There are plenty of things wrong with plenty of religions.

But the go-to argument of new atheists is

you believe in A. You have no concrete evidence for A. Hence, you are irrational and stupid and blah blah blah.

Is this not pure hypocrisy? Because, after all, there's no evidence for the inexistence of god either, yet new atheists believe that god does not exist (e.g., Richard Dawkins famously said that he believes with 99.999% probability that God does not exist).

This is a different position from that of agnostic atheism, which merely involves a lack of belief in god.

So, is the position of New Atheism hypocritical? How can they criticize a belief with no evidence while themselves having a belief with no evidence?

You might say that there's some evidence for the non-existence of god, like, say, the suffering of pain by innocent children, but I think this is a poor type of evidence, since it necessitates an extra assumption: that "god would not allow children to suffer". But this assumption does not necessarily hold, and is not implicit in the definition of god (= a creator of the universe). If we take "god" to ONLY mean somebody who created the universe in the way we currently inhabit it, then I do not believe there's any evidence for the non-existence of such a being, since any such evidence would need to have been obtained within this universe, and thus it could simply be counter-argued that "god made it that way".

  • 1
    Welcome to Philosophy.SE. Your question is interesting, but I should note that the arguments of new atheists are usually a little more than what you mention in the quote block. Personally I feel that the first three lines of this question (until "Is this ..") are best left out; you could start with the other arguments you mention which have more content.
    – user2953
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 12:26
  • 2
    If I left out some arguments by atheists, then summarizing those in a post would make for a fine answer to my inquiry. I however doubt I'll be convinced. I think an example of one such argument that I left out could be Richard Dawkins' argument that, according to my logic, I should also be agnostic towards tooth fairies, since I can't prove their non-existence either. I think this is a poor argument, since it doesn't really disprove his hypocrisy, rather it just paints it in a slightly better light. As if he's saying "yes, I am a hypocrite, but at least a hypocrite with a non-silly belief". Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 12:37
  • 1
    It seems to me that the central question of the post is "is the position of New Atheism hypocritical? How can they criticize a belief with no evidence while themselves having a belief with no evidence ?" that sounds like a "logical falalcy. This is not the right argument against New Atheists: they do not asserts to be able to prove that God does not exists. They assert that, according to their basic point of view (science is the only "effective" way to gain knowledge), that the belief in the existence of God has no adequate (i.e. scientific-based evidence) support nor justification. Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 12:46
  • 1
    "...the only 'effective' way to gain knowledge", while forgetting that the means to obtaining that evidence is through consciousness, about which they cannot make any scientific account.
    – user3017
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 12:50
  • 2
    Please note that "New Atheists" is just a journalistic term used to group a series of independent authors talking about atheism. Atheism per-se is not a religion or an organized movement of any kind, and the only thing in common between atheists is a lack of belief in god. It is a common misconception to see atheism as analogous to religious belief systems, but as someone once said "Atheism is a religion just as not collecting stamps is a hobby". I mention this because your language seems to imply that there is such a thing as a unified "New Atheist" movement that people adhere to.
    – Oskuro
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 10:14

6 Answers 6


Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Why would we believe in a supernatural entity (and why this one rather than that one, or that other one?), unless there is a reason to do so? Some evidence?

The burden of proof is on the person making the extraordinary claim, not on the one saying "well, maybe - but you're going to have to convince me".

  • (Illarion) Fortunately we do not have to rely on philosophical boardrooms for reason to believe. The Person of Jesus Christ, incarnated in human history (the invisible becoming visible) , giving many infallible proofs removes the "maybe" from deductions about the existence of God. The Christian faith rests on a solid foundation of empirical facts, dispelling the common rumor that it is blind faith which inspires the martyrs to spread the Word of God's love.
    – user64825
    Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 21:51

How can they criticize a belief with no evidence while themselves having a belief with no evidence?

Think about this for a second. What kind of evidence are you expecting the atheist to have? Let's find an example of a successful negative existential in order to see if your expectations are reasonable.

Surely, the claim "There are no plastic figurines filled with lemon juice on my front lawn" can be verified. But this claim differs from the claim in question ("God does not exist") because it carves out some domain to be investigated (my front lawn). If we extend that domain to include the known and unknown universe, along with any neighboring dimension that a deity might inhabit, you'll see that a problem arises: failing to come across such a figurine does not mean that it doesn't exist, because it might simply be somewhere we haven't looked.

But even after modifying our example claim to render it "unrestricted", it still differs from the atheist's claim: our plastic figurine is material while God is immaterial (or so I've heard).

Until we've pinpointed a way to verify this type of negative existential (one that 1. makes no reference to "where" and 2. concerns an immaterial object), then we have no reason to think the atheist can do what you've asked him to do. In other words, if this type of thing is possible, please provide an example.

