The “Dear Atheist” Letters


Dear Atheist,

I was told by another atheist that without belief, man cannot aspire to greater understanding and a means of exploring the social and physical universe. I agree with this statement. If all we did was observe, what good would it do us? Man, by nature, comes to conclusions or beliefs. The evolutionist believes in evolution and fits the observed facts into his beliefs. The Christian fits the observed facts into his beliefs as well, but the Christian is condemned for it.

You chide the Christian for having an immovable belief. They believe in God no matter what evidence is presented to them. “At least we,” you say, “change what we believe based on new evidence obtained.” The evolutionist is proud of this change, assuming it is a step towards the more accurate. However, in this statement, you are admitting to believing in errors. You believe in error till a more accurate error comes around. You can’t be sure that what you’re believing is real. It’s just the best that you can do at the moment, till something disproves it. But in the disproving, there is still the thought that this fact may be disproved as well. At least the Christian is not unstable in his beliefs.

Sincerely,
Theist

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40 thoughts on “The “Dear Atheist” Letters

  1. You know, at one time I too was bothered by the fact that science can change according to the evidence. For a while I looked for certainty. However I discovered that certainty is not part of human existence. The best we can do is come up with a process that continually checks and challenges what we think we know.

    I would also point out that when science corrects itself it is not starting over. Take Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. He did not overthrow Newton’s theory but instead showed that it was incomplete. That is the way with any new theory, it has to explain the evidence as well as the old one and then more.

    Plate tectonic theory did not invalidate the work done on strata and the formation of rocks and geological features. Instead it explained a great many mysteries (and pointed out new questions to answer) and provided a context for what geologists were seeing. Again, not starting from scratch, which is what it sounds as if you are saying.

    It is better to think of science as a refining process than a supplanting one.

    I would also say that stability by itself is not a virtue. It is often a liability as it does not allow change. Or the recognition of error. Which is why you have things such as religoius wars, the inquisitions, witch trials, etc.

    Two further points:

    1) Science is not unstable. This is not a dichotomy with only two choices – stable and unstable. Rather science is a stable process that helps build a larger and larger foundation of stable knowledge. You mention the fact that it will change if new evidence comes up (would you think it a virtue not to change when proven wrong?) but you ignore the fact that there is a large base of knowledge that is very, very, very unlikely to change. The germ theory of disease, planets being sphere’s which orbit the sun, etc.

    2) Christianity and Christian thought has changed over the last 2,000 years.

    1. befuddled2,

      Some scientific theories do build upon others as you say, but some are completely thrown out: like the earth-centered universe or the flat earth.

      You say, “Certainty is not part of the human existence.” Is that a statement of certainty? Things change all the time, but that is also a statement pf certainty. So, there is certainty even behind the change.

      However, if you do not feel there is certainty behind the change (which is still a statement of certainty), then change can at any point cease to be change and give way to a period of certainty. But, if there is certainty behind the change, then the best explanation for it is God, the director of change. Otherwise, you cannot rely on the repitition of change, and the foundations of science are broken.

      And, yes, Christian thought changes but that does not mean it is wrong any more than the changing views of the earth mean that the world is wrong.

  2. I like this. I think you should keep writing them.

    Stability (or the lack thereof) is an interesting question when it comes to beliefs. But, of course, believing something doesn’t make it true. I think, however, that we are sure in our beliefs because we see a world around us that fits the biblical descriptions. Mankind – a fallen sinful creature. Earth – a world ravaged by a disastrous flood. The Universe – ‘ex nihilo’, out of nothing. Human Relations or Laws of Morality – the existence of personal grievance in every culture despite the different social values.

    1. This is not to say the universe came out from nothing. I want to retract that claim. The real thing to say there is that it had a beginning, according to cosmologists and scripture. My point being of course, that science and scripture agree.

  3. “You believe in error till a more accurate error comes around.”

    Nope. i *accept* the current explanation until a better explanation is found. i do not believe in evolution, i accept it as the best explanation of the facts. i believe that using a cellphone while driving should be illegal. E=mc^2 is not an error, it just might not be the whole picture. Science has nothing to do with belief. Reality doesn’t care what we believe. Critter are gonna evolve with or without my belief. Pi doesn’t ask me to believe. i can calculate it for myself.

