Wow! Our second meeting of the semester went AMAZINGLY well! We had over 40 people turn out, and I presented a talk called “Atheism 101: An Introduction to Atheism.” I talked about the definitions of atheism & agnosticism, secular humanism, and skepticism; a brief history of non-belief throughout the ages; the mis-named “New” atheism, some common arguments theists give for the existence of gods (cosmological, ontological, teleological, and moral); a bit about the Out Campaign and why SASHA exists, and some resources for learning more about skepticism & atheism (see below).
We tabled today at Speakers’ Circle; the Lake Road Chapel folks were out again preaching, and had a table set up right next to ours. I’ve written about Charles Leiter before on this blog, as well as Trevor Ruby, Ryan, Taylor, and some of the others. They are overall very nice people, but their belief in the bible as absolute truth is not only unsupported by evidence or logic, but they seem – especially Taylor and Trevor – to have zero interest in even attempting to support logically or empirically why they believe what they believe. We had a very polite, very amicable discussion lasting a few hours this afternoon, and I kept having to say, “You’re telling me *what* you believe; I want to know *why* you believe it.”
Taylor’s argument seemed to be centered on her belief that the bible is God’s words. She kept saying “God said…” and I would correct her and say, “You mean, the bible says that God said…” They are not equivalent statements. The Qur’an says things, too; that doesn’t mean these statements are really from heaven. I kept asking, “Why do you believe that the bible is true?” and she just kept quoting the bible as though that served as independent verification. I tried using her same arguments, but replacing “Bible” with “Qur’an,” to demonstrate that this logic is pointless because you could prove any “holy” book is God’s words if you count internal verification as justification for belief. I don’t think she understood what I meant. When I did that, she just said that Muhammad was a false prophet, as a bare assertion. She was very kind, though, and I do appreciate that.
Trevor’s arguments were even less sophisticated. He is very stuck on the idea that there is no such thing as an atheist, that we somehow “must” know deep down that his god exists, and we simply won’t admit it. The reason he believes this is because in the bible, it says, according to him, that “it is written in [our] hearts,” and so obviously, we must recognize that his god exists, regardless of what we have to say about it. I presume he’s getting this from Deuteronomy 6 and 11. Trying to explain that I don’t care what his holy book says until he can demonstrate why I should believe his holy book is true had zero effect whatsoever. He kept insisting that we only say we’re atheists because we don’t want to submit to God and turn away from our “sins.” He kept saying that we know his god exists, and we kept saying, “No, we don’t know that,” and he would just insist that we do. I think he believes the definition of an atheist is someone who denies his god. I tried to explain to him that it’s simply a lack of faith in his god, the same way that he has a lack of faith in the Hindu gods. His response was that those gods are false gods, I suppose because he said so. He doesn’t seem to grasp the possibility that his god isn’t real. He claims 100% certain knowledge that his god exists, but when you ask to see his proof of this, he just says that it’s written in your heart. Oh well; it’s good practice working on staying patient and polite, at least!
The meeting went BEAUTIFULLY. As I mentioned, we had a great turnout, and after the talk, we broke into smaller groups of 6 or 8 or so, and chit-chatted for the last 20 minutes or so of the meeting about logical flaws in the arguments I presented, about our deconversions, and many other topics. Several of us then went to Boone Tavern to meet with the Columbia Atheists group for dinner. It was a wonderful time and I’m very excited about next week!
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Dave Muscato is Vice President of MU SASHA. He is a vegetarian, LGBTQ ally, and human- & animal-welfare activist. A junior at Mizzou majoring in economics & anthropology and minoring in philosophy & Latin, he posts updates to the SASHA blog every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. His website ishttp://www.DaveMuscato.com.