An Apology for Atheism

by Charles Southwell

Every once in a while one gets to read a book that blows your mind completely and that is exactly what this book did to me. I have in the recent past read quite a number of books in defense of Atheism by such authors as Joseph Lewis, Michael Onfry, Nietzsche, Robert G. Ingersoll among others, all good books but there is something interesting about this book that I hope am going to be able to show you.

Before we get into the book, I would like to state here as I had stated somewhere in this blog, that if I am going to engage with a theist, he/she will first start by defining what they mean when they say god. They have to define this god coherently and at least show that such a god so defined can exist, should this be impossible, I advice they shouldn’t enter into the god debate.

About the god worshiped by the bible believers and on the bible on whose authority they base their reasoning, he has this to say

The very ‘book of books,’ to which they so boldly appeal, is conclusive against them. In its pages they stand convicted of idolatry. Without doubt a God is revealed by revelation; but not their God; not a supernatural Being, infinite in power, in wisdom, and in goodness. The Bible Deity is superhuman in nothing; all that His adorers have ascribed to Him being mere amplification of human powers, human ideas, and human passions. The Bible Deity ‘has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth;’ is ‘jealous,’ especially of other Gods; changeful, vindictive, partial, cruel, unjust, ‘angry with the wicked every day;’ and altogether a Being far from respectable, or worthy to be considered infinite in wisdom, power, and goodness. Is it credible that a Being supernaturally wise and good, proclaimed the murderous adulterer David, a man after his own heart, and commanded the wholesale butchery of Canaanites? Or that a God of boundless power, ‘whose tender mercies are over all his works,’ decreed the extermination of entire nations for being what he made them? Jehovah did all three. Confessedly a God of armies and Lord of Hosts; confessedly, too, a hardener of men’s hearts that he might destroy them: he authorised acts at which human nature shudders, and of which it is ashamed: yet to love, respect, yea, reverence Him, we are commanded by the self-styled ‘stewards of his mysteries,’ on peril of our ‘immortal souls.’ 

The author shows atheists can not be accused of blasphemy, for to blaspheme, one must first believe. This is what he says

It would be well for all parties, if those who raise against Atheists the cry of ‘blasphemy,’ were made to perceive that godless unbelievers cannot be blasphemers; for, as contended by Lord Brougham in his Life of Voltaire, blasphemy implies belief, and, therefore, Atheists who do not believe in God, cannot logically or justly be said to blaspheme him. The blasphemer, properly so-called, is he who imagines Deity, and ascribes to the idol of his own brain, all manner of folly, contradiction, inconsistency, and wickedness. Yes, the blasphemer is he who invents a monster and calls it God; while to reject belief therein, is an act both reasonable and virtuous.

and I doubt any of our accusers have a response to this?

And he is full of humor, just look at this question that he poses

Every one has heard of the Predestinarian, who, having talked much of his God, was asked by a bystander to speak worse of the Devil if he could; but comparatively few persons feel the full force of that question, or are prepared to admit God-worshippers in general, picture their Deities as if they were demons

who can answer this question without showing their god to be extremely cruel and evil?

Can the religious tell us which brand of christianity is the correct one.

The priests of nearly all religional denominations ascribe to Deity the low grovelling vindictive feelings which agitate and disgrace themselves. If Roman Catholic principles are true and undeniable, none but Roman Catholics will be saved from the wrath to come. If Anglo-Catholic principles are true and undeniable, none but Anglo-Catholic will be saved from the wrath to come. If orthodox Protestant principles are true and undeniable, none but orthodox Protestants will be saved from the wrath to come. 

Here only we Atheists are right, we say no one is going to heaven or hell, those two places just can’t exist. I wait for a consensus among christians on which is the correct position and which is the true christianity since all of them can’t be right.

On the question many believers are wont to ask of atheists, that is, where did the universe come from or rather who created the universe if not god. This is what our fine gentleman posit and please I don’t want to hear that line again that Atheists are willfully being ignorant!

Theologians ask, who created Nature? without adducing satisfactory evidence that Nature was created, and without reflecting that if it is difficult to believe Nature self-existent, it is much more difficult to believe some self-existent Super-nature, capable of producing it. In their anxiety to get rid of a natural difficulty, they invent a supernatural one, and accuse Atheists of ‘willful blindness,’ and ‘obstinate deafness,’ for not choosing so unphilosophic a mode of explaining universal mystery.

He continues to say this of the designer capable of making the universe

for the maker of a thing must be superior to the thing made; and if there be a maker of the universe there can be no doubt, but that if such maker were minutely examined by man, man would discover such indications of wisdom and design that it would be more difficult for him to admit that such maker was not caused or constructed by a pre-existing Designer, than to admit that the universe was not caused or constructed by a Designer. 