    “But but but you haven’t measured the speed of light, you’re taking that on faith”

    Nope. i won’t live long enough to test all of science. i don’t have the assets or interest either. You and i both trust lift every time we get in a plane. It’s not faith or belief. Wings work. Jet engines work with or without my understanding them. i trust my doctor’s knowledge of medicine will be more likely to help than harm me. Trust is not the same as faith or belief.

    Science, for a time, went along with the idea that the Earth was the center of the universe. Technology and thinking eventually gave us data that didn’t jive with that. Someone had a theory… “maybe the Earth goes around the sun”. He then checked reality against that theory… and it worked! All the stuff that made no sense in a geocentric model made perfect sense in a heliocentric model.

    It wasn’t an error to think that the Earth was at the center, it was the best guess we could make with the tools we had. Calling that an error on their part would be as silly as calling it an error to date someone who would later break your heart. She seemed nice when you met her. When you chose to date her you made that choice with the data on hand. You couldn’t know that she’d cheat on you a year later. You might have some inkling that she might stray in the 10th month… but there again, you have more data.

    “At least the Christian is not unstable in his beliefs”

    i wouldn’t be proud of that. Sounds like perpetual childhood. “Santa is real! He’s bringing me presents! Stop saying he isn’t! You’re hurting my feewings!”

    Dan, how many times do Mom and Dad have to tell you? He’s not real. Your dad buys your toys at the mall and sets them under the tree while you are asleep….

    Not unstable would be… stable.

    1. So, if the scientific findings of the current day dictate that Mars is a blue planet, you don’t call it an error, you call it a bad dating relationship.

  4. I don’t “believe” in evolution, I “believe” that it’s wise to pick the theory or model which best explains the available observations. Evolution explains what we see far better than any other theory.

    It also has predicted things like germs becoming immune to antibiotics very successfully. “God makes the universe” happen might even be true, but it is no help in figuring out what will occur next and what we should do.

  5. Slavery is not condemned in the Christian Bible, and a lot of Christians used to think it was OK. Now, almost any Christian would condemn slavery. Isn’t this an example of a Christian belief being changed?

  6. Slavery is not condemned in the Christian Bible, and a lot of Christians used to think it was OK. Now, almost any Christian would condemn slavery. Isn’t this an example of a Christian belief being changed?

    1. 50 Phi 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

      Regardless of what Christians do, the guideline is still in effect. Slavery is wrong according to this verse.

  7. Daniel,
    I interpret the following as saying that it is OK to own other people, as long as they are not Jewish. What do you think?

    Leviticus 25:46 –

    45Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that [are] with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.

    46And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit [them for] a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.

    1. We don’t completely understand God. Although his character remains the same, his methods change. This is seen throughout the Bible. Apparently it was completely within his character for the Jews to have bondmen. It was also within his character to let the Isrealites fall into slavery. He also required the Jews to kill every man, woman, and child in certain cities they conquered. How do I explain this? I don’t have to. But if I did I would put it this way: God is not a tame God. He does what he wants.

      So let’s join these two ideas. Number 1: The Jews were allowed to have bondmen. Number 2: The principle – let each esteem other better than themselves. Marrying the two ideas we may have an idea of how the bondmen were treated. It sounds more like a live-in employee than how the Americans treated their slaves. However, I just don’t know. This is just a thought. But I don’t have to answer for God. We think we know him, and then we find out something else about him that causes us to think outside of our box. I’m OK with that.

  8. Daniel,

    I’m pretty sure that there are instructions somewhere in the Bible about how to whip a good slave vs. a bad slave. I don’t think there is a question about whether slavery was seen as a part of life at that time, and that the Bible matter-of-factly has rules about who can be slaves and how you should treat them. I think the fact that they say how slaves should be whipped puts paid to the live-in servant idea you reaised.

    You made the point that Christians (not God) are stable in their beliefs in contrast to atheists who don’t have a dogma to follow. It seems to me that there are a lot of things that were once accepted by Christians in accordance with the Bible, that are now seen as outdated, such as sending demons into pigs, stoning adulterers, polygamy, killing children who make fun of a bald-headed priest, burnt sacrifices, etc. We’re not talking about the actions of God, but of the beliefs of Christians. I believe that Christians have changed their beliefs of what constitutes moral behavior since the time that the Bible was written. I don’t think you would want someone to be burned at the stake for being a witch, or to have a member of your family stoned.

    So, I think that Christians have changed their beliefs over the last 2000 years, as they have come to see earlier beliefs to be in error. And it is not a bad thing that they have done so.

