I'm 99.97% atheist!

Atheist symbolIn a post The atheist delusion Gez quotes the following from David Nicholls, President of the Atheist Foundation:

We’re … people who have realised there’s absolutely no evidence for any of the 3000 gods …

In a comment Robert J. Wilson, himself an atheist, makes a point which I was also going to bring up before I saw his comment:

As Mr. Nicholls rightly points out, there are over 3,000 gods throughout history. Christians are 99.9% atheist in that they disbelieve in all but one. We (atheists) simply go one god further.

I could have responded by noting how completely Wilson misunderstands, or misrepresents, what the one God means to us Christians. We don’t so much believe in his existence as have a relationship with him. Even if I didn’t believe that Solomon’s thousand wives and concubines (1 Kings 11:3) existed, that would bring me no closer to disbelieving in the existence of my own one wife – I know she exists because I know her! And the same with my one God.

But the reply to Wilson I in fact posted, pointing out his mathematical error, was more on the level his argument deserves:

Interesting statistic, Robert. Perhaps you think we Christians are 99.9% atheist in that we disbelieve in all but THREE of the 3000? But the three are one, so I go with 99.97% atheist. ;-)

16 thoughts on “I'm 99.97% atheist!

  1. So…. the fact that you can SCUBA off Nuweiba in the Red Sea and find the remains of Pharaoh Amenhotep IIIs army from the exodus; or go on Google Earth and see Noah’s Ark, the Golden Calf Altar, and the remains of towns built for 15 foot tall giants….
    This is NOT evidence for God. Surely if the Bible turns out to be accurately reporting Supernatural intervention in human affairs in several key instances, we have evidence to continue looking…
    I think it takes a lot of faith to claim to be atheist….certainly a huge amount of gullibility and an obstinate refusal to correctly apply basic Scientific principles.
    Or… maybe they’re just silly!

  2. That’s rather misrepresenting the point being made, isn’t it? Whether you believe you have a relationship with God is irrelevant to the Atheist in the same way that a Muslim’s relationship to Allah or a Hindu’s relationship to Krishna are irrelevant to you. You don’t believe in Allah and Krishna (or in the relationships these deities have with their adherents) in the same way that the Atheist doesn’t believe in God.

    The point of the statement is to address the claim that Atheists are somehow denying the facts, or blindly following their beliefs, or being unfair because they haven’t fully explored Christianity before rejecting it. The statement points out that Christians show very little regard for the theology and experiences of adherents of other faiths, so why should non-Christians be compelled to treat Christianity any differently?

    @Paul Davies – I’m sure that there are some Atheists who are Atheists because they hate science and are just swallowing the claims of whomsoever they’ve decided is an authority. But the vast majority of Atheists (certainly all that I’ve met) are more interested in “believing as many true things and as few false things as possible.”

    The fact is that neither they, nor I, have ever heard of being able to scuba dive in the Red Sea and find the remains of the Egyptian army talked about in Exodus. In fact, as far as I knew, the best guess as to which pharaoh is the one who refused to “let the people go” is Ramasses II, and that there were no records of any pharaoh dying with his army by drowning while chasing something close to two million fleeing slaves. We hear about expeditions to find Noah’s Ark (including a recent one that faked a discovery) and had no idea that it was already found, nor that any one of us could find it right from our computers! Not to mention the Golden Calf altar or a town built for giants.

    Most Atheists I know, myself included, would need some pretty strong explanations for that kind of evidence. And while not proof of God per se, proof of the historicity of the Bible’s supernatural claims would go a long way towards converting us to at least one of the Religions of the Book.

    Since, as an Atheist, I care about believing true things, I urge you to let me know where/how I can find all these wonders.


  3. Check out http://www.anchorstone.com for the stories of the various discoveries. I’ve spoken to a number of people who have “been there” to check it out and got their own photos and samples.

