This is a response- kinda- to this letter directed to atheists. It’s a letter that from the very onset is full of fallacies. I will pick a few and leave the rest for you to name.
The pastor asks
How do you think we got here? Was it a colossal cosmic accident or is there some plan, design or purpose behind our existence? (false dilemma fallacy)
An an atheist or unbeliever, there is no contradiction in answering I don’t know to the question of how we got here. As we do not have any definite knowledge on how we got here, the question of purpose cannot be answered conclusively. We can say our purpose is to propagate more life. But if this is the case, are those, who for one reason or another, do not propagate living purposeless lives?
The next question follows a wrong assumption.
If we are here by cosmic accident, who is right and who is wrong, and what rules should we live by?
I don’t know how we got here or even why but that doesn’t stop us from working out a way to live that promotes peaceful coexistence.
If theists believed and acted like they believed their gods existed, some of the things we see around us would not happen. So to write
If there is no ultimate arbitrator then I would assume that we are not accountable to anyone which means that the rules we make are based upon current opinion, force of autocratic power or democratic vote
is in my view to be blind to history and reality. We don’t need an ultimate arbitrator. We need just a few intolerant people to be adamant about something and it may become law.
I am certain there is a fallacy involved in this next question
You say that there are some things inherent in us that define what is right and wrong, but if we are cosmic accidents is anything really inherent or does each of us have to figure out life and sometimes we discover similarities in our experience and we conclude that our similarities mean something is inherent.
Our first parents (taking liberties here) can be cosmic accidents but we have what is called accumulated history and knowledge of the race that has contributed in promoting life. Over time, these habits, tendencies become part of the group psychology. It is not rocket science. And I don’t think there is any contradiction in finding a product of a cosmic accident having some inherent properties.
In the next question, the good pastor is being dishonest. He asks
If that’s the case why is it that all civilizations look for “God” without knowing each other or having a pre-existing cross reference?
And I argue that people do not look for gods per se, but are looking for answers. In this pursuit, humanity have invented gods, imbued them with powers ranging from omniscience to immortality, without ever being able to tell coherently what a god is or why one is even needed.
Religion is confusing and there are multiple religions and theories, but does that confirm that we are a cosmic accident, or does it mean that we just do not know definitively one way or another?
the pastor is mixing up issues.
How should we live? Many things answer this question. And we get answers from custom, from public opinion( a very potent guide, actually. The threat of public dishonour or shame is enough to keep many people in check). The good pastor however thinks he can corner us and asks
You insist you are certain there is no possibility of God, so who or what determines how we should live?
Is it nature?
Is it public opinion?
Is it science?
His question is loaded. He has introduced god in the premise as a determinant on how we should live.
Do our lives have meaning? In his book on the human condition, Benatar, identifies different levels at which our lives can have meaning; cosmic meaning. There are some people whose lives have meaning only so far as their families are concerned. Other people luckily, manage to transcend borders. Therefore, in asking
But can science help us with meaning? If we are cosmic accidents, is there a single meaning, or are there multiple meanings?
the pastor is pretending there is a universal meaning for all of us. Had this been the case, the many people who live miserable lives trying to find meaning for their lives shouldn’t be a common occurrence.
Atheism generally is understood as absence of belief in deities. It says nothing about the character of the atheist. The pastor in writing
If you subscribe to a belief system, do you have to be profane against the thing you don’t believe? Shouldn’t your atheism produce someone who is superior to the ignorant people who believe in God? Shouldn’t others be able to look at you and your character and conclude that atheism is good and produces better people?
is making an argument that has no leg or head to stand on. One could turn the question on its head and ask of the theist, why with the belief in god and the threats associated with it, do they steal, pillage and cuss? Do they not fear their god(s)?
In his final paragraph, Dave tries to be dishonest again. He writes
Since there is no scientific experiment that either proves or disproves God, why should I give up on something that works for me?
which contradicts what he wrote before, thus
No one is required to believe in God because we are all individuals who make our decision from our knowledge base.
Put differently, everyone believes as they are convicted. But there are good reasons to give up religion.