WHY I AM NOT AN ATHEIST: A Response to Gil Gaudia’s “Why I am an Atheist” (American Atheist, 3rd Quarter, 2013)
© 2013, by John Tors. All Rights Reserved.
I have long been searching for a coherent and sound reason for believing in atheism, and so when I came across “Why I am an Atheist,” by Gil Gaudia, in the current issue of American Atheist, I was interested. After all, Gaudia, who holds a Ph.D., is “a professor emeritus at State University of New York” and a former editorial assistant of American Atheist; one would think that if sound reasons for believing in atheism can be given, Gaudia is the man to do it. And yet he fails. Utterly.
True, his article is not meant to be a comprehensive argument for atheism; indeed, he tells us that “rather that engaging in an argument, I am aiming for others to understand my Atheist position,” and that “My intent here is to present what I (and a significant number of other Atheists) believe.“
But it is this very presentation, his explanation for his belief in atheism, that is so thoroughly riddled with illogic, internal contradictions, and muddled thinking that it serves only to reinforce the suspicion that no intelligent case for atheism can be made.
The contradictions begin immediately. Gaudia starts out by telling us that
one does not choose to be an Atheist any more than one chooses to be a homosexual. It just is.
Yet later he cavils about the “apparent unfairness that sometimes prevails in the natural world,” and this, he says, “results in my refusal to believe in a god who would either allow or cause these unfair events.” “Refusal to believe” is an act of the will, Gil; it isn’t something that “just is.”
Furthermore, Gaudia’s implication that atheists are born, not made, is pointless. The reality of the matter is that everyone is born an atheist. Babies are born not believing in God – or in gravity or the power of the free market or the law of non-contradiction; they do not have the mental capacity to form beliefs. It is as they grow older that they assemble, one by one, the constellation of beliefs they end up holding.
Thus, it is not just “many atheists” but most people who “recall wondering as children about the veracity of the religious stories that were fed to them, as well as the confusion regarding the mysterious rituals of their parents’ religion.” But “wondering” is not tantamount to rejecting. Intelligent people who wonder will examine the facts to see whether belief in God is justified. And apparently most people find the case for God and against atheism powerfully persuasive; even in the secular West, where atheism has had its best shot at dispelling belief in God, the percent declaring themselves atheists remains a small minority. Most people, in other words, outgrow the atheism they held on to as babies. Atheists, it seems, are stuck perpetually in a state of arrested development.
Next, Gaudia makes an excursus to tell us that
it is undeniable that rage is often expressed toward … Atheists. In fact, I believe that Atheists are now the most despised and underrepresented minority in America.
Actually, it is very deniable. Anyone who pays attention to what is being promulgated by the mainstream media, public schools, and the entertainment industry will frequently encounter rage and hatred directed against Christians, but I do not recall ever seeing rage expressed toward atheists – and this is from one who reads six daily newspapers as a regular practice. If rage is ever expressed against atheists, it is certainly not “often.” (To be sure, this is a claim that atheists frequently make, as they seem to enjoy pity parties among themselves while congratulating themselves on how brave they are in the face of this putative rage.) If an individual atheist does find he is “despised,” he might consider whether it is simply because he himself is personally unpleasant.
As we return to the substance of Gaudia’s presentation, we notice an interesting thing: he makes it abundantly – if tacitly – clear that atheism is a position of faith, not fact. This admission, perhaps inadvertent, will no doubt enrage his atheist confreres, but it is undeniable. Consider the following:
My intent here is to present what I (and a significant number of other Atheists) believe.
As an Atheist, I believe in only one world, the natural world. I feel very strongly that only the natural world can be observed, studied, and eventually understood.
Most important is my belief that the natural world adheres to the rules of logic and reason.
In a system of one world, it is possible, I believe, to assign value to events in some orderly way …
These are statements of faith, not fact.
Next, we see a major and fatal flaw in Gaudia’s thinking. He writes
I believe in only one world, the natural world. I feel very strongly that only the natural world can be observed, studied, and eventually understood … This is the world that science apprehends and attempts to comprehend.
He does not seem to understand that science is a systematic study of natural phenomena via observation and experimentation; it in no way entails or proves that because the natural world is the only one science is designed to study, it therefore follows that it is the only one that is. On the contrary, science was developed by Bible-believing Christians such as Isaac Newton.
It is not even difficult to prove this to Gaudia. Does he believe, for example, that U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1863? Presumably he has no doubt whatsoever that this happened, but can he prove it by science? No. Historical events cannot be proven by science; they are proven by an entirely different methodology. So even in the natural world, there is a great deal of information that is beyond the reach of the scientific method. Gaudia’s implied syllogism, then,
Only what can be studied by science is real.
The supernatural realm cannot be studied by science.
Therefore the supernatural realm cannot be real.
is spectacularly wrong. In fact, his statement that “atheism is simply the rejection of beliefs (usually religious) that are not in accord with the scientific rules of the world” does despite to both science and reason. In light of this, it is truly ironic that Gaudia writes that
the natural world adheres to the rules of logic and reason.