    You will also find a lot of criticisms of Wyatt’s claims. As a Scientist, If looked into these since 1989, and most are of the category: “It isn’t Noah’s Ark because I’m a Geologist…” rather than an actual refutation of evidence. In fact, the circumstantial evidence, ancient place names, etc. is quite overwhelming.

    This raises the question of vested interests in interpreting finds/sites. Much of what was found after the Red Seas crossing discovery (as in who was Moses/Pharoah’s Daughter, Pharaoh, etc) was from the Egyptian Dept of Antiquities at the time. It was never publicly confirmed by them, and Zahi Hawass is a “Party Line” guy. However, the fact that the remains and chariot wheels etc is all there has been confirmed to me by several people who have been there.

    One initial skeptic who ended up helping Wyatt with later sites is Jonathan Gray http://www.beforeus.com, who had spent 40 years doing expeditions researching his first book: Dead Men’s Secrets. He has a (very large) volume called Discoveries: Questions Answered where he deals with every issue and serious question about the discoveries – it’s worth a read.

    Google Earth Coordinates
    FEBRUARY 07, 2007
    The following are map locations for discoveries and related areas mentioned in Scripture. They are listed with the site name first, followed by Latitude, and then Longitude.
    NOAH’S ARK 39 26 26 N, 44 14 5.3 E
    RED SEA CROSSING SITE 29 0 5.14 N, 34 39 53 E
    MT. SINAI (JABAL AL-LAWZ /JABAL AL-MAKLA) 28 35 6.38N, 35 21 12 .15 E
    Rephidim (Split Rock) 28 43 35.44N, 35 14 10.46E
    Golden Calf Altar 28 34 52.7N, 35 23 46.22E
    Sacrifice Altar Area (L-shape) 28 35 3.87N, 35 22 43.3E
    Saudi Guard Shack in Holy Precinct Area 28 35 12.5N, 35 23 8.37E
    Possible Grave site of 23,000 bodies (Ex. 32:28,35,1Cor 10:8) 28 47 3.41N, 35 09 46.3E
    Elijah Cave area (1 Kgs. 19) /Single Almond tree(Ex25:31) 28 35 17.3N, 35 22 22.97E
    SODOM 31 4 53 N, 35 22 1 E
    GOMORRAH 31 18 30.03N, 35 22 20.69E
    JERUSALEM 31 46 46 N, 35 13 11 E
    GARDEN TOMB 31 47 O3.76N, 35 13 48.28E
    GOLGOTHA 31 47 01.29N, 35 13 15.02E
    JEREMIAH’S GROTTO 31 47 02.07N, 35 13 50.53E
    GETHSEMANE 31 46 46.69N, 35 14 27.14E
    MT. OF OLIVES 31 46 30.20N, 35 14 33.91E
    PYRAMIDS (GIZA) 29 58 33 N, 31 7 49.1 E
    ZAQQARA (JOSEPH’S GRAIN BINS) 29 52 9.2 N, 31 12 59.54 E
    GAZIANTEP (NEAR TOWER OF BABEL) 37 4 8 N, 37 23 26.96 E
    CALTEPE (CINAR. ANCIENT SHINAR) 39 56 58.11 N, 37 27 39.66 E
    URFA (UR OF THE CHALDEES) 37 10 12.3N, 38 47 23.24E
    HARRAN 36 51 00.81N, 39 00 00.7E
    NAKHICHEVAN (NAMED AFTER NOAH) 39 12 43.1N, 45 24 49.3E

    Have Fun, and make up your own mind,


  4. Paul, I agree with you in principle – but I have looked for Noah’s Ark with Google Earth and all I could find was blurred marks which could be the remains of a boat but could equally be natural geological formations. But I will be interested to look at the site you recommend when I have time. Anyway, even if that is a good argument against atheism in general, it doesn’t tie up with my point here.

    By the way, I had thought that Zahi Hawass had resigned, but apparently as of July he is back in charge of Egyptian antiquities.

