Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Atheists are Evil

I wrote the first draft of this article the day before the news that D’Souza was having an affair broke.  It’s a pity, because D’Souza says so many stupid things and he was shaping up as good material.  As a leading apologist though, his days may now be numbered.  Now back to your regular service …


There are two fundamental reasons why atheists are evil.  First, because of what they think.  Second, because of what they are.

This might sound like a controversial claim, but it’s not an uncommon claim, although the vast majority of people making the claim don’t state it quite so baldly.


Let’s look at the intellectual evil of atheists first, and then we can look at their ontological evil.

For the committed theist, the existence of god is self-evident.  You can see evidence of this in some of their statements and their questions.  There’s an example in the Q&A portion of a debate between Dinesh D’Souza and Peter Singer:

It seems like that when all of the evidence points logically to the conclusion of a God that you tend to come up with a different hypothesis.  So what’s confusing to me, as watching you being the atheist viewpoint, is it seems like, rather than look at the evidence and just see where it leads, you start with the position that God doesn’t exist and see if the evidence can get you there, and when it doesn’t you come up with a different hypothesis and my question is simply is that true what I feel like, you know, or am I wrong?

Peter Singer quite happily told the questioner that he was wrong and that he (Peter Singer) didn’t see any of that “evidence” that apparently points logically to a god but rather a wealth of evidence against the Christian conception of god, focussing particularly on suffering.

Then Dinesh D’Souza had the opportunity for a brief response (I’ve taken his stuttering out):

Look, ultimately here … let’s take one more look at this issue of suffering because in a sense it’s demounted as Job did as a complaint against God and the argument would go something like this: “God, why don’t I have both my hands?”

Now the question you have to ask is, if it is the case that there is a God and if it is the case that He created us, all living creatures have been given something to which they are not entitled in any way, namely life itself.

Even the person who has little, or is suffering, is often clinging to life, which is to say life is valuable to us.  We’re still in the plus column because we want to keep living, and so what I am getting at is do we really have a legitimate complaint against God by saying, in a sense, “I’ve only got one hand, that guy has two. Why did you make me a one-hander?  Why did you give me cancer so I only have 47 years of life when I could have had 70?”

It seems to me that these complaints ring hollow when you consider that our entire life and everything we have is in fact a gift from God so, on the premise that God exists, which was his (Singer’s) premise, it looks to me that He has not done anything to any of us that has put us in the negative column.  We’re still in a sense on the positive side of the ledger because we still have something to which we have no claim and have no right against Him, namely the gift of life itself.

Note carefully what D’Souza is implying here.  Singer has argued throughout the debate that the Christian conception of god is inconsistent with the evidence and presents as his primary case the argument that suffering of non-human animals due to non-human causes is inconsistent with a benevolent god.  He follows a chain something like this:

If your god is omni-omni (my term, not Singer’s meaning omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent), why is there suffering?

-       Response, free will is so brilliant that all the suffering in this world is worth the cost, it’s just not possible to implement free will without suffering as a side-effect and, in any case, the longer term goal of salvation makes the suffering inconsequential.

Ok assuming that your arguments are valid; why, if your god is omni-omni, do animals suffer when they don’t have salvation as a pay-off?

-       Singer’s conclusion is that, if he exists, then god is either incompetent or evil, which is not part of the Christian conception of god, therefore god as the Christians conceive him does not exist (another option is that god simply doesn’t care, but that brings god into line with Darwinian evolution – the Christian god apparently does care)

Singer is arguing that the inconsistency in the Christian conception on god is evidence that that particular god does not exist.  Singer is not having a hissy-fit, pouting his little lips and declaring that he’s angry at god because there’s some suffering in the world.  D’Souza however seems to think that if (in Singer’s estimation) God were a bit better at preventing suffering, then Singer would begrudgingly acknowledge Him but until then, Singer’s going to be an atheist just to spite God.

Some theists seem to be unable to get their heads around the idea that atheists simply don’t believe in a god.

My theory is that this is related to the phenomenon by which some theists are locked into their faith, that is by means of a form of wishful thinking – they simply would not wish to live in a universe in which there is no god looking after them.  There’s a beautiful Swedish song, Du Måste Finnas, or “You Must Exist” in which the singer pretty much begs god to exist (this is my translation, not that on the video):

You drove me out, God,
I was ripped from my homeland,
I am refugee and a stranger here
And I find myself in the wilderness*

But you took my child
And now you take me from my husband
I can no longer see a meaning to it all
What is it that you want?
What should I believe …?

My thoughts are dizzying
Before me there is an abyss
I am in turmoil and want to say “no”
[But] the question has been raised.
And now my soul shakes in anticipation of the answer
That you don’t exist
Even though I believed in you.

