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The Atheist Delusion

March 17, 2010 – 11:20 pm261 Comments


Richard Dawkins - High Priest of the Atheists, and one of only two people to ever appear on the ABC's "Q & A" who were more smug than host Tony Jones

By Anthony Frosh

With the Global Atheist Convention currently taking place in Melbourne, I, like many people, have observed how it is rather unusual to have a conference defined by what you are not.  I don’t much care for beer, and this clearly puts me in the minority in this country.  However, it would never occur to me to organise a convention for people who don’t like beer. Be that as it may, I must admit that if anybody out there wishes to organise one, I promise to make myself available as a guest speaker.

‘Evangelical atheists’ claim that most wars have been fought in the name of religion.  When people point out Nazis, Soviets, etc, then people like Richard Dawkins say that those atheists didn’t commit their atrocities in the name of atheism.

There are two main problems with Dawkins’ argument.  Firstly, Dawkins is plain wrong when he asserts that no atrocities were ever committed in the name of atheism.

Obvious examples are the regimes of Mao and Stalin, who destroyed cultures they perceived to have had a religious basis. Thus their atrocities and human rights violations were committed in the name of atheism.

Secondly, by putting up the defence that those atheistic regimes didn’t commit their atrocities in the name of atheism, this assumes that religious entities that have waged war and committed atrocities have done so in the name of theism.   This has rarely been the case.  Most wars described as religious wars are actually about tribalism and ideology, and not at their core about theology.

The unfortunate thing is that evangelical atheists seem to be spending most of their time denigrating religion.  It might be more interesting if they actually tried to acknowledge some of the great philosophical challenges that atheism presents.

A genuine atheist ought to agree that there is neither anything sacred about a human being, nor any other living thing.  Thus, a living thing is simply a complex arrangement of a bunch of atoms or chemicals, as is a tennis ball, a tin of paint, or a laptop computer.  While I have no reason to believe that atheists in general are devoid of morality and purpose, the question that remains unanswered is “what is their justification for having a morality and a purpose?”  Why does a bunch of atoms (regardless of complexity) require a code of ethics and morality?  Furthermore, why would a bunch of chemicals be so concerned if another bunch of chemicals happens to feel that there is some form of metaphysical force that makes certain arrangements of chemicals (living things) sacred?

The answer is that self-described atheists have not fully comprehended the philosophical implication of the complete absence of the metaphysical.  If they had, they’d realise that a bunch of atoms has no need to attend a global convention.

Finally, I suspect that so-called atheists deep down aren’t really atheists at all.  Like most of us, I suspect they are agnostics.  They just lie at the atheistic end of the agnostic spectrum.  Likewise, deep down most God believers lie at the theistic end of that same spectrum.

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