Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 4

Saying that religious claims “don’t make sense”. It’s true there are countless religious claims which don’t make sense, and can never make sense. But I’ve always felt that saying something “doesn’t make sense” sounds a little too close to “I don’t understand it”. It’s the kind of thing one might say when trying to understand advanced calculus, not just things which are inherently nonsensical. But most of us are atheists precisely because we do understand religion, and speak from a position of having too much information on the subject, not too little. So that’s why I find myself catching myself, and instead of saying the concept of the trinity, for example, “doesn’t make sense” (which it doesn’t), I say it’s incoherent. Instead of saying that the concept of an infinitely loving God punishing people with infinite torment for finite sins “doesn’t make sense”, I say that it’s paradoxical, not to mention unethical. To me that sends a much stronger message: that the issue isn’t with us, it’s with metaphysical claims that directly contradict what we know to be true about the world we live in. Other options: logically invalid, fatally flawed, internally contradictory, unintelligible.

“When it comes to the Bible, you can’t just pick and choose what you want to believe…” Not only can Christians do this, they absolutely have to. And as I point out here, every time someone repeats this cliche they are actually giving the Bible far more credit than it deserves. Also, do we really want to imply that absolute fundamentalism is the more admirable position, simply because it happens to be more logically consistent?

“Christians believe serial killers can still go to heaven just by becoming Christians on their deathbeds”. For the most part this is absolutely true–particularly when it comes to evangelical Christians, who largely believe that salvation is achieved by faith and faith alone. But a secular argument could at least be made that it is conceivable for someone to commit the most horrific crimes imaginable, and eventually come to deserve forgiveness for those crimes before dying. But consider the same scenario in reverse: a law-abiding, devout Christian who later becomes a sadistic mass murderer, and remains one until the day he dies… How many people realize that according to the Christian doctrine of irrevocable salvation (“once saved always saved”), this hypothetical person is still guaranteed a spot in heaven while Einstein and Gandhi burn in Hell? Such a scenario is FAR more perverse than the hypothetical “deathbed conversion”, yet is every bit as consistent with the professed beliefs of fundamentalist evangelicals.

For the rest of the series:

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 1

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 2

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 3

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 5

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 6

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 7

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6 thoughts on “Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 4

  1. I think this is all too simplistic and the Christians who believe as you say may not have it right when all is said and done. God will be the final judge over everyone’s eternal destination, including those who claim Christianity.

    • This is not meant to be a thorough debunking of god claims, hence the “simplicity” you see. This is intended as a guide for atheists when they are speaking with believers to help us make our arguments in a more coherent and understandable (if slightly more wordy) way. Cliches are verbal shorthand so while they may make sense to us (atheists) without a need for clarification, when we are speaking to believers (as you appear to be) we need to be more aware of what we are saying and avoid them.
      I would like to thank Vic for compiling this list, as I am indeed guilty of using a few of these.

      Warrioress, please understand that we, as atheists, don’t believe in the existence of any god, Gods, or supreme beings. Many of us do not believe afterlife claims either, so your threat (as I perceive it to be) of a god judging us for our “eternal destination” is both silly and offensive.

      • Thanks IP! Although I think The Warrioress was specifically referring to the notion of salvation by faith and faith alone as being “too simplistic”. In which case, she will certainly find no disagreement from me there.

  2. I agree that most atheists don’t understand that which they ridicule and I think that because of this, in so doing subtly ridicule themselves. I’m a proud atheist but I used to be a Mormon missionary and I have continued to study Christianity because it’s interesting to me. From my understanding, I just wanted to point out that your hypothetical Christian that turns serial killer would according to most Christians NOT be saved. They would claim that if you are truly saved, you would never commit such crimes.

    • Ah yes, the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. That’s certainly one way they try to have it both ways (and they’ll usually try to use it against those who have left Christianity behind), but it fails so ridiculously that we’re certainly under no obligation to accept it.

  3. ““When it comes to the Bible, you can’t just pick and choose what you want to believe…” Not only can Christians do this, they absolutely have to. And as I point out here, every time someone repeats this cliche they are actually giving the Bible far more credit than it deserves. Also, do we really want to imply that absolute fundamentalism is the more admirable position, simply because it happens to be more logically consistent?”

    Wow. This is a ridiculous series. We are supposed to stop asking Christians to be consistent because… we don’t want them to be even more insane and actually stop being hypocrites? At least the fundamentalists are representing what the Bible is actually saying. Maybe if more people recognized that, they’d understand why fundamentalists appear to be so batshit insane. Maybe because the Bible is? Anyone? Nice try, but this list is ignoring some crucial realities.

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