WHY WE ARE ATHEISTS: AN ATHEIST PRIMER FOR TEENAGERS
BY JON NELSON
Have you ever wondered whether there is a god? Most people take it for granted that there is something called god “out there” somewhere, but they can’t tell us just what or where it is. Most of them have their own ideas about what god is, but they can’t seem to agree on anything, except that he’s invisible and that he exists. Most of these people think believing in him is necessary for their soul, or for their salvation.
Maybe you were introduced to all this when you were little. In the United States most people call themselves Christians, and the story of Jesus is a big part of our culture. Most children are introduced to god and religion by their parents when they are very young, and the adults insist that their religion is necessary in order to be a good person. Do you believe that?
Do you remember when you were in elementary school? Your teachers probably taught you that the purpose of science is to identify things that exist and to explain how they work. You should have learned in science class that anybody that has a new idea has to prove it by experimenting. Did you notice that kids who question things are usually smart kids?
A lot of kids find it confusing when they are told that questioning things shows that you are smart, but you should never question whether god exists because that shows lack of faith. These kids wonder why we should make an exception for god.
I am an atheist. I do not believe that god exists, but I also think that religion does a lot more harm than good. In the United States, a lot of people get very mad at people like me, but in Europe and especially in Asia, atheists are much more accepted.
Here’s why I don’t believe that god exists:
First of all, as I already mentioned, nobody has ever come up with a description of what god is. I believe this is the most important issue of all, because if you can’t describe something, how are you going to prove it exists? Most people who believe in god will tell you that he is some kind of super-power that can do anything he wants anytime he wants. They also think he is super-intelligent. But doesn’t this make the idea of god even harder to imagine? If god can do anything he wants, don’t you think he should try and help us when we need him? We hear in the news every day that something terrible has happened to someone or to some group of people somewhere. Where was god while this was going on? Don’t you think some of these people were praying before they died? There are only three possibilities, if you think about it. Either god hears prayers but doesn’t want to do anything about it (which means he can’t be all-good), or he wants to do something to help but can’t (which means he isn’t all-powerful) or else he doesn’t exist at all. For atheists, the last one is the correct answer.
You might have heard of something called “free will.” This is an idea that religious people have come up with to explain the existence of evil. They say that we humans have free will, which means that we have the ability to think and to make our own choices and decisions. In other words, we have a choice to do good or not.
But this doesn’t let god off the hook. He is still supposed to be all-good and all-powerful. Even if we have free will, god is still not helping us out when we need him the most. If you saw someone being hurt and you could stop it without any danger to yourself, wouldn’t you do it? I know I would; that is what being good is all about. So if god is supposed to be all that wonderful, he certainly should stop these things from happening. There is no way out for those defending god; either he isn’t powerful, or he isn’t good—or he doesn’t exist.
But there are a lot of other problems for people trying to prove that god exists. We already saw the problem that people have in coming up with a definition of what their god is. They think that by telling us that he created us, or that he created the universe, and this is a good enough description. But it isn’t, because most of us know that before something can do anything, it has to be something first. Telling us what he did doesn’t tell us what he is. Before you can create anything, you have to first exist, don’t you? You have to possess some kind of a body in order to create. So how did god do anything unless he physically exists? How can he think without a brain? Believers cannot answer these questions.
Some people who believe in god insist that he is not like us humans, that heaven is not like earth, and that the soul is not like the mind. They always tell us what these things aren’t, but they never tell us what they are, and that is the key point. So how is something that can only be described negatively any different than not existing in the first place?
Believers also tell us that the universe is so complicated and beautiful that it couldn’t have come into existence by chance. But chance doesn’t have anything to do with it. Nothing in the universe happens by chance, there are strict scientific laws at work, even if we don’t always perfectly understand them. Let’s look at an example. If you toss a rock in the air and it falls down, that is the law of gravity; we don’t need a god to explain why it falls down. Even if there are weird things happening in the universe, which there definitely are, using god as an answer doesn’t answer anything; it doesn’t tell us what god is and, more important, it still doesn’t tell us how the weird thing happened in the first place.
Since many people in this country think that Jesus Christ is the most important person in their lives, we should think about this too. Unfortunately for them, there is no proof that such a person ever lived. He is supposed to have lived about two thousand years ago, yet not a single person at that time wrote anything about him. Doesn’t that strike you as a bit odd, since Christians will insist that he had such an important message for everybody? Some Christians tell us that a Jewish writer named Josephus wrote about Jesus about sixty years after he died. But this is still not a contemporary event, and we now know that the paragraph that refers to Jesus was a forgery, written centuries later by a Christian and passed off as Josephus’ own words. Doesn’t that tell you something about the dishonesty of the church?
Is Christianity necessary for us to be good? Again, all we have to do is look at history and see what Christians have done to others and to themselves. You’ve probably heard of the Dark Ages and of all the tortures done during that time. You also probably know about the witch burnings in this country and about the Inquisition in Europe. These were all done by Christians who thought they were obeying god’s word in the Bible. How is all this possible if Christianity is supposed to be a religion of love? I’ve heard people tell me that those that did this weren’t real Christians. This is a lie; the people who did these awful things felt that there religion was so important to the world that anyone who didn’t agree with them deserved to die, and they had no problem killing them. If these people weren’t “real” Christians, exactly when did the “real” Christian suddenly appear? Again, today’s Christians have no answer to this question.
Atheists don’t believe in god, in Jesus Christ, or in the Bible. Yet, if we are evil because we think this way, how come so few atheists are in prison?
I encourage you to think for yourself. Don’t believe anything anyone tells you if it doesn’t make sense. Don’t even believe what I’m telling you here; look it up for yourself. I am an atheist because it is the only honest, rational, and moral position for me to hold. If you read more about it, I think you will agree.