Teaching Atheists to Persuade

For many years, indeed, for all my adult life (up until a very short time ago), I was an atheist, and I upheld the conclusion that the best model of the universe rested solely on cold, clear reasoning; and that cold, clear reasoning excluded faith in God, or, indeed, in any supernatural beings, from angels to zombies.

One of the several things that eroded my faith in faithlessness was the bizarre spectacle of hearing my fellow atheists produce the weakest possible arguments, including arguments based on naked lies about known facts, or including obvious logical fallacies.

Although an atheist myself, it seemed odd to me that the champions of cold, clear reasoning did not use cold, clear reasoning to defend our viewpoint.

Anyone who cares to look can see that matters have simply degenerated since that time. The modern seculars have long since ceased to attempt any rational debate or thought on the topic, or, indeed, any debate at all. The majority of their efforts now are spent on silencing alternate viewpoints and punishing those who speak it.

Now, it is obvious that, in a war, one does not shoot blanks if one has real bullets to shoot.

The sound and fury of illogical arguments, appeals to emotion, mockery, accusations, personal attacks, virtue signalling, shouting, hysteria, and episodes of epileptic wrath rolling on the ground in pools of one’s own spew while wrending hair and garments, all merely betray a shallow dearth of rational arguments able to support one’s position.

Now, I believe that atheists, if they were sober and serious, could and would give argument based on cold, clear reason. Mistaken or not, this is the posture of a grown man, possessed of the ordinary manly virtues of honesty and candidness.

Even a man who argues a weak position, if he argues it rationally and clearly, honors his position. A knight bold enough to cross lances with Lancelot, even if he be thrown to the ground, has behaved in a knightly fashion. A recreant who flees, and later tells his trollop that he won a fight he fled, is craven.

Is the atheist position weak? As a public service, I would like here to put forth some of their strongest arguments.


First is the Argument from Evil. If God is defined as an omnipotent, omniscience, benevolent creator, then I propose evil cannot exist in any universe he creates.

For evil cannot be created by any benevolent entity except through a lack of power to avoid the evil, in which case the creator is not omnipotent; or through a lack of foresight to foresee and forestall the evil, in which case not omniscient. If the creator is not omnipotent and omniscient, he is not god, and if not benevolent, he is not any god to whom a man should bow the knee.

Likewise, if evil pre-exists the creator or arose independently of him from another cause, he is not the creator, merely one citizen of the universe older and more potent than others, created by something older than himself.

However, it is evident that evil does exist in the universe. Pantheistic explanations that evil in the universe exists only in the eye of the beholder, or Buddhist explanations that evil (and perhaps the whole universe itself) is an illusion caused by attachment to desire, cannot be true if the creator is benevolent. If evil is a subjective report of personal preferences, or is an illusion, the world “benevolent” has no meaning, and if the word has no meaning, neither God, nor any other being, can be described as benevolent.

Please note that the word “creator” in his argument refers to the entity that brought the universe into being the way an author writes a book. This argument does not change one iota if that the universe has an infinite past or does not have an infinite past. It does not change based on whether the Big Bang took place as currently believed, or whether some sort of Steady State theory is correct.  I can set a book, particularly a time travel book, set in a fictional universe with no beginning and no end. Likewise the creator can create a universe with no beginning and no end, if it pleases him to do so.


The second strong argument against theism is the argument that, since nothing supernatural is needed in order to explain life and the universe, no rational investigation of life and the universe should produce (or, if men were logical would produce) any such explanation.

This argument cannot be summed into a syllogism, for it depends on a summation of many particular bits of evidence, and the resulting judgment about which model best explains them under the fewest possible assumptions.

The evidence offered falls into two camps: general explanations of natural laws or historical events, or particular historical claims of miracles and marvels, visions and prophets.

The argument of the first type of natural argument is that natural laws and historical events are better explained by a natural as opposed to a supernatural explanation. The second type is that reports of miracles, marvels, visions, and prophecies are better explained by natural than supernatural explanation.


As to natural laws, we humans are limited to empirical methods when investigating empirical questions. Whether God exists or not is not an empirical question, because God is not a material entity open to the five sense to observe.

Were God a physical hence observable entity, all question of his existence would be solved merely by going to the physical location he occupies, and observing him. But the Creator of the universe cannot be merely an object in the universe, any more than an author can be a merely a character in his own book, even in an autobiography.

By definition, empirical investigations can never affirm nor deny the role of the supernatural in natural events, and, indeed, can never affirm nor deny even the existence of the supernatural. If one believes the supernatural is real, this is not because of observations of observable entities.


As for particular historical claims of miracles, visions, or marvels, each would have to be discussed in more detail than the brief summary of arguments this column can allow.

All that can be said here is that the arguments fall into two general categories: Arguments about the credibility of reports of supernatural events, such as miracles and visions, and second, arguments about the natural growth and development of religion as seen in different cultures.


As for the first, if the reports from other religions, other cultures, and other men of their miracles and visions do not agree with the report at hand, and both sources are equally credible, a common explanation that explains both reports is more rational than an arbitrary dismissal of one report or arbitrary affirmation of the other.