    MrPopularSentiment, I see your point. I know that to talk about my personal relationship with God is not going to convince anyone who approaches the issue as an academic matter of logic and proof. And I accept that Christians can be insensitive to genuine experience in other religions – which, I would suggest, is often misinterpreted experience of the true God. But part of the relevance of what I wrote is in Wilson’s implicit appeal to us Christians to abandon belief in our one God – something we cannot do because we have a personal relationship with him, which for us is proof of his existence. I could also say that according to the popular sentiment of most people in the world, outside the ivory towers, my argument from relationship is far more powerful than any atheist appeals to philosophical logic.

  5. @Paul – I’m looking up the chariot wheel stuff, and I can’t say that the case is particularly compelling. First of all, for Wyatt to make his theory work, he has to

    conflate different kings and play around with timelines. While he may well be right, if your conclusion requires that much playing with generally-accepted ideas,

    there’s a chance that your conclusion may be unfounded.

    Next, it seems that Wyatt made a habit of “confusing” artifacts, such as when he declared that a concrete column put up by the Egyptian authorities was actually

    something built by Solomon. When he has a history of misrepresenting his findings, we need to be cautious. Again, this doesn’t he’s wrong, but it does mean that we

    need to use some additional skepticism when we look at his claims.

    It’s telling that he has never brought any of these wheels up for inspection (except on that he has “authenticated” and then promptly hid away so that no one could see

    it). Of the two wheel pictures I could find, one looked more like a simple coral formation (which suggests that many of the sightings may have more to do with

    pareidolia than actual archeological finds) and the other, while legitimately looking like a wheel, had nothing in the picture to give it context, such as a sense of


    I think that you, and Wyatt, underestimate the power of the brain to see what it wants to see.

    Now, you may well argue that I have a vested interest in not believing Wyatt’s claims. However, there are 5billion people in this world who have a very strong

    motivation to believe him. Given this, don’t you think it’s a bit odd that his claims don’t have more traction?

    Same goes for your GoogleEarth coordinates.

  6. @Peter – The problem is that while the claim may not work on you, it does work on others. It worked on me.

    I had what I thought was a “personal relationship with God” once. But I travelled a lot and I would go to countries where I might be the only Christian around. I talked to Muslims, to Hindus, to Buddhists, and I realized that they all had theologians who were every bit as convincing to them as some Christian theologians were to me. They believed every bit as strongly in their faith as I believed in mine.

    I simply did not have the hubris to declare that all of them, all ~3billion of them, must simply be mistaking experiences of my God without also considering the possibility that I was mistaking experiences of theirs.

    For a little while, I became a pandeist. I believed that none of us were right and that we were all forming traditions around the small glimpses of the divine that we were capable of seeing and recognizing.

    Then I started studying psychology and I realized that there were perfectly natural explanations for the feeling of communion with God, for the experience of the numinous, for religious trances and frenzies. All of these experiences are clearly real, but that doesn’t mean that are able to accurately interpret their provenance.

    Realizing that I was already an Atheist as far as most of the world’s religions were concerned, I lacked the arrogance to continue believing that I was special enough, smart enough, “chosen” enough, or spiritual enough to be right when so many deeply devoted theologians and lay-devotees were wrong.

  7. MrPopular, that’s an interesting story. But there is a difference between “experiences of God” and the kind of personal relationship I have in mind. And the evidence for the existence of God is not only in these possibly psychologically explainable matters. Paul is on the right lines in principle although I am sceptical about Wyatt’s claims.

  8. “First of all, for Wyatt to make his theory work, he has to

    conflate different kings and play around with timelines. ”

    If you actually investigate what Egyptologists believe, what they say on TV and what most believe is based on very little evidence and much assumption. The basic principle here is that “arguing from absence is invalid” – the absence of evidence proves nothing. But when you actually have artifacts (again, they are simply there), that pinpoint that dynasty, the Bible story matches up with the few actual facts.

    Much of what we believe we know is based more on assumptions rather than facts – especially true in Science. If a find rewrites some of the beliefs that have held sway for a few hundred years, tough.

