that council of bishops in 400 AD. Bible says kill your bride if she's not a virgin."
  7. RP: "Well, every word isn't literally true, but Bible has been proven correct scientifically, historically, etc".
  8. Me: "Bible has some true facts sprinkled through it, but that doesn't prove the whole thing to be true. And it contains lots of errors and contradictions."
  9. RP: "Well, the Bible is allegory or parable or 'mythos', so you can't dissect it".
  10. Me: "So it's not true, then ?"
  11. RP: "I'm right, you're wrong, I don't want to talk to you any more."

Burden of proof:
[From someone on reddit:]
A common gambit: "Prove that God doesn't exist !". Well, first you prove that Zeus and Apollo don't exist, and then I'll use the same method [to prove that Jesus doesn't exist].

A common gambit: "Prove that God doesn't exist !". Suppose I said I'd invented a car that went a million miles an hour, but wouldn't show it to you; would the burden be on you to prove that I didn't invent it ?

From Myron's comment on Greta Christina's "Eleven Myths and Truths About Atheists":
"It is impossible to disprove the existence of something. I'll make up an animal: the "flurb". There is no such animal. It does not exist. Now ... PROVE to me it does not exist. You can't. You can't because proving something does not exist is impossible."

Most convincing fact that suggests there is no god: After 2000 years (or more) of EXTREMELY motivated searching, believers have not found ANY good evidence that any god exists. They don't have any.

Religious logic

Another tactic: "You should respect my beliefs !" Who said all beliefs are worth of respect ? Various extremists believe all Americans should be killed; do you "respect" that belief ?
Pat Condell on respecting faith (video)
Rev. Emily C. Heath's "How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions"
Respect beliefs based on books
Insensitivity toward beliefs
Bertrand Russell
Force beliefs
Aggressive atheists
Greta Christina's "Atheists and Anger"

A similar statement:

Jon Stewart: war on Christianity

A common basis for debate by religious people:
  1. Belief in God is a matter of pure faith.

    In fact, it's noble to believe something without requiring evidence !

  2. and:

  3. We have evidence: the Bible.

    Bible is literally true, is the Word of God, proves existence of God.

First, these two positions conflict somewhat.

Second, religious people often debate by ping-ponging between the two positions. When you make a convincing statement to defeat one position, they avoid answering and switch to the other argument. When you push on that one, they avoid again and switch back to the other position, without ever acknowledging that you already discussed that one.

Addressing these two arguments:
  1. Faith:

    If you're going to believe in things without evidence, why don't you believe in a thousand other things that you also could believe without evidence ? Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, animism, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, leprechauns, little green men running the universe, 2 + 2 = 5. How do you choose what is true, without evidence ?

    Maybe you believe Christianity because you happen to have been raised as a Christian, or always associate with Christians. If you had been born into a Hindu family and community, today you would feel just as firmly that Hinduism was the one true religion. You wouldn't be able to imagine why anyone would think differently.

    There's nothing noble about faith. It's just a form of intellectual laziness: it's easier to be told what to think, than to think for yourself, to evaluate the evidence and investigate many different possibilities.

  2. The Bible.

    The Bible contradicts itself, in simple ways such as the Gospels disagreeing about the order of events in Jesus' life (Paul Carlson's "New Testament Contradictions (1995)"), or Genesis contradicting itself (Skeptic's Annotated Bible: The two contradictory creation accounts). So at least some parts of it have to be wrong; it isn't all true. If some of it is false, how do you know which parts are true and which are false ?
    Jim Meritt's "A List of Biblical Contradictions"
    1001 Contradictions & Discrepancies in the Christian Bibles
    Skeptic's Annotated Bible: Contradictions in the Bible

    The Bible (and Christianity) is a narrative that was politically and culturally popular and necessary. "Whitey (the Egyptians, then the Romans) is oppressing us good guys (the Jews). But we're chosen by God, so keep the faith, brothers, and we shall overcome !" This narrative was developed in oral traditions, with bits pasted in from previous stories, applied to Jesus as well as others before him, then written down by many unknown authors and massaged over several centuries, with parts being censored or voted in or out in a political process.

    [Some people doubt that Jesus ever existed (pic). I'd guess Jesus did exist, but was just one in a long line of preachers.]