  9. Belief in God as the creator of the universe is the belief I’m talking about. That hasn’t changed. Why should I address all those other issues you mentioned? That is simply not the scope of this post. Maybe some other post, but doubt it, since I’m mainly addressing atheism.

    Plus, I don’t have all the answers. You seem to enjoy compelling me to answer any question your heart desires to ask.

  10. I will say that Christians have grown to adopt the moral principles in the Bible, but now are leaving them. We seem to pick and choose what we like to obey. But that’s just human nature.

  11. Daniel,

    I have only asked one question, and you finally answered it. All those issues are things that Christians have changed their minds about, which I believe is contrary to the point of your post. Christians pick and choose what they like to obey, based on what they think is right. This is the point for which you were faulting people who accept evolution as true. I don’t see how this is off topic.

  12. We don’t find new “evidence” in the Bible. Its principles haven’t changed. Our adherence to them changes. The evolutionist is continually changing based on new evidence found. The statement that God created the heaven and the earth hasn’t changed, and it’s also a core belief. If you don’t believe that, you can’t accept the rest of the Bible, and you’re not a Christian. Hence, I say, the Christian is not unstable in his beliefs.

    Now, as to what you brought up, how much they want to follow their God is up to the individual. That’s where Christians differ, either out of ignorance, willful ignorance, or flat-out stubbornness.

    Those issues aren’t the subject of this post, just creation versus evolution. I hope you can see the difference here.

  13. I thought your post was contrasting Christians’ beliefs (stable) with that of people who think evolution is true (changing) based on this excerpt:

    You chide the Christian for having an immovable belief. They believe in God no matter what evidence is presented to them. “At least we,” you say, “change what we believe based on new evidence obtained.”

    I think our difference in perspective is due to the fact that you point to the contents of the Bible, an unchanging repository of (ideal) Christian belief, as representative of today’s Christian beliefs while I point to the Christian’s actual current beliefs (and their resultant actions) as truly representative of that belief.

    Let’s contrast the Bible, as representative of Christian dogma, which hasn’t changed in 1600 years or so, with science textbooks as representative of scientific understanding, that have continually changed. I would much prefer that scientific understanding (which includes evolution theory) be allowed to mature than for it to be frozen in the time before germ theory, vaccinations, and MRIs. I have a feeling that you would not want to sacrifice the scientific advances that have been made since that time. Science does not have a dogma to adhere to; the strength to a religion of unchanging belief would be a severe handicap in any other enterprise, and it does not make sense to fault science for this.

    Thanks for your time.

    1. Are you saying that science would not have progressed without the theory of evolution? I think that’s a rather grandiose claim. Those particular progressions you mentioned would not have been affected by the non-existence of evolution. Science at the cellular level really points away from evolution anyway. It’s not some indisputable basis for us to build other sciences on. If we find evolution never happened, not much would be affected.

      Christians are not against science. They are just against evolutionary dogma attempting to infiltrate everything and lies circulated in the name of this ‘infallible’ theory of evolution.

      As to the claim that evolution has no dogmas, I respond with a quote from well-known geneticist and evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin. He said “we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.”

  14. That is a good point about science having a dogmatic adherence to natural causes rather than both natural and supernatural causes. That really is part of the accepted definition of science. Having said that, though, I think that any observed effects of a supernatural event would not be discarded just because they appeared to be supernatural, but would be studied, if only to get grant money. I certainly would not object to observed supernatural effects being integrated into theories and tested as part or as the whole of a process by people who want to do that. Success of just one such study would lead to acceptance of the method.

  15. I do not say that scientific advancement was or is dependent on the evolutionary theory; I referred to it as part of science: “I would much prefer that scientific understanding (which includes evolution theory) be allowed to mature than for it to be frozen in the time before germ theory, vaccinations, and MRIs.”

    I don’t want to put words in your mouth; from what you say, I conclude that you regard evolutionary theory as a conspiracy of all scientists who support it to undermine the Biblical story of creation. Is this correct?

    Are there other scientific theories that you rank with evolution as being just plain wrong or maliciously propagated?

    Thanks.

    1. Scientists can keep their evolutionary theory. I just want them to view other theories as legitemate, and look at how the evidence fits into them.

      1. I assume that there are scientists, such as Behe and Lewontin, that agree with you and are capable of generating and testing a theory that incorporates their creationist beliefs.