I have no idea how other atheists operate, but my own atheism is based on the fact that I perceive all of the theoretical and "empirical" arguments for God's existence to be unsuccessful and all accounts of revelation/miracles to be unreliable. Additionally, I feel no "God-shaped hole" in my life, I'm not convinced that another life follows this one, and practical arguments (e.g. Pascal, Kant) are unconvincing. If someone asserts that they know that God does not exist, they're being dramatic. In a situation like this, you should attribute this emphatic rhetoric to the person's personality rather than to "atheism" itself. A feeling of certainty plays no critical role in atheism just as it plays no critical role in theism.

On a slightly unrelated note, you might want to practice making your questions appear more genuine. If your "question" is really just cathartic venting and if you leave comments such as

I however doubt I'll be convinced.

...chances are, you'll be taken less seriously.

  • This is just conjecture: "If someone asserts that they know that God exists, they're being dramatic." It presupposes that God is unable to make himself known to someone with certainty. It also contradicts God's word: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen..." (Rom. 1:20) Also: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1)
    – user3017
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 1:31
  • 1
    Haha, that was actually a typo on my part. I intended to say, "If someone asserts that they know that God doesn't exist, they're being dramatic." Thanks for catching this; I'll correct it. However, I do not disagree with what I mis-typed. It is not sufficient to rattle off scripture. A Muslim's enumeration of passages of the Qur'an would never convince you of the truth of those passages, so you should not rely only on that in order to convince an atheist. For this you will need extra-biblical reasons for accepting such things. Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 1:37
  • God promises that His word will not return void, so it's not the words themselves but the power of God behind His word which brings about a change in the heart. The effect may be either positive, unto salvation, or negative, unto further hardening of the heart. Clever arguments and the power of persuasion count for very little in comparison. In fact, they are nothing without the power of God.
    – user3017
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 2:11

Can we prove deities don't exist?

If deities existed we could empirically verify them. We could set up an experiment that could be falsified if somebody claimed that they could show or prove that deities exist. There is a long-standing unclaimed prize of $1 million dollars [1] that will be rewarded to anybody who can show under controlled scientific conditions any evidence for supernatural phenomena.

If we can't detect deities as they exist beyond the realm of our sense experience then no such experiment is possible.

There is not any credible evidence that I have seen or am aware of that could be used to demonstrate the high probability of the existence of the Western monotheistic, intervening, male God. The father of Jesus Christ. Nor the God of the old testament or for Allah of the Koran. If there was empirical evidence (not anecdotal evidence or personal psychological accounts of the presence of the divine) for deities then we should believe or think that they exist just like anything else we can scientifically verify exists.

There are many other religions on this earth polytheistic and deistic and so on. Not to mention the thousands of religions that have existed in the past that now have virtually zero adherents. The Greek gods, Wotan, Thor, Ra, etc.

If you see there is the same amount of evidence for other deities existing that you do for the prominent deity of your culture and time then you should give an equal probability that any of them exist.

How much evidence is there for deities?

Since those who believe in the divine do not usually do so based on empirical evidence, it is more-so based on their faith or a feeling that deities exist rather than basing their beliefs on much scientific reasoning. Why should we attribute more evidence for deities existing that we do for golden mountains, purple cows, unicorns, etc.? Coming up with a calculus as to why you think golden mountains have a lower likelihood of existing than a deity is very problematic. Intuitively you'd think that there is a lower chance of a golden mountain existing, but what evidence are you using to base this claim on? Just because many people believe in something that we can't know the true nature of (a paradox in itself), why should we think there is more reason to believe it? If you are trying to be objective, you'd see that this is a fallacy and we shouldn't think there is a higher chance of something being the case just because more people think it is so.

You could claim that you are equally an agnostic towards unicorns than you are towards other deities.

Most people don't take this position. An atheist or agnostic-atheist would mostly have a specific deity in mind when they say that they are atheists or agnostics.

Which deities and other metaphysical beings or entities should we be agnostic with respect to?

Agnosticism towards all deities and other possible metaphysical entities is the most defensible position. You cannot prove there is no evidence for golden mountains existing, so how could you similarly prove there is no evidence for deities existing?

Many would think there is more evidence for the deity of their culture because they have been heavily exposed to ideas related to this deity. It is the minority position amongst all of the stances towards deities that we should ascribe an equal probability that all deities exist. But why should you ascribe a higher probability to one deity existing as opposed to another just because it is the one that your culture most strongly believes or identifies with? Again this is the argumentum ad populum fallacy.

What do famous atheists think?

Most atheists such as Dawkins, Krauss, Hitchens, etc. (who have spoken along these lines) would be agnostic at the level where they are not going to say they can prove the non-existence of deities. But their belief in deities they think would be akin to their belief in unicorns — but perhaps NOT identical in probability. As trivial and condescending as that may sound.