    Nothing in the Bible is testable, repeatable evidence that God exists. It's a pastiche of actual historical events, miracles and visions that could have had natural causes, testimony by people who believed and had very obvious motives, and vague statements that can be interpreted any way you like. And it was written (long after the events) by people who believed and had very obvious motives. They stood to gain from having a Bible and a religion that told people to believe and obey them. The Bible is propaganda. Bible is the claim

    Some believers disavow the Old Testament, because there is so much indefensible craziness in it. But by doing so, they're relinquishing the story of God creating the universe (Genesis), Noah's Ark, the Ten Commandments, Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt to the Promised Land (Exodus), etc.

    There are lots of old books. And anyone can write a book.
    from Buddha

You Can't Argue With Christians
Robert Durdle's "40 Questions To Ask A Christian"
Victor Stenger's "How to Debate a Christian Apologist"
Things Christians Do
Bible Facts label

Common "put-down"s religious people use against atheists:
Atheists as bad as fundamentalists
Atheists are hated
Atheists are know-it-alls
Greta Christina's "Eleven Myths and Truths About Atheists"

Other common things religious people say:

Interesting interviews about being atheist in the Arab world: Interview with an Arab atheist, Interview with an Arab atheist, Part II.

Why it's hard for religious people to "convert" to reality:

From Church of Reality's "Evangelizing Reality":
[Religious people believe in] a narrative taught to them from early childhood that they have come to rely upon and accept as their world view.

Belief in fictional deities is one of the root axioms that they have built their awareness around and for which a lot of their personal world view relies upon. If they were, for example, to realize that God is fiction then it would change their entire world. Many of their friends will reject them. They might not have a place in their church community anymore. They would have to endure the stigma that other religions have put on Atheism as something that is evil, or a disease, a form of mental illness, something that must be cured. This is a very big step for most people who rely upon the comfort of their place in society and are not willing to put their social position at risk.


What we are up against in fiction-based religions is that using the name of God they can promise you anything. They have everlasting bliss in Heaven, 70 virgins, omnipotent intervention, an inflated sense of self worth, a loving community, ego treats, a sense of some grand purpose, and of course, burning in Hell forever for those who fail to believe. One thing that religions understand is that they start brainwashing their children early because they understand that the earlier they establish mental patterns the harder it is to change them.

... All you have to do is believe and an omnipotent protector is going to intervene on your behalf and take care of you forever. What a deal! People want the quick fix. Reality often isn't a pretty picture. ...

There are high costs for leaving your religion: you may alienate your family, friends and community, and lose their support. Your business or career may suffer. If much of your social life is based around your church, you may lose that. You may even destroy your marriage: godlessindixie's "Advice for the Unequally Yoked".
godlessindixie's "The High Cost of Leaving Your Faith"

But then there's this: godlessindixie's "What Has Atheism Done For Me?".

From John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky's "The Debunking Handbook" (PDF):
Effective debunking requires:

Some people, in the middle of an argument, say "well, what is reality anyway ?" My response:
Usually people bring up "well, what is reality anyway ?" just as a tactic to stop a debate. I understand it's a serious question in serious philosophy, but in common-sense debate among real people, I don't see the use of it. We talk about real things, real religions and real churches and real acts and real guns and real people and real laws and real policies, and then sometimes when someone is losing the argument, they fall back to "well, what is a fact anyway ?" or something.

If you doubt that reality exists, then you should never base anything you say or believe on the Bible, because how can you be sure the Bible exists ? How can there be an afterlife, because how do you know this life exists ? Maybe you shouldn't vote, or use a computer, because how do you know reality exists ?

So I think it's wrong to shift gears and bring up that deep philosophical concept as if it was a useful point in a discussion.

Same thing when, halfway through a debate, someone says "well, define 'god' !". That's just an attempt to distract. In common discussion, 99% of people accept that "god" means "an intentional, supernatural being", maybe adding "that has absolute control of the universe". No need to debate the details.

Attempts to argue from subtle philosophical principles amount to "we want something to be true, so we're going to make guesses and twist words until we can claim it's true".

I distrust all "big" philosophical arguments. Simple reasoning and logic that is tightly bound to facts and evidence is fine. But if you have to construct a large and complicated edifice of arguments that makes a huge leap from simple facts to the most extraordinary and huge claim there could possibly be, you're doing something wrong.

Nevertheless, some common philosophical arguments and my take on them:

"Is there any good evidence that any god actually exists ?"

Attempts to argue away the lack of evidence amount to "God is hiding from us" or "God is tricking us".