Who will help me survive this life?
Who will give me the strength that I need?
Who will comfort me, so insignificant in this world?
If you don’t exist,
Yes, then what should I do?

No, you must exist,
You must,
I live my life through you. 
Without you I am no more than a ripple in a stormy sea. 
You must exist,
You must. 

How can you forsake me? 
I would be nothing,
I would be nothing if you didn’t exist.

Never before have I had it in word or thought,
The little word that scares and plagues me so,
The word is “if”, if I prayed all my prayers in vain
If you don’t exist,
Then what should I do?

Who would sense my repentence and later forgive?
Peace in my soul, yes, who would grant me that?
Who would receive me after death?
If you didn’t exist
Then what should I do?

No, you must exist,
You must,
I live my life through you. 
Without you I am no more than a ripple in a stormy sea. 
You must exist,
You must. 

How can you forsake me? 
I would be nothing,
I would be nothing if you didn’t exist.

* Note: there’s a play on words here, “ödet” which I’ve translated into “the wilderness” while strictly meaning “desolation” also means “fate”, “the wilderness” works on both a literal and a figurative level, since she’s in pioneer era Minnesota, a long way from home, and she’s also metaphysically adrift as the following verses indicate

Note that the character is rather conflicted.  In part, she is angry at the god she believed in (for forcing her from Sweden, killing her child, putting her in the wilderness and so on).  But she expresses something which I think a lot of recovering theists probably feel at some time or another – a notion that a universe without god, even a god that one is angry with, is undesirable.  Julia Sweeny vividly describes a form of vertigo experienced while she was losing her religion in “Letting Go of God” (or the TED version).

This believing because not believing would be so terrible is a mirror image of what I think D’Souza and people like him believe is going on with atheists.  D’Souza assumes that there are people who, because of ignorant pride or inappropriate priorities, decide that an existent god is not doing a good enough job and who, as a consequence, decide quite irrationally that the universe would be better without god.  These people, according to D’Souza, therefore adopt the intellectual stance of believing in the non-existence of something that obviously exists – thus becoming atheists.

If this were the case, it would be a type of evil.  If god, being the omnipotent and omniscient creator of everything and the source of all good, were to exist (and that existence were self-evident) but insignificant vermin such as humans took it upon themselves to judge god and turn away from god, that would indeed be an evil act on their part.  No questions about that.

(This might be part of the reason that apostates are looked upon so unkindly, although a better explanation is that the policy of treating apostates poorly – up to and including torturing them to death – makes apostasy a somewhat less attractive option for others, which in turn makes it easy to lock people into your in-group.)

However, as far as I know, this isn’t how the vast majority of atheists see things.  Some atheists are particularly disenchanted with the religious, and they do mock theists by saying that even if god did exist (which, they make clear, he doesn’t) then he’d not be worth worshipping because of all the suffering, or because of how much of a megalomaniac butcher he was in the Old Testament, or because gay people are people too, or whatever.

But … a person who is seriously pissed-off with God for His mismanagement is a pissed-off theist, not a pissed-off atheist.

So, that’s the intellectually evil atheist, or rather the straw-man of the intellectually evil atheist.


But atheists are not just evil because of what they think, they also evil because of what they are.  The nature of an atheist is inherently evil.  Fortunately, this inherent evil is not unique to atheists.

I wrote before about a miracle testimonial event that I attended at the urging of a Christian friend.  I was sorely disappointed that I didn’t hear about people being miraculously cured of amputations, or third degree burns, or even cancer.

 (I guess remissions don’t always last – it’s somewhat dark humour, but I have in my head the voice of my friend telling me that I should have come last year, because there was this great speaker, a young woman, who had talked about how she had been miraculously cured of terminal cancer, and that I would have enjoyed that.  Oh, yes, I ask, what happened to her?  The cancer came back and she died, my friend tells me – oblivious to the fact that he is telling me that the miracle that I would have liked to listen to was not, in fact, a miracle at all.)

All the “miracles” that evening were mundane stories about how people in the congregation had been nice to each other.  Now I am all for that, I like people being nice to each other and I really like it when people are nice to me, but that’s far from miraculous … unless you have a rather twisted view of humanity.

