How Do Atheists Explain Anything?

In my head right now, I have that insipid line from Rebecca Black’s glossolalia episode, Friday. You know the line. It’s goddamned poetry:

“Fun, fun, fun, fun…”

I’ve got this line in my head, because nothing is more fun than when theists demand an explanation for the unexplained, or the insufficiently explained phenomena that saturates our world, and that’s what’s on my mind. You’ve heard the questions before:

“As an atheist, how to do you explain consciousness?”

“As an atheist, how do you explain miracles?”

“As an atheist, how do you explain thoughts?”

“As an atheist, how do you explain all these amazing coincidences I experienced with no witnesses?”

You see? So much fun.

Fun, fun, fun...

Fun, fun, fun…

 

I think the absolute saddest thing about these questions – we’re talking a level of sadness that compares to Johnny Football’s pro career – is that with just one moment of reflection, you’ll see the flaw in them pretty quick. Asking said questions, is, for the theist, a willing admission that they believe that in the current moment in our unfolding history, we should be able to explain everything.

Not some things.

Not most things.

Everything.

Imagine that… seriously, just for a moment, imagine living as though there is no mystery left in our cosmos. Imagine living as though we know the answer to everything and there’s nothing more to learn or explore. No more frontiers, no more breakthroughs, no more mind-bending discoveries. I don’t know about you friendly folks, but to me, that worldview is devastatingly empty.

I mean, think about it: If we, collectively, know everything already then this is the best we’re ever going to do. The state of the world right now is the best it will ever be. There will never be any new understandings that will allow us to cure the world’s many woes. There will be no further tech to help us help each other. No new medical breakthroughs, no new clean energy sources, no new ways to feed our growing human population and overcome famine.  How completely devoid of hope that idea is. That worldview is so bleak and depressing, I don’t know how anyone who actually believes this can even begin to cope with it.

The theist who asks this question, of course, doesn’t really realize that this is what he is saying when he poses this question. He also doesn’t realize that he’s trying to assert that the only way he, himself, can be stumped about anything, is if something magical was the explanation. Instead, he’s caught up in vacuous gotchas. What he thinks he is so cleverly pointing out is that in an atheistic worldview some things cannot be explained, therefore said things must be attributed to god.

Because what else, amirite?  What else could possibly be the source of consciousness, thoughts and coincidences? You can’t explain it, so it’s gotta be Jeeby.

The goal here, of the theist, is to have the atheist suddenly realize that without god, there are some things we can’t explain. What the theist has not prepared for is that atheists don’t mind not knowing things. Atheists are okay with admitting there are gaps in our knowledge. Atheists don’t need to fill those gaps with illogical nonsense and magic creatures from the great beyond. Why? Because atheists prefer the feeling of hope, wonder and mystery that occupies those gaps.

Ball of the gapsTheists are missing the mark with these sorts of questions because the fact is, even if I couldn’t explain anything, it still doesn’t prove there is a god. It’s sort of like noticing a ball you’d never seen before in your backyard, and asking everyone in your household to explain where it came from. When none of them are able to explain the origin of the ball, you take that as proof that your theory, that Belizean paratroopers planted the bugged ball there in the dark just before dawn, to spy on you in hopes of extracting your mother’s secret peanut butter cookie recipe, is the truth.

“You can’t explain, so my hypothesis must be correct!”

Asking, “as an atheist, how do you explain…” in any form, is intellectually lazy because with just a moment’s thought, even the most devout theist can see the flaws. It’s an indication that the asker has not questioned anything to do with their own beliefs really – they’ve not thought them through on any real, meaningful level.

In reality, we will never be able to explain everything – the atheist has come to terms with that and the sort of theist who poses these questions has not. It’s sad, because saying “I don’t know” can be freeing and it opens up a path to discovery. If you admit you don’t know, you can still seek the answers. If you admit today that you don’t know, perhaps one day you will know.

What’s the most absurd form of the “as an atheist, how do you explain…” question you’ve ever heard? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Great article and it sums it up well. Just shared it on Twitter, FB, and G+. There’s only one small error I see in your article; it’s when you say, “…with just a moment’s thought, even the most devout theist can see the flaws.” Of course they can’t see that, because if they were capable of that moment’s thought, they probably would be atheists like us. 😀

    • Haha, fair enough! Thanks for reading and sharing 🙂

  • Paul

    My answer to the theist would be “Try googling it”.