Attempts to argue from subtle philosophical principles amount to "we want something to be true, so we're going to make guesses and twist words until we can claim it's true".

Some of my non-religious friends say "Why do you bother debating those religious nuts ? They'll never listen to reason":
godlessindixie's "Why I Keep Talking to People Who Won't Listen"

See the "these delusions are not just 'fun' and harmless" and "why do you care ?" sections of this page.

US Constitution, and USA as a "Christian nation":

Many of the Founders were Deists, not Christians.
From reddit's "Atheism FAQ":
"Deists believe that a higher power created the universe long ago but is not or no longer actively present in the world and does not intervene in its affairs. ... Most deists do not engage in the usual religious practices of praying, worshiping, rituals, restrictions in diet and/or lifestyle or regarding a central holy doctrine."

The words "God", "Jesus", "Christ" and "Christian" don't appear anywhere in the Constitution (or in the Bill of Rights, or in the first constitution: the Articles of Confederation). An odd omission, if they were trying to establish a Christian nation.
Things That Are Not In the U.S. Constitution
beliefnet's "Articles of Confederation"

The Declaration of Independence does contain the word "God", in the phrase "Nature's God", and some similar words such as "Creator". But not "Jesus", "Christ" or "Christian". And the Declaration is not a legal document of the USA; it was written before the USA was formed.'s "Declaration of Independence & Christianity Myth"

If the Founders intended to establish a "Christian nation", wouldn't they have put that explicitly in the title, or right in the beginning, or somewhere, in one or more of those documents ? They didn't.

The Constitution doesn't actually say "separation of church and state"; 1st Amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."
Ten Commandments in public buildings

Image about the Constitution

The Treaty of Tripoli includes "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion ...". As a legal document, it's negligible today. But it has significance because it was signed by President John Adams and ratified unanimously by the Senate, in 1797 when it was not such a negligible document. If this is a "Christian nation", why did that get through ? It was an attempt to assure the Muslims in Tripoli that religion would not prevent us from respecting the treaty, but the language is a little more sweeping than that. And in fact a few people at the time objected to that language. But the treaty was ratified and signed.

From televised interview on May 30, 1997:
David Frost: Say, is this still a Christian Country ?

Billy Graham: No! We're not a Christian Country. We've never been a Christian Country. We're a secular Country, by our constitution. In which Christians live and which many Christians have a voice. But we're not a Christian Country.

From Benjamin L. Corey's "Important Lessons We Can All Learn From Franklin Graham":
... it's easy to like Jesus without liking the things he actually said. Whether openly advocating violence against enemies instead of Christ's command to love them, or indifference toward the suffering of our neighbors when Christ commanded we love and welcome them in, it seems clear that while Franklin loves Jesus, he's not in love with his ideas.


... In the US, much of Christianity is actually a nationalistic religion and not the original thing at all. If you look carefully at Franklin's Facebook posts, you'll see the religion being articulated by him is not a Jesus-centered Christianity that is set apart or different, but a religion that is nation-centered and hopelessly entangled with nationalism.


Jesus taught his disciples that it is impossible to serve two masters - it just can't be done. ... when trying to be loyal to Jesus and loyal to America, America will usually win. When America wins ..., it will invite us abandon the teaching and example of Jesus in order to protect and preserve the nation, instead of to build and expand the Kingdom.


If there's one important thing we can learn from the spiral of Franklin Graham it's that more than ever, we need to be evangelizing American Christians. Out of all the people groups in the world this is the group that perhaps most desperately needs to hear the message of Jesus and to be invited to repent and join the Kingdom. ... there is no shortage of those who have been lured into the false religion of Americanized Christianity. ...
Benjamin L. Corey's "10 Ways To Determine If Your Christianity Has Been 'Americanized'"

Reagan on religion
Founding fathers on Christianity
Founding fathers on Separation
Andy Borowitz's "In Landmark Decision, Supreme Court Strikes Down Main Reason Country Was Started"

"Religions are all alike - founded upon fables and mythologies."
- Thomas Jefferson

Pledge of Allegiance
Pledge developed
Dr. John W. Baer's "The Pledge of Allegiance: A Short History"
The Pledge was written in 1892; "under God" was added in 1954.

America should get back to biblical Christian principles

The Thinking Atheist's "God and the Constitution" (podcast)

Really funny, good, and profane, podcast: The Scathing Atheist

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