In the debate between D’Souza and Singer, D’Souza tries to argue that the Ten Commandments are not made up.  I’ve heard him make the same argument elsewhere, but in this particular instance, he makes a comment to the effect that if he were to be a member of the committee responsible for making up the Ten Commandments, he’d toss three of them away for a start (I don’t know how many he’d finally end up ditching) – because D’Souza doesn’t like to be told not do things.  I don’t know which version of the Bible he’s talking about, but it sounds to me that he’s talking about tossing three of the commandments that appear after honouring your father and mother (in the context of the debate, I can’t imagine that he meant that he’d toss out the first three “I am god” commandments or that he has a burning desire to dishonour his parents).  That leaves him with:

Thou shalt not kill

Thou shalt not commit adultery

Thou shalt not steal

Thou shalt not lie

Thou shalt not covet houses

Thou shalt not covet wives, manservants, maidservants, oxen, asses, etc

To be kind, we could assume that D’Souza is very much into coveting.  He enjoys a good covet.  So, that’s two of his three and he’s got one more commandment to discard.  If he’s got any sense at all, he’d go for “Thou shalt not lie”.  Now that lying is ok, along with the coveting, he can happily lie about all that killing, adultery and stealing he does.

(News reports out today, the day of my editing of what I wrote yesterday, indicate that D’Souza could have wanted to ditch “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and “Thou shalt not lie”, I guess that leaves him scope to take out “Thou shalt not covet wives, manservants, maidservants, oxen, asses, etc” – I’m not currently aware of the marital status of D’Souza’s squeeze.)

The point is that D’Souza was basically implying that he would keep the commandments, as silly as half of them are and as bleeding obvious as the other half are, because he’s Christian and he believes that god wants him to obey them.  Without them, he would be like the caricature of an atheist that he depicts: uncaring, totally amoral and intensely covetous.  (Edit – actually, even with them he’s a bit like that.)

It seems to me that people like D’Souza should be theists and even atheists should want people like D’Souza to be theists, because they are psychopaths who are only kept in line (edit – to a certain extent) by a comforting fairy tale.

This viewpoint, that without theism, humans are like wild beasts, is a recurring theme.  D’Souza even went as far to claim that, before the advent of Christianity, there was no compassion.  So, what he’s specifically claiming is that if you are not a Christian, you are highly likely to be an uncaring, dishonest, vicious, baby-discarding, cannibalistic, light-fingered, indiscriminately copulating and covetous beast.

I bet they don’t put that in the travel brochures.


Please note, I am not really saying that atheists are evil.  Other than Ayn Rand, of course.


D’Souza really made a mess of the last section of this – it seems that even if you are a Christian you can still be a bit of a beast.  It just means that you are a hypocritical beast.


  1. The absurdity of this is astounding.

    1. I find the absurdity of D'Souza (and people like him) astounding too. And if you think my discussion of why some theists might believe that atheists are evil is astoundingly absurd, that's okay - it's not as if I stayed strictly on message :p

  2. For people who are visiting via reddit and who haven't read the article and just want to get on the abuse bandwagon - I'm not really saying atheists are evil. Take a look above if you don't believe me.

    If you are still hot and bothered, take a deep breath, go for a walk or have a little lie down for a while. I really don't know where this bile comes from, you guys don't even believe in evil anyway.

  3. The fact that D'Souza may have strayed according to Christian morality, and shown himself to not be the fine up-standing Christian disciple he claims to be, will in no way hinder is progress up through the Christian Apologist ranks. They have an unjustified or "unwarranted" arrogance, righteousness and claim to the "truth" that enables them to wriggle their way out of all uncomfortable positions, including acting counter to that which they promote.

    1. That's good news, D'Souza may yet provide me with years of righteous indignation and the occasional belly laugh.

  4. The theist who believes the atheist is just a person who is disgruntled with god is just trying to reduce their cognitive dissonance. It is common with all sorts of beliefs, not just religious ones. The person will engage in an ad hominem deflecting away from the argument, believing there is nothing wrong with their belief, the problem here is some personal attribute of the other person. The problem is their reasoning not your own because they have problems.

    I tend to agree with you that the theist is engaging in wishful thinking, the question is why though. Considering societies have moved from polytheism to monotheism, I believe the psychological reasons have changed. So when answering this question it is important not to conflate early conceptions of a deity to ones we have now. Many people address this problem as something inherent in human beings to invent deities, but if that were the case we would still be polytheistic. So what in our current society causes us to invent a personal god? I have also noticed how popular social media is and how people seek attention constantly through these medias, is it possible that we are a society so addicted to attention that we simply need a deity with us at all times to watch us perform? Perhaps the theist just some vain self centred person that needs some great entity to watch them personally and constantly? Imagine how horrible it would be for the person to believe they weren’t being watched constantly? They would lose all meaning and purpose in their lives since they had been performing for this entity for a long time. Now their behaviours have no meaning since previously their meaning was for the god to watch and judge. So maybe we can cure theism by targeting the addiction ;)


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