What do I mean when I say atheism is “common sense?”
I do not mean that religious people are stupid. Believers can be doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, philosophers, entrepreneurs – some smart folks.
Usually when someone says, “It’s common sense!” he really means “This is the way I think about it; isn’t it obvious to everyone else?” That’s not what I mean by common sense. I’m going to argue for atheism using your common sense; the way you already think about most things in life.
See, believers have two ways of thinking. In most situations, they think with the same logic as most people do: this is our “common sense.” Tell a believer that the bank stole his money, or that an ancient book says you can heal disease by dancing around a fire, and he will ask for evidence. That is common sense.
But believers think in a different way about their religious beliefs. This is “special thinking.” A believer reads in his religion’s ancient book that a man walked on water and rose from the dead, and that is enough for him to believe.
The whole point of my website is this: If a believer applies his special thinking to any other area of life, it becomes clear how irrational that special thinking is. And if he applies common sense to his religion, it becomes clear how irrational that religion is.
Here’s a non-religious example. I once saw a bumper sticker that said: “Why do we kill people who kill people to show them it’s wrong to kill people?” I was against the death penalty already, so I thought the question made a good point.
But I’ve trained myself to question what I think. Not much later, I thought: “Wait a minute. Why do we kidnap people who kidnap people to show them it’s wrong to kidnap people?” Surely this question doesn’t prove we should stop using prisons. So, neither does the bumper sticker show we should abolish the death penalty. There might be good reasons to oppose the death penalty, but that is not one of them.
When I applied my special thinking about the death penalty to another situation, it became clear how my special thinking didn’t work. You can do the same thing with religious special thinking.
A Christian might say, “I had a personal experience with Jesus, so I know he’s real.” But let’s apply that logic to another situation and see what happens. Millions of Muslims have had personal experiences with Allah. Does that make Allah real, too? Millions of other people have had personal experiences with ghosts and dead ancestors. Does that make them real? Thousands of people are utterly convinced they have seen aliens. Does that mean that aliens have visited us? Personal experiences – especially those with invisible beings – are not good sources of truth, and every Christian knows this, except when it comes to his own religion.
Or think about it from the other direction. Let’s start with some common sense. Most people – religious or not – easily reject the “Hindu milk miracle” of 1995.
In case you missed the story, here’s what happened. A Hindu worshiper made a milk offering to a statue of the Hindu elephant god, Ganesha. He held up a spoonful of milk to the statue’s trunk and the milk disappeared. Apparently, the statue “drank” it. Within hours, Hindu statues all across India were drinking up milk. The World Hindu Council proclaimed it a miracle. Milk sales in New Delhi jumped 30%.
Most people reject the Hindu milk miracle, for many good reasons. First, it makes no sense: Why would invisible gods living in Hindu statues suddenly decide to drink physical milk? Second, it defies what we have always experienced: Statues do not drink. Third, it is much more likely to have a simple explanation – capillary action, illusion, mass hysteria – than a miraculous one.
This is common sense. We all use this reasoning with regard to every religion and every area of life – except our own dogma. The same Christians who reject the Hindu milk miracle (which was attested by thousands of living witnesses, written about in hundreds of surviving original documents, and captured on video) will nevertheless accept the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (which was attested by a few ancient dead writers, from whom we have no original documents or video evidence).
A Christian may read in the Muslim scriptures that Mohammad flew on a winged horse, and he will dismiss it. He may laugh when he reads the Roman historian Suetonius say that Caesar Augustus ascended into heaven after he died. But he reads in an ancient book that Mary gave virgin birth to a man-god who walked on water, died, came back to life, and flew off into the sky – and he believes.
“When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” That is the heart of atheism to me. I dismiss Yahweh for the exact same reasons we both reject the myths about alien invaders, haunted houses, psychics, Elvis sightings, Zeus, and Thor. Once a believer understands why he dimisses all other gods, he will understand why he should dismiss his own.