Posts Tagged ‘lying


What if you’re wrong?

This is a common question that believers will ask nonbelievers. It seems to be gaining some popularity recently, possibly because it’s quick, simple, to the point, and appears to cut right through every possible atheist argument.

It’s really a very simplified version of Pascal’s Wager, the idea that you should live life as if there is a god, because the outcome is better either way. In other words, if you believe in a god and there is one, you go to heaven – if there isn’t, there is no loss.  If you don’t believe there’s a god and there is one, you go to hell – if there isn’t, there is no loss. The odds favor the believer.

There’s a lot wrong here.

First, the question of which god I’m wrong about isn’t addressed. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a book on my desk of over 2,500 gods that have been recorded in one way or another through history. This question applies equally to all of them. Should I evaluate each of these gods asking this same question?

What if I’m wrong about Mara, the evil Buddhist deity who puts obstacles in the way of the Buddha? Or Vulcanus, the Roman god of fire and the forge? Or Isa, the Nigerian river goddess? Mah, the Persian moon goddess? Amaethon, the Celtic god of agriculture? Tien Mu, the Chinese goddess of lightning?

Each of these gods may have penalties for nonbelief – or they may not care one way or the other. Should I research which gods have the worst penalties, create a new pantheon out of them, and worship all of them, just to play it safe? Some of these gods don’t get along with each other. Some of them wouldn’t even approve of me reading about the others, or mentioning their names (Yahweh mentions this in Exodus 23:13, for example – by the way, this gets interesting when you note that the planets of our solar system and days of the week are all named after non-Christian gods!)

The other pressing issue here is that of “tricking” a god into not punishing me by believing in them. Turning it into a wager, or just believing in something to make sure that I’m not wrong, simply doesn’t work. An all-powerful god who demands sincere belief would see right through it, and reject my pitiful attempt at sneaking through the back door of paradise.

Considering all of the above, my answer to this question is simple: I’ll take my chances.


Does your family know that you are an atheist?

Some of them do, and the rest probably have their suspicions. The subject doesn’t come up that often between myself and two of my siblings, but the other one – my oldest sister – knows about my atheism for certain, and we frequently talk about it. For the record, almost all of my relatives are Christians of one sort or another.

I have mentioned this in an earlier post, but it applies here as well, so I’ll repeat it – When my mother was alive, I was much more secretive about my atheism. She was a devoted Catholic, and was very concerned about the fate of both our souls if I did not follow the Catholic way. In the interest of making the latter years of her life as calm and peaceful as possible, I never told her about my lack of faith, and I was as evasive and deceptive as I could be when the issue came up.

Yep, I lied to my dying mother to make her final days more comfortable. Just another example of vile atheistic depravity.

I recognize how fortunate I am in that I have no worries about my lack of belief becoming a problem for my relationship with my family. The same cannot be said for many people who are atheists, unfortunately. Many atheist teens have been kicked out of their homes by believing parents, and in extreme cases, people have been disowned by their families because they don’t share their belief.

While this is certainly not the case for every believing family with nonbelieving members, it is a sad reality for many.


Would you die for your religious beliefs?

In the post “Would you kill for atheism?,” Mark made the following comment:

That’s the wrong question. The question should be, would you die for your religious beliefs?

My answer isn’t different, however: No. Since I don’t have any religious beliefs, I don’t have anything to die for.

(We’ll save the “atheism is a religion” question for a future post, but here’s a quick spoiler:  No, it isn’t.)

But maybe this is the wrong question, too. Perhaps it should be “Would you die for your lack of religious belief?” or “Would you die to defend atheism?”

And for those, the answer is the same. No. Life is far too precious to waste it over ideological disagreements.

The fact is, if I were in a stressful situation, where someone was pointing a gun to my head and telling me that I needed to accept Christ or Mohammed or any other savior, or threatening to kill me if I admitted to being an atheist, I would lie to save my own life. I’d pretend to accept any religion my captor wanted me to right then and there, just for my own self-preservation.

Yep, I would lie – something I normally have a rule against – to keep myself (or others) from dying. And I’m convinced that this would be the most reasonable, rational thing to do.

Cowardly? Maybe. That’s for others to judge, and I’m not particularly interested in their decision. My life is all that I have, and there are a few people beside myself who treasure it – my daughters and partner in particular.

Really, I think most other people would do the same thing in the same situation. But I could be wrong about that.

Thanks for the question, Mark!

I am an atheist, a person who does not believe in the existence of any gods.

Many people don't know a lot about atheists, and have questions about them. In this blog, I do my best to answer them, to help build an understanding between atheists and theists.

Do you have a question? You can post it in the comments to any of my blog entries, and I will do my best to answer it in a new entry.