On No Good Atheists

Yes, I am going to respond to the polemical HuffPost article going around about why there is no such thing as a good atheist. Yes, I’m pretty sure it speaks poorly of my character that I feel compelled to reply to this post. This isn’t to say that the post doesn’t deserve a reply. It certainly does. My reply is simply superfluous, but I can’t help myself. To ease some of my self-imposed shame, I am going to start with a snarky response.

Here is THE Good Atheist. He’s Canadian. QED, Pastor Henderson.

Also, if you haven’t read it, I want to direct you to the response at Amusing Nonsense.

Finally, I love how smug this article is considering it makes no attempt to address the scope of the literature out there on the topic. Perhaps Pastor Henderson would like to read Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe, for starters.

My Response

1. Thank you, Pastor Henderson, for telling me what my atheist worldview must entail. I really appreciate your clarifying that for me. Unfortunately, you are not the arbiter of atheistic worldviews. That right belongs to Ricky Gervais, alone. Because of his accent. And The Office.

2. Atheism does not equal materialism. However, even a fully material universe can exist with other, non-material objects. The question is whether or not those other objects are natural. Remember, just because something is non-material does not mean it is supernatural. So, just because an atheist thinks the universe is material does not mean the atheist cannot think there are other, non-material but natural objects. It is in this realm where we might find our goods, bads, virtues, and vices.

3. The universe is scientific. Yup. Until science started to disagree with their religion, many Christians thought the universe was scientific too. In fact, many still do think the universe is scientific. So, what’s your point?

4. “Anything and everything that happens in such a universe is meaningless.”

Somehow, in his 1255 words (yes, I counted), Pastor Henderson doesn’t feel the need to defend this statement. He quote mines from a few authors and then claims those quotes represent “the nonnegotiable premises of atheism.” However, he offers no actual argument in support of his claim. The quick bio-blurb under Pastor Henderson’s name says he is a “grace addict.” I suppose this juicy tidbit of intellectual honesty is the kind of grace Pastor Henderson’s God peddles.

5. It’s weird to read an article critiquing atheism without seeing mention of relativism. Unfortunately for Pastor Henderson, relativism is a perfectly acceptable response to his claims. As such, I can be good because I say so. 😛

6.  Pastor Henderson’s whole article falls apart in his final section where he claims that atheists try to establish a ground for objective morality through logical argumentation. You see, since Pastor Henderson knows that objective morality is not a part of the nonnegotiable premises of atheism, he makes no attempt to understand how an atheist might ground objective morality. To be fair, he did quote mine Richard Dawkins. That’s roughly the atheist equivalent of a commandment from God.

You see, Pastor Henderson, try as you might, you can’t just declare objective morality and atheism are incompatible. You have to demonstrate that. Just as an atheist would need to demonstrate how there can be objective morality without a god. Many atheists have. Pastor Henderson does not refer or respond to any of them. Not a single one. He doesn’t have to. He’s already decided that atheism can’t have objective morality. Why should Pastor Henderson spend any time responding to something he already decided can’t be the case? That’s right, I can’t think of a reason either.

But, hey, look on the bright side. There is no bad atheist, either. There are only bad Christians. And bad arguments. Of that last category, Pastor Henderson’s argument is a good example.



  1. keithnoback · September 22, 2014

    Many atheists are utilitarians, which is a realist/objectivist position. Moral realism is a tough position for anybody, but especially for someone who believes in a universal deity (all-knowing, omnipresent, eternal, timeless). Even WLC has resorted to an error theory, which is what divine command theory amounts to (our discourse on moral values isn’t actually about those values, but is instead about God’s will). The pastor would seem to be confused.

    • thecaveatlector · September 22, 2014

      I think it is the smug tone of the article that surprises me. I mean, it’s not like you have to dig into the obscure bin of atheist authors to find one arguing for objective morality. Sam Harris wrote a book in its defense.

      I’m not sure it is correct to say Henderson is confused. Confused implies an attempt was made to learn the subject. His article reads like he caught on to a rhetorical talking point and left it there.

  2. nikeyo · September 23, 2014

    Posts written by non or opposing [insert people group] don’t really have a place telling [addressed people group] who they are or aren’t. That goes from a male talking about women, a African to an Asian…. It’s just absurd.

    But, I suppose Christians are arrogant enough to think they have a monopoly on what is morality and truth.

  3. Pingback: On Yesterday’s Tears | The Caveat Lector

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