Can any theist show me that matter isn’t eternal, always existing? They posit god as always existing outside of time and space, I would like for anyone to show me how and where the material and immaterial interact.

The Atheist says, matter is the eternal something, and asks proof of its beginning to be. The Theist insists that matter is not the eternal something, but that God is, and when pushed for an account of what he means by God, he coolly answers, a Being, having nothing in common with anything, who, nevertheless, by his Almighty will created everything.

Is there any theist capable of conceiving god?

An unknown Deity, without body, parts or passions, is of all idols the least tangible; and they who pretend to know and reverence him, are deceived or deceivers. Knowledge of, and reverence for an object, imply, the power of conceiving that object; but who is able to conceive a God without body, parts, or passions?

Then continues his onslaught and I don’t know if anyone has a response to this

Could God be known, could his existence be made ‘palpable to feeling as to sight,’ as unquestionably is the existence of matter, there would be no need of ‘Demonstrations of the existence of God,’ no need of arguments a priori or a posteriori to establish that existence. Saint John was right; ‘No man hath seen God at any time,’ to which ‘open confession’ he might truly have added, ‘none ever will,’ for the unreal is always unseeable. Yet have ‘mystery men’ with shameless and most insolent pertinacity asserted the existence of God while denying the existence of matter.

About the RCC with the body of christ or it god, he has quite an interesting anecdote of a conversation between a priest and a muslim man who had been forced to convert to catholicism

How many God’s are there? None at all, replied Benedict, for that was his new name. How! None at all? Cries the Priest. To be sure, said the honest proselyte, you have told me all along that there it but one God; and yesterday I ate him.

And about the soul believed by theists to exists, he quotes an eccentric count on his death-bed

After a long pause he broke silence by saying, ‘Ah, friends, I see you are anxious about my soul;’ whereupon they pricked up their ears with delight; before, however, any reply could be made, the Count added, ‘but the fact is I have not got one, and really my good friends, you must allow me to know best.’

Christians have often quoted Newton as a scientist who believed in god. Let us look at what Newton thought about god and see how coherent this was and whether they really should continue to believe in such a god on the authority of Sir Isaac Newton

Newton conceived God to be one and the same for ever, and everywhere, not only by his own virtue or energy, but also in virtue of his substance–Again, ‘All things are contained in him and move in him, but without reciprocal action.’ (sed sine mutua passione) God feels nothing from the movements of bodies; nor do they experience any resistance from his universal presence. 

Please tell me, one what?

Newton continues to describe the relationship with the divine thus

By[…] He is called the Lord God, the Universal Emperor–that the word God is relative, and relates itself with slaves–and that the Deity is the dominion or the sovereignty of God, not over his own body, as those think who look upon God as the soul of the world, but over slaves

Can we conceive of slavery without tyranny. If we must accept the above relationship, then we must conclude that god is the great tyrant ever conceived of by man!

He then introduces Clarke, a contemporary of Newton but a theologian, who wrote some eight attributes of god. Here we look just at one of these

…… this always-existing Being is unchangeable and independent.[ …….] Now, as no human action can be imagined without necessary precursors in the shape of motives, reasoning from analogy, it seems impossible that the unchangeable and independent Being, Clarke was so sure must ever have existed, could have created the universe, seeing he could have had no motive or inducement to create it.

This is the position of the Atheist

…. the Atheist, because he finds it impossible to explain the action of matter, because unable to state why it exhibits such vast and various energies as it is seen to exhibit, is none the less assured it naturally and therefore necessarily acts thus energetically. No Atheist pretends to understand how bread nourishes his frame, but of the fact that bread does nourish it he is well assured. He understands not how or why two beings should by conjunction give vitality to a third being more or less analogous to themselves, but the fact stares him in the face.

and is it possible for one to show me at what point this is being obstinately ignorant?

He says elsewhere in the treatise that scripture has first to be proved word of god before it is appealed to. IS there any objection to this?

And for fear of typing the whole book here, I leave you, the theist, with this matter to consider

He is a rigid Predestinarian, which no one can be who doubts the all powerfulness or foreknowledge of that God whom Christians worship. Taking Scripture as his guide, the Predestinarian must needs believe some are foredoomed to Hell, and some to Hell, irrespective of all merit; it being manifestly absurd to suppose one man can deserve more or less than another, in a world, where all are compelled to believe, feel, and act, as they do believe, feel, and act. 

and the Atheist to rejoice in this belief

He who is without God cannot run into absurdities and blasphemies like these, whereas he who is with one cannot keep clear of them.