  16. You said: “Science at the cellular level really points away from evolution anyway. It’s not some indisputable basis for us to build other sciences on. If we find evolution never happened, not much would be affected.”

    I am not a scientist, but recent reading of popular scientific books leads me to have to disagree with you. As examples, “The Genesis Enigma” by Andrew Parker; “Your Inner Fish” by Neil Shubin, and “Why Evolution is True’ by Jerry Coyne are very accessible books that all make convincing arguments for evolution. Can you provide me with books or articles that led you to your conclusion?

    Thanks.

  17. “The evolutionist believes in evolution and fits the observed facts into his beliefs.”

    Nope. Other way around. The rational person forms an opinion AFTER examining evidence. The observed facts are what lead us to figure out what evolution is, and how it works. What you are doing is called “Projection” – the assumption that how you think must be how others think as well. This is a logical fallacy, done by people with limited imagination and limited (or no) empathy for the differences of other people.

    “You chide the Christian for having an immovable belief.”

    Again, Projection. Because you fear/dislike those who don’t share your opinions, you assume that those people must harbour the same emotions towards you. Why?

    Criticism of religious belief is usually based upon the fact that such beliefs are not evidence-based, not that they are “immovable”. You are creating a Straw Man Fallacy – criticising something you imagine to be the argument of another person, rather than debating what they actually do believe or think.

    1. Your failure here is that you don’t understand the legitimacy of other ideas and alternate explanations. You are just as guilty as other religious folks who only see life their way. The only legitimate explanation is your explanation.

      “you fear/dislike those who don’t share your opinions”

      You’re projecting on me.

      If you don’t think you have a bias before you see evidence then you need a better understanding of the human mind. Also, did you witness first hand the evidence and observed facts you claim to believe in? You had to trust someone else to give you those facts, a fallible human. This person had his own perception of things as well, and don’t think that his perception didn’t influence you.

      Then again, maybe you are the only one in the universe who has an objective perspective. Please, give us the answers to this life we mere mortals live.

  18. ““you fear/dislike those who don’t share your opinions”

    You’re projecting on me.”

    Erm, no, I was giving a few possibilities precisely because I don’t want to assume I know which one is correct. I’m not sure you’ve quite grasped the concept of what projection is, though that’s understandable if this is the first exposure you’ve had to the concept.

    “Also, did you witness first hand the evidence and observed facts you claim to believe in?”

    This is one of the most bizarre claims that religionists make. I don’t understand why they don’t see that it completely undermines their entire faith. You don’t apply it to your beliefs, so by asking me if I apply it to mine are you: (a) aware you are demanding a different standard for the beliefs of others than for your own, or (b) fully aware of this and hoping that other people won’t notice this whopper of a logic fallacy?

    Perhaps, if you want to avoid answering that, you can explain why you avoided responding to paragraphs 2 and 5 in my original post.

  19. Neither you or I have first hand knowledge (Direct from the original source). Both of us take things on faith. That is, someone who had first hand knowledge wrote about it, and that’s how we are informed. You put your faith in your teacher, I put my faith in mine.

    I don’t see how this “equality” gives you the right to say the following:

    “done by people with limited imagination and limited (or no) empathy for the differences of other people.”

    “Because you fear/dislike those who don’t share your opinions”

    “I’m not sure you’ve quite grasped the concept of what projection is, though that’s understandable if this is the first exposure you’ve had to the concept.”

    This leads me to think that you believe you are better than me and others like me. We all live on the same earth, breathing the same air, having the same amount of knowledge available to us. We all draw different conclusions. You have the right yours, I have the right to mine.

    My purpose here is to test your theories, but it can’t be done if you believe you are better than me. You’ll just spend your time writing insults.

  20. “Neither you or I have first hand knowledge (Direct from the original source). Both of us take things on faith.”

    Nope. Either this is a claim based upon ignorance (ie you don’t know what “faith” means), or it is intentionally dishonest.

    Faith is belief without evidence, or in the face of evidence against. I reject faith, as I understand that it is a useless, and usually incorrect, method for forming opinions. Instead my opinions are based upon reason, or evidence-based methods.

    ” You put your faith in your teacher, I put my faith in mine.”

    When I was a child I did so, not knowing better. I have long since moved past doing so. Almost all people manage to do so to some degree; some (much) more than others.