He ought to try adhering to those rules himself (but then he would have to cease being an atheist, as we will see).
And now we come to a silly plea from Gaudia. He writes
If religious people would only try to imagine how difficult it would be for them to surrender their fervor and love of god [sic] just because someone asked or demanded it from them, they might at least appreciate how Atheists feel about giving up their skepticism in the world they see as only material.
Now, as an Evangelical Christian, if I “just … asked or demanded” that atheists turn from their atheism, then certainly there would be no reason to listen to me. But I do not do that; I provide sound reasons why their atheistic world view is untenable.
For example, I point out the following: Gaudia clearly believes in “the scientific rules of this world,” and so do I. So let us see how atheism measures up against these rules. First, the most fundamental facts for us are that we exist, and that the natural world in which we find ourselves exists. These facts raise the unavoidable questions “Whence did we come?” and “Whence came this natural world?” If one does not believe there is a God, the only answer to both is random, undirected natural processes (viz. the theory of evolution: cosmic, chemical, and organic).
Now, the natural world endures in time and therefore cannot be eternally existent, for we could never have reached this point in time (2013) from eternity past, any more than one could ever climb halfway up an infinite staircase. The universe therefore must have had a beginning, as cosmologists concede. What, then, caused the natural world to come into being? According to the only possible atheist view, once upon a time there was nothing and then that nothing coughed, hiccupped, or burped (or “quantum fluctuated” – though “nothing” cannot fluctuate) and – ta, da! – became something! In other words, matter/energy spontaneously came out of nothing. Uh, oh! This is a complete violation of the First Law of Thermodynamics, one of those “scientific rules” Gaudia champions.
And we must also ask the question “Whence came life?” According to the atheist view, simple chemicals randomly self-assembled – for no reason, “just because” – into extremely complex organic macromolecules (proteins, RNA and/or DNA) – and lots of them – and then these spontaneously self-assembled into a cell. Uh, oh again! This is a complete violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (the “law of entropy”), which is another of those pesky “scientific rules.” Or, to put it another way so that the atheist cannot try to weasel out of this, in all systems, open or closed, and at any conditions of temperature and pressure, the ΔGreaction for the formation of proteins, RNA, and DNA is hugely positive, and so such reactions will never spontaneously happen in the natural world.
Even if we ignore all this and pretend such a cell could have formed by random natural processes, we must then ask the question “How did this first cell come to life?” How did this complex aggregation of chemicals actually pass from non-living to living? Atheists don’t even have a pretend explanation; they simply assert that, well, it just happened! Trust me! Ooh! Law of Biogenesis! Those annoying little “scientific rules” also include the Law of Biogenesis, which states the scientific finding that life can only come from living beings; non-life can never come to life. The atheist must ignore this and believe that, once upon a time, a lifeless agglomeration of chemicals must have done that very thing.
Furthermore, as we’ve said, there is all manner of information beyond the reach of the scientific method, and this includes historical events such as the assassination of Lincoln. The death and resurrection of Jesus fall into this category, and by the rules of ancient historiography, they are the best attested facts of the ancient world, by far. Now, when Gaudia writes, “I understand that I must abandon with world upon my death,” he is not asserting something other than what we also believe:
And as it is appointed for men to die once (Hebrews 9:27a)
The crucial question, however, is what happens to you after that. Gaudia obviously believes that all existence ceases upon death, but since he has not yet died, there is no reason to accord any credibility to his pronouncements in this matter; he cannot know what happens after death. Jesus, on the other, having died and then returned from the dead, is the only one qualified to speak on this matter. And what He says is abundantly clear; there is life after death, a resurrection of life and a resurrection of condemnation (John 5:24-29), and whether you put your faith in Jesus or not will determine which of these will be your lot (John 3:16-18, John 6:28-29). You will not be able to opt out.
Apropos to this, we do recognize that Gaudia finds objectionable “the concepts of heaven, hell, and an afterlife that are all based upon punishment or reward for the life led in the natural world.” It should be obvious, however, that not liking something is not tantamount to an argument against its reality.
The inconsistency continues when Gaudia turns to his understanding of “unfairness.” Gaudia writes,
In a system of one world, it is possible, I believe, to assign value to events in some orderly way based on fair principles that foster a comprehensive moral code. In a two-world system, that code is still desirable, but it is complicated and contradicted by the necessity to explain the inevitable unfairness imposed by random natural events like hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes, or mechanical failures that cause people to die in accidents. War, illness, and other misfortunes seem to be also unfairly distributed around the world. A two-world system that involves an omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent god elicits unavoidable complications created by the apparent unfairness that sometimes prevails in the natural world.
Now, if there is no God to give absolute moral standards, what exactly would constitute “fair principles”? Who decides what is fair or unfair? Gaudia? Me? It is certainly not the case that there is a universal human consensus on such matters; one need only look at such issues as abortion to see that. In reality, any “comprehensive moral code” that Gaudia or anyone else would care to proffer would be nothing more than his own personal opinion, based on his own idiosyncratic estimation of what is fair. (Gaudia does not even explain why, in a natural world built by “survival of the fittest,” we should even seek to be “fair”.)
