I came across this article from The Catholic Register about Andy Bannister’s book The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist. Andy is promoting it as a humorous Christian apologetics book that he thinks atheists will enjoy reading, too. This article offers no clues to the validity of that thought.
One thing that stuck out to me is a point he makes in this article that seems to be a theme among Christians lately:
“I actually ended (the discussion) saying that this is not an attempt to push the burden of proof,” he told The Catholic Register. “With that said, I would put one more qualifier on that. I think it’s hugely important, whenever you believe in anything… that you are willing to live out the consequences of your belief system. If you are not, I question whether you actually believe it.”
Bannister calls this the “livability test,” which he explains further in The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist. Bannister argues that if humans are just atoms and particles, people would abandon the idea of treating each other with dignity and respect.
“That’s not so much burden of proof as it is burden of livability and I think the Christian worldview is the only one you can live out consistently,” said Bannister. “Even if atheism is true and Christianity is false, wouldn’t you prefer to be treated with value and as precious, rather than just being treated as atoms and particles?”
Look, I know Christians like to think we are living in two different worlds of morality and meaning, but we are all in the same boat. We are only separated by that tiny detail of whether or not we believe a story. We may have different ideas about where this thing all started and where it’s all going, but the in-between is here and now. And it’s all we know for sure.
We all have the same information. We all have the same emotions. We all have this same shared human experience. We can place ourselves in history and we have knowledge of worldwide cultures; we are not oblivious to the way humans evolve socially. Some Christians want to talk in riddles about what it means about us if we don’t believe, but those are just words they use to help them cling to their personal worldview.
Saying things like “if humans are just atoms and particles, people would abandon the idea of treating each other with dignity and respect” is just a stupid thing to say. So our ability to figure that out means god is real? Why did it take so long, and why didn’t everyone figure it out at the same rate?
To be fair, I wrote a post called Don’t Lie and Tell Me You Believe in God that may be the atheist version of this argument. It goes both ways, and I would challenge his idea that “the Christian worldview is the only one you can live out consistently.” In fact, I’d say that Christians have a lot more explaining to do. After all, atheists can really only be expected to act however they have been taught by other humans. Our behavior makes perfect sense. In that post I wrote:
There’s the trick, friend. It’s all about faith. Accepting the gift includes believing the gift is real. And believing it is real would do something to you. It would make you live exactly how god requires. No alterations. And you would do it. You would be fucking terrified not to. You would be confessing your mistakes day and night. You would sell your belongings and spread the message.
But you aren’t terrified. You are arrogant and bold in your defiance of god’s laws. So when you say you love him….I know you are lying. Not just to me, but more importantly to yourself.
Christians, consider this: god isn’t here on earth physically following you around. That connection is something you work at in hopes of an eternity where you will be with him physically. And in the meantime you find meaning and morality in what you know, just like everybody else. Just like me. Even if you are right about god, you are still very much in the dark because you are still stuck in this boat with me. You can only imagine god.
You find meaning in life by connecting with god and I find it by connecting with others. Surely you can relate. The difference between us may be that I can accept that this is all temporary. Believing this is all temporary makes my connections more meaningful, and I consider that an advantage. I am sorry if the connections you make with others feel worthless without a god present; or if your love for others must always remain a notch below the love you reserve for god.
When I think of god, I don’t see a fulfilling purpose to life. If the god of the bible is real it feels as meaningless and purposeless as a random existence, except with a lot more absurdity added in. It feels more disappointing, even. Until more choices present themselves? I’ll choose random, thank you.
I don’t have that feeling that there must be more. The thought that I am nothing beyond this tiny space and time makes sense enough. You don’t agree because for all the ways we are alike, we are also each different in how we feel and react to the world around us. Odds are that every time you believe I am trying to convince you that god isn’t real, I am really only trying to convince you of that.
The people who share this brief moment with me matter more than god, because god isn’t real for me. It doesn’t change anything about how I live, love, or value life. It only means I don’t believe the same story you believe. And as long as we are standing alive on this rock together, belief in that one story is the only thing you have that I don’t.