    The claim about the column was based on inscriptions still there on the Saudi column. The fences, etc at the Mt Sinai site are clear indication of the seriousness with which the Saudis have taken these finds.

    But still, your main position is flawed. We have a book, the Bible, which claims to go back to the first man God created, and details several instances where God supernaturally intervenes in human history. When you can go to these places and actually find remains that match the history, then you have evidence to work with.

    Naturally, the establishment will oppose these finds. Many people have invested 30-40 years of their careers on research that is shown to be based on invalid assumptions if Noah’s Ark really is there.

    But Historical proof is not the same as Sientific Proof, and scientific proof is not necessary – if it was, evolution would never be taught in high school.

  9. We’re into conspiracy theories now? There are ~3billion Christians in the world, and ~2billion Muslims. That’s ~5billion out of ~7billion. The vast majority of the world would want us to find definite proof of the Bible’s claims. In fact, that’s pretty much how archeology got started in the first place! And anyone who found real evidence of something from the Bible (as does happen occasionally) has their career made for them.

    To claim that there’s some conspiracy from “the establishment” who “naturally” will oppose these finds (because that’s just what establishments do, right?) is getting into hysterics.

    I’d say it’s far more likely that people like Wyatt aren’t taken seriously because their work is sub-standard. People like Wyatt read a book, decide what the history is, and then go into the field trying to prove it. A good scientist (and I include the “soft sciences” like history) does precisely the opposite.

  10. It’s not hysterics.

    One of the courses I took in my degree spent the entire assessment phase ramming into us the fact that just because its published in a journal doesn’t mean it’s right, and that many published studies are fatally flawed, and later recanted, yet the public rarely gets to hear about it. Even the scientific community rarely keeps up to date, as the recanting is published once and if you miss it it never gets repeated (especially in the press).

    Look at the treatment of the thousands of Scientists who call themselves “non-evolutionists”, much less those who identify with Intelligent Design or Creation Theories.
    They are dismissed from their positions, labelled pseudo-Scientific and worse, and shunned. These days, many will not admit their personal beliefs on these issues because political correctness holds so much sway.
    What about the Scientists who do not accept Climate Change? “Climate Skeptic” is equated with “heretic/idiot” in most of the Western World.
    Whether its a conspiracy (intended) or wilful pig-ignorance or simply an unshakeable faith in the accuracy and good intentions of what we were taught at Uni…. it’s still wrong.
    Science is about what we can actually Test and prove.
    Creation/evolution isn’t- neither can be tested, so Science cannot prove either way -it is a matter of faith and deciding which philosophy best fits the actual facts – and many of the so-called facts we are taught at school/uni are unproven assumptions.
    So why are the facts less important than the idea? Why are so many scientists scared of Creationists pointing out problems with Evolutionary interpretations, to the point where it cannot be discussed in many schools (remember there is not a single fact supporting Evolution that can be proven beyond all doubt)? Why cannot the Climate scientists opposing Climate Change hysteria get interviewed on TV?
    This is NOT hysteria – it is Orwell’s Doublethink (1984) in practise.
    Wyatt claims to have found artefacts that support the Biblical accounts. Archaeologists from several nations have agreed. Others with more public profiles have not. The facts are simple – they’re there. You can clearly see on Google Earth the remains of the golden calf altar, and the photos posted by people who have been there.
    As I’ve said, I have spoken personally with several people who have been diving at Nuweiba and taken their own photos of the artefacts – much more than has ever been posted on the Net.
    But don’t take my word for it. Email those who have been there and ask them (better still, if you’re cashed up, go yourself). Look at the actual evidence for the sites and make up your own mind – don’t let the criticisms of the armchair brigade decide for you. As far as possible, check it out.
    I spent 10 years examining the Noah’s Ark stuff, from the first video footage from the 80s. None of the criticisms and counter-claims (some by PhD Geologists) have stood up to even a cursory examination – most expect us to simply take their word for it.
    The simple fact is – if this IS Noah’s Ark, Evolution is wrong (as it calls into question Geological Time), and most of the publicly accepted Schience and preHistory taught in Universities is wrong. Do you honestly believe it would be simple to challenge that?

