Why I'm an atheist: a reply to Tom Gilson

I last encountered Tom Gilson back when I did my 13-part review of True Reason, a book that attempted to offer a Christian counter to the perspective of the so-called "new atheists". Tom popped over in the comments and, suffice to say, we did not see eye to eye.

I highly doubt that's going to change any time soon. But Tom does have a cool idea for a project: a series called Why I Believe – Evidence for the Faith. His plan is to offer a cumulative case for the truth of Christianity through philosophical, historical, and theological arguments.

My deconversion was sort of a two-step process: first in the rejection of Christianity in exchange for a sort of vaguely defined agnostic theism, and then from there into full-fledged atheism. And since, judging by the table of contents, Tom's series appears to be covering a lot of the ground the led me to deconvert, this seems like an opportune time to provide a contrarian point of view.

I'll be offering replies to each of Tom's posts in the series. But before I go down this road, I want to make absolutely clear the spirit of discourse I'm aiming for with my replies.

Firstly, I'm calling them "replies". Not "rebuttals" or "debunking"; I'm not going to engage in anything that could be misconstrued as condescension or self-aggrandizement. My goal isn't to cross swords with Tom on an emotional or personal level; I'm currently rewatching the first season of the superb television show Hannibal in preparation for the forthcoming second season, and I'd like to think that my replies will reflect the calculated detachment Mads Mikkelsen so deftly displays as the titular character.

The reason I want to make this abundantly clear is that I've been over at Randal Rausers blog, and it's a damn disaster zone. I thought his posts about Peter Boghossian's book were vitriolic enough (disclaimer: I haven't read the book and I have no interest in doing so), but the recent spat with John Loftus, to me, stands out as precisely what not to do – on both sides. It is, as one keen commenter put it, ugly ideological warfare. I've been in the midst of those types of discussions (and, at times, helped perpetuate them), and it's fucking exhausting. I hate it. It's stressful. I've got a wedding and honeymoon to help plan, and a personal training business to grow – I can't waste my time getting agitated over arguments on the internet.

I originally began this blog because writing about topics that vex me is a useful way for me to sort them out. Because my blog is so personal, I haven't shied away from my share of snark because it sometimes accurately expresses what I'm feeling. But for this series, I'm going to try my hardest to avoid inflationary quips and hyperbole. I'm going to do my best to read Tom's series charitably and respond to his posts dispassionately.

I'll begin with a definition of atheism that I'm advocating, as a counter to Tom's explanation of which type of Christianity he is defending. This will obviously be more of a personal note than a point-counterpoint, but it should serve as a valuable starting point. From there I'll continue to address each of his posts individually. He hasn't finished the series, so this will likely be a long-term project interspersed with other posts. But, I'll get cracking on his first few posts right away. Stay tuned!


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