So if you hear a ghost story from a Christian, or report of a near-death experience, or an apparition of the Virgin Mary, but equally credible reports are heard from the Far East of reincarnation, or visions of the Buddha, or anything else that is supernatural but incompatible with the Christian worldview, then both cannot be true. Either one report is false or both are.

More to the point, if there are multiple reports of miracles and visions, and each different culture and each different generation develops a different religion and different denomination, anyone affirming one report as true must give a reason why he holds not one but each and every other incompatible report to be false.

He is, in fact, a skeptic about every denomination and religion but his own, and only if his own religion and denomination can withstand the same level of skeptical inquiry that he directs against others is he being consistent with himself, that is, rational.

Now, Occam’s razor is a basic principle under which one decides between alternative models or explanations of the same set of facts. While it may be that all mutually incompatible reports of miracles and visions but one are false, this requires more assumptions than to assume that all are merely natural and human products of innocent error, or deliberate deception, or dreams or madness.

Because we all know error and madness exist, and indeed the faithful follower of one religion dismisses the reports of miracles and visions of all other religions on such a basis. Whereas we do not all know that this denomination or that has speculated about the supernatural correctly, and given us an accurate report about a realm no mortal eye has ever seen or ever could.

On this grounds, it is more rational to assume that the various reports of miracles and visions have natural causes than supernatural. Other things once thought to have supernatural causes, under the inspection of modern science, have been discovered to have natural causes.


If the one, true, omnipotent God were serious about delivering his message and his rules, dietary and moral, to all mankind, he would have done so.We see instead nothing but disagreement. Europe, the Near East, India, the Far East, and Africa all have different religions. Even different nations in Europe have different denominations.

We have different languages, and modes of dress, courtesy and architecture, but these things are all manmade.  The scientific and mathematical truths, as well as basic moral truths, on the other hand, are not manmade and not different between different cultures. This would strongly suggest that the differences between religion are cultural, and hence of differences of a manmade thing, not a universal truth.

Again, this column is merely a list of argument types, and cannot utter and answer every example of the differences and similarities between religions and denominations and discuss each. This column only means to show the serious atheist how to frame his argument to make a credible and honest attempt.

In this case, the atheist argument proposes to show that it is more reasonable to see the similarities and differences between the various religions and denominations as produced by natural causes: that if a later religion, like Christianity, has elements similar to an earlier religion, such as Zoroastrianism or various pagan cults, it is more reasonable to assume the later men borrowed the idea, story, or practice from the earlier, than to assume some supernatural cause inspired the earlier religion with a mysterious foreknowledge of the later. This assumption is more reasonable because such mysterious foreknowledge is never raised as an explanation in any other case or for any other purpose. No one argues, for example, that the theory of Lucretius the Stoic that all matter was made of atoms was due to supernatural foreknowledge of the theory of Bohr.


Another atheist argument rarely heard these days is the logical attack on the idea of God. There are several arguments under this heading.


God is alleged to have perfect foreknowledge of the action of men. But it is also alleged that God grants men the free will and choice to obey Him or no. Without this free will, no moral injunction of Christianity makes sense, nor any punishments nor rewards, in this life or after. One does not punish a broken clockwork, one repairs it.

However, perfect foreknowledge of human action is not possible in a universe that allows for free will. Free will means a man determines his own actions, and selects among two or more options, each of which is a real possibility. But if it is possible for perfect foreknowledge to know, not guess, his acts before a man determines them, then the other options are not real possibilities.


Likewise, and for a similar reason, if God is omnipotent and omniscient then He neither has free will nor any possibility of action. Free will acts in order to satisfy some felt or anticipated discontent or discomfort. No action is desirable, possible, nor imaginable if all conditions are perfect and all desires are perfectly satisfied. An omnipotent and omniscient being cannot lack either the power or the foresight to satisfy all his discontents immediately, and without any recourse to intermediate actions, selecting means, or paying costs. This means all His desires are infinitely and endlessly sated. He can want for nothing. Therefore He cannot act.


God, being omnipotent and omniscient is an infinite being, limited by nothing. But to be limited by nothing means to lack any definition. What Infinite Wisdom sees as good might precisely fit our definition of total evil: we cannot say for certain what God’s nature is because no finite being can begin to comprehend an infinite being. We cannot love, worship nor obey this infinite, unbounded, incomprehensible enigma. This is not like loving a mysterious woman, nor like a dog being loyal to a master, because these are examples of one finite being loving another, even if unequal. But the infinite it not just known in part and unknown in part, as a woman is. For the infinite, no matter how much you know, the amount left unknown, undiscovered and undiscoverable ergo never to be comprehended, is endless.

There are other atheist arguments which do not rest on character assassination, yelling, scoffing, bad manners or bad logic or outright lies for their persuasive force, but they only serve to buttress these deeper and heavier arguments given above.

Atheists would be well advised to study the field, and to anticipate possible rebuttals and counterarguments if they wish to halt the ongoing, grinding humiliation brought on by recent decades of glaring public humiliation. Knowing your own arguments would make for a good start.