    Despite the fact I specifically invited meaningful discussion of points I have raised, you are avoiding them. You are just writing to make yourself feel superior, as is shown by the projection exercised in your last paragraph. The faux-victim complex is typical of this sort of motivation.

    1. If you acquire information outside of yourself and believe it to be accurate, then you have faith (belief without first hand evidence of its accuracy).

  21. “If you acquire information outside of yourself and believe it to be accurate, then you have faith (belief without first hand evidence of its accuracy).”

    Incorrect. As I stated above, faith is belief without evidence, or in the face of evidence.

    I don’t need faith to know that Australia exists, despite never having been there. However, faith is required for belief in Zeus. Or do you disagree? Faith is also required for belief in leprachauns, unicorns, fairies, demons, and gods.

    This really isn’t a complex concept. It’s just the correct definition of a word. If you insist on claiming that the word “faith” is the same as the word “belief”, then conversation involving these two separate concepts will be impossible.

    Faith and belief are two different concepts. The fact that they are blurred together in vernacular speech by ignorant people is unfortunate. And appears to have lead to some inability on your part to understand the very profound difference between them. When you’ve checked a few dictionaries and are clear on how these two words differ in meaning, get back to me and we’ll continue the discusssion. Cheers.

  22. I’m not the one who used the word “belief” in the definition of faith. You did. I haven’t defined faith as of yet. I used your definition and it fit the statement just fine.

    You said,
    “I don’t need faith to know that Australia exists, despite never having been there. However, faith is required for belief in Zeus.”

    You are modifying your previous definition of faith here. You’re saying it’s faith when you believe in Zeus, but not faith when you believe in Australia, even though you have no first hand evidence to verify either’s existence when you accept the proposition of either statement.

    Are you officially changing your definition?

  23. “You are modifying your previous definition of faith here.”

    No, I’m not.

    It’s faith when people believe in Zeus – a being for which no evidence exists.

    It’s evidence-based belief to accept that Australia exists, because the evidence for Australia is enourmous and irrefutable. Note the word “evidence”. Perhaps the reason you can’t figure out the difference is that a word exists for non-evidenced based beliefs (“faith”), but no corresponding word exists for evidence-based beliefs (other than “evidence based beliefs”), and for many people like yourself, you haven’t stopped to consider that the word “belief” is used in vernacular speech for these two very different concepts.

    And why do you keep replying to your own posts?

    “That definition being: It’s faith when I say it’s faith.”

    Well, that’s another reason you have trouble conversing with me – you don’t understand the simple concepts I’m using. The above example may be how you think, it’s clearly not how I think, as is obvious from what I’ve written. Inability to comprehend on your part is not the sort of arbitrary nonsense you are accusing me of on my part.

    1. Wow. If you believe people of faith are unreasonable ignoramuses why are you even writing on here. If we are so stupid then reasoning with us would be futile, right?

  24. “Wow. If you believe people of faith are unreasonable ignoramuses why are you even writing on here. If we are so stupid then reasoning with us would be futile, right?”

    Apparently you are interested in pretending to be a victim, or create bizarre abosolutes and attributing them to me (Straw Man Fallacy), or accuse others of generalising about entire groups of people when they’re not, or doing anything really to avoid having a rational conversation. That’s about you individually – not “theists” as a group, and certainly not about me. But at some point, yes, it will be pointless trying to talk to you.

    1. “Well, that’s another reason you have trouble conversing with me – you don’t understand the simple concepts I’m using. The above example may be how you think, it’s clearly not how I think, as is obvious from what I’ve written. Inability to comprehend on your part is not the sort of arbitrary nonsense you are accusing me of on my part.”

      I’m not your victim. But do you not see the insulting nature of this statement? I’m not making it up. It’s right there in black and white. And then you go on to say “But at some point, yes, it will be pointless trying to talk to you.”

      If you already hold this kind of view towards me then two things are true. 1) You believe nothing you say will change my views. 2) Nothing I say will change your views. So, by your own admission – “But at some point, yes, it will be pointless trying to talk to you.” – you (and I) are beating a dead horse here.

      This is why I ask, “why are you even writing on here. If we are so stupid then reasoning with us would be futile, right?” It’s not because I’m interested in making myself out to be a victim. It’s because, honestly, it looks as though you believe simply that you are right and we are wrong and that your job will only be accomplished by showing that to us. But then again you say “at some point, yes, it will be pointless trying to talk to you.”

      So I ask you this – What is your objective here?

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