The Necessity of Atheism
Why not to believe

Although there are many other excellent sites on the Internet that supply reasons to be an atheist, there are none, so far as I know, that attempt to gather all these reasons into one place. This essay seeks to remedy that oversight. It represents an attempt at providing a general defense and justification of atheism, listing the valid reasons both major and minor to be a nonbeliever. Although each individual item on the list will not attempt to comprehensively expound on the specific reason or argument it outlines, it should at least give an overview of that reason, and greater detail will be provided by links to other articles where applicable.

This essay will make the case for atheism in three sections. The first section consists of evidential reasons: factual statements about the world that under any reasonable interpretation make atheism more likely to be true than theism. Some of these facts strengthen the case against theism in general, while others are relevant to particular belief systems. However, even the facts that only constitute evidence against some religions make atheism more likely to be true, because when one alternative is removed from consideration, it must increase the likelihood of all the remaining possibilities, of which atheism is one.

For purposes of deciding what constitutes evidence, this essay will employ a "surprisingness" criterion: a given observation is evidence for a hypothesis if that observation is unsurprising - i.e., expected - assuming that hypothesis is true; and an observation is evidence against a hypothesis if that observation would be surprising and unexpected assuming that hypothesis is true. For example, if I leave a bowl of milk out in the kitchen at night and return in the morning to find the milk gone and the kitchen swept and scrubbed, this observation is not surprising under the hypothesis that my house is inhabited by fairies who do housework in exchange for food. On the other hand, such an observation would be surprising under the hypothesis that there are no such fairies, and so constitutes evidence for the former over the latter.

The second section of this essay consists of moral reasons for atheism: cases where the requirement to do what is right favors being an atheist, or at the very least, not supporting certain sects or practices of theism. If one believes (as I do) that morality is objective and that certain acts are right or wrong and will be right or wrong regardless of what anyone says, it therefore follows that we are morally obligated to reject any religious belief system that advocates or practices such wrong acts. Granted, rejecting a particular religion as immoral does not establish the truth of atheism. However, even if a religion's claims about the world were factually true, if it commanded evil actions we would still be obligated to reject it; and those who cannot accept the notion of an evil god must conclude that any immoral religion is necessarily false. In any case, this essay will attempt to show that there are some moral shortcomings common to all religions.

The final section of this essay consists of practical reasons for atheism: reasons why accepting atheism over theism produces positive overall effects on a person's life. While these do not in themselves provide reasons to think that atheism is true, if one is already convinced by the evidential and moral arguments in favor of atheism, they provide additional incentive to adopt it and make it one's chosen worldview.

Evidential Reasons

Moral Reasons

Practical Reasons

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