Furthermore, the only “orderly way” in which such a code could be “foster[ed]” would be by “might makes right”; whoever happens to be in power would impose his own preferred moral code, by force or the threat of force, until he is supplanted by the next strongman. One need look only at Soviet Russia or Maoist China or, for that matter, revolutionary France and its Reign of Terror to see how atheists in control of a society “assign value to events in some orderly way based on fair principles that foster a comprehensive moral code.”
As for Gaudia’s statement that “the apparent unfairness that sometimes prevails in the natural world … results in my refusal to believe in a god who would either allow or cause these unfair events,” it reveals thinking that is patently risible. A more perceptive person would realize that the “apparent unfairness that sometimes prevails in the natural world” does not allow us to ignore the fact that God is the only explanation for the existence of the universe and the life in it, and therefore must Himself exist. All this “apparent unfairness” means that God does not do things the way Gaudia thinks he should – nor is there any obligation upon Him to do so.
The absurdity continues. Gaudia objects that
no one … has ever been able to explain how the natural world of cause and effect would be affected by any agent from a supernatural world. What could possibly be the interface between the material of the physical world and the ethereal forces of the supernatural world?
Can he seriously mean to suggest that God can only be real if we can understand exactly how He does things? Is it not reasonable to assume that an omnipotent, omniscient God’s ways would not be fully comprehensible to us?
Gaudia should not lose sight of the fact that we do not even fully understand the various ways in which the “elements, atoms, electrons, or even quarks that comprise the architecture of the material world” that he mentions interact; we simply describe what we see without understanding why it happens. For example, Gaudia earlier mentioned “the strong and weak forces of the nuclear system.” What exactly is the “strong nuclear force”?
Well, we know that like electric charges (+ve/+ve and –ve/-ve) repel each other while unlike charges (+ve/-ve) attract each other. We also know that the nucleus of the atom is made up only of protons (which have +ve charge) and, in most cases, neutrons (which are electrically neutral). Any atom heavier than hydrogen has more than one proton, and, since the protons are each positively charged, they should repel each other so that the nucleus should not stay together.
Yet it does. We don’t know why. We proclaim that there must be a force holding them together, a force stronger than the force of electromagnetic repulsion, a force we call the “strong nuclear force.” It is a term invented to paper over our ignorance; we have no idea what it is or how it operates – indeed we only proclaim it to be there because the protons are not acting in the way our other discoveries tell us they should.
Now, if our understanding of how the natural world, upon which we can bring to bear the scientific method, is so incomplete, how can a reasonable person suggest that we cannot believe in God, who is necessarily infinitely greater than the natural world that He created, simply because we cannot fully understand how He does what He does? It is an objection that is truly ludicrous.
Having presented us these vacuous arguments for atheism, Gaudia finally returns to his “two world” objection. Having previously written, “I find it impossible to understand how thinking people can surrender to what I consider the illogic of dual citizenship in the world of reality … and the world of fantasy,” he now reiterates that atheists “are unable to simultaneously exist in two worlds.” Yet that is exactly what he himself does! He simultaneously exists in two worlds, one “the world of reality” and the other an atheist fantasy world that is “operating under different laws”. Consider:
- In the real world, which operates according to the laws of science, matter/energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only changed from form to form. But in Gaudia’s atheist fantasy world, nothingness can fluctuate and thereby create an entire universe of matter/energy – out of nothing.
- In the real world, which operates according to the laws of science, all natural processes tend to maximize disorder (i.e. complex structures spontaneously break down into simpler structures, not vice versa), which means that complex organic molecules cannot spontaneously self-assemble. In the atheist fantasy world, simple chemicals can indeed magically come together to form such complex molecules. Why? Just because!
- In the real world, which operates according to the laws of science, only life can give rise to life, but in the atheist fantasy world, assemblages of lifeless chemicals can magically come to life. How? They just do!
And, perhaps most obviously fantastical and impossible, in the atheist fantasy world atheists are cool and brave and intelligent.
Finally, Gaudia writes
Atheists like me say only that we have not yet been provided with an explanation of supernaturalism.
Well, now he has. The evidence for the existence of God is undeniable – which is why I am not an atheist. In the light of this evidence, the crucial decision for Gaudia is whether he will now accept the reality of God – the God of the Bible – or continue to live in the atheist fantasy world that was constructed to escape that very reality. His eternal destiny depends on the choice he makes.
 Gaudia, Gil. “Why I am an Atheist.” American Atheist 51(3) (3rd Quarter 2013), p. 46.
 Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article are from ibid. All emphases added.
 WIN-Gallup International GLOBAL INDEX OF RELIGIOSITY AND ATHEISM – 2012
 See our forthcoming article on The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. In the meantime, see Wallace, J. Warner. Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2013)