  11. Paul and MrPopular, this is an interesting discussion. It’s not really on topic but I don’t want to stop it. But I can’t keep up with the details either.

    What I would like to say is that on both sides of this debate there are powerful “establishments”, the scientific one and the conservative Christian one – not to mention the oil lobby concerning climate change. Both sides have strong interests in upholding the truth of their received orthodoxy. Both make things very difficult for “heretics” in their midst. Both have provided some ammunition for conspiracy theorists among their enemies. And they, or their general supporters, seem to be busy trying, with a lot of success in the USA, to divide public opinion into two camps of those for or against them, a divide which is becoming more and more aligned with party politics. This is a very dangerous road and one which I don’t want to encourage anyone to go down.

    So please let’s try to find common ground and mediating positions on these matters rather than turning them into a battleground.

  12. Actually there’s loads of evidence out there. I personally know of at least 10 people who have been healed by prayer to God and I have seen things that totally deny alternative explanations. And you will find pretty much the same story in most churches.
    Added to that, there’s the whole question of the resurrection of christ.
    I suspect you know this evidence exists. But what you decide to do with it is for you to decide . . .

  13. Thank you, Bill. I agree with you. I know others deny the evidence, or insist on impossible standards of verification, or presuppose trickery. But then if one’s whole worldview implies that miracles are impossible it is hard to accept even the strongest evidence for one.

  14. That’s a bit of a mischaracterization of our position. But I’ll be charitable and assume that you just haven’t met a whole lot of atheists.

    The issue isn’t that we’re holding you up to impossible standards of evidence. Rather, the issue is the same one you misunderstood in your initial post – What about all the non-Christians who make exactly the same claims about their faiths?

    For every Christians who believes that he’s been cured by faith, there’s a Hindu who believes the same. For every Christian who believes that he’s seen something that defies a “naturalistic” explanation, there’s a Buddhist who feels the same. For every Christian who claims that non-Christians are blinding themselves to the Truth, there’s a Muslim who feels the same.

    So the issue we atheists have is how all these competing and mutually exclusive certainties can exist in the same world. Since we have no predisposition to believe the claims of one group over another (given that the level of evidence provided is equal), and given the impossibility of all claims being correct, we fall back on one of two possible answers: 1) That we cannot currently know which is right given the data available, so we will withhold judgement until more evidence comes in, or 2) That there is some function of being human that causes us to misinterpret natural phenomena as being supernatural.

    I think that if Christians want to understand how non-Christians think, they’d be much better served shutting up and listening to us rather than simply talking amongst themselves about what they imagine we must be thinking…

  15. MrPopularSentiment, if religious believers from other traditions believe they have seen miracles, let them present their evidence, and I will evaluate it by the same standards as I would evaluate miracles in a Christian context. I have no strong positions that such miracles cannot happen, although my theological understanding of them may be different from that of those other believers. As for more subjective claims of religious experience, of course I cannot evaluate the evidence for them, although I can suggest theological explanations.

    But the correct scientific approach to this (as seen for example in the current story of the supposed faster than light particles) is first to examine the evidence and, if it is persuasive, accept the validity of the phenomenon, and only then to seek an explanation. It would be quite unscientific to reject a phenomenon despite the evidence just because one doesn’t already have an explanation, or because there are competing theories to explain it.

  16. MrPopularSentiment, one more point concerning what you wrote about “a mischaracterization of our position”. At that point I wasn’t thinking so much about atheists as about professing Christians who when they read claims of miracles today “insist on impossible standards of verification, or presuppose trickery”. There has been plenty of that on this blog in the past. Such people claim to be Christians but in fact show themselves to be deists, or at least to believe that God has been on vacation for the last 2000 years. At least atheists have a more consistent position.

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