Dawkins has said this in the past:

If you were brought up in classical Greece you'd be believing in, in Zeus. If you were brought up in central Africa you'd be believing in the great Juju up the mountain. There's no particular reason to pick on the Judeo-Christian god, in which by the sheerest accident you happen to have been brought up and, and ask me the question, "What if I'm wrong?" What if you're wrong about the great Juju at the bottom of the sea?"

It's not clear if that means he certainly thinks there is an equal chance of all types of other types of divine beings existing, but it does sound like it.

However, it appears he thinks there is still a chance that deities exist but he can't be sure or know which deities he had in mind (from an article about an interview with Dawkins):

There was surprise when Prof Dawkins acknowledged that he was less than 100 percent certain of his conviction that there is no creator. The philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny, who chaired the discussion, interjected: “Why don’t you call yourself an agnostic?” Prof Dawkins answered that he did. An incredulous Sir Anthony replied: “You are described as the world’s most famous atheist.” Prof Dawkins said that he was “6.9 out of seven” sure of his beliefs. “I think the probability of a supernatural creator existing is very very low,” he added.

How could you prove a negative or prove the non-existence of anything that could possibly exist?

So, it's clear that even the most famous atheists still don't think they can prove with certainty that deities don't exist. Claims that assert the non-existence of deities should follow a similar line of reasoning. Otherwise, you are making claims that cannot be supported. But usually when we are talking about how reality is through the lens of science the "absence of evidence is evidence of absence". As in, we've seen no evidence for deities existing, so we can't say that they do. But I'm fine with saying that there is no more evidence for deities existing than other possible metaphysical entities. If there was scientific evidence for deities or for unicorns existing I'd believe this is so. Any probability I hold in mind for deities existing isn't based on scientifically verifiable facts. This sort of induction would be independent of what science has revealed about the universe. There hasn't been any evidence shown by science that deities exist. However, there are many questions science has not yet or maybe it will never be able to answer.

This is perhaps the god-of-the-gaps argument. But this is an area where many people invoke faith. They have faith that there is a higher power who can answer the questions science currently can't. Whether this is a good justification for believing in deities is contentious.

Furthermore, having a "lack of belief" in deities is a word game — this means you are an agnostic, many atheists say they "lack belief". But this is the same as being agnostic — you don't know, don't care, don't think it is possible to answer such questions, etc.

If you had to make a bet, what you bet that deities exist or do not exist?

What the chances of there being a theistic God who can cause wars, natural disasters, intervene in your personal matters, etc.? Could you be 100% certain or very sure that this isn't the case? Maybe you may sometimes feel a different way about this but don't rationally or logically think this is the case. If you had to make a bet as to whether a theistic god exists, would you bet against this? What about the austere beauty and order in the universe (the laws physics etc.)? Does this provide a rationale and a basis for something more that we cannot know? Is this nothing more than just a feeling? Although, asserting there is a creator adds an additional hypothesis to be explained on top of the already complex, undissolvable problem as to why there is a universe in the first place as opposed to no universe with the properties that it does have.

[1]: One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge  Edit: (One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge ended in 2015, after being established in 1964)

  • 2
    +1 a good answer, one small oversimplification that you might care to address is that 'lack of belief' in God does not mean you are agnostic. Belief simply does not work that way. Belief is a very complex issue which cannot be properly outlined in comments, but suffice to say what we mean when we say that we believe, or do not believe something is not in any way restricted to that about which we are 100% certain. Agnosticism, therefore, if it is to mean anything at all, must be reserved for the state of being very much undecided, not all states other than 100% certainty.
    – user22791
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 7:38
  • @Isaacson Yes, this is a bit of an oversimplification. Agnostics may claim "we can't know". But like you said "belief" is very complex. It depends on one's entire ontology, their system of metaphysics and epistemology, etc. There would be some atheists who lack belief and are agnostic atheists but we can't say this is the case for all atheists who may define "atheism" to be something very different. I do however find it difficult to know exactly what "lacking belief" means. I can only surmise it means the same thing as it's used by most atheists who lack belief in unicorns too. Thanks.
    – user28485
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 10:16
  • Pascal wrote, “There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition." I won't go into why I believe this position can be supported biblically. I only mention it because it stands in stark contrast with your assumption that if there's a million dollar prize to be won, someone would figure out how to do it in spite of God's evident preference to be known primarily by subjective means. Ask yourself this: What is the point in trying to give an objective demonstration to the willingly ignorant?
    – user3017
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 1:18
  • 1
    @Pé de Leão I wouldn't say wilfully ignorant. Maybe I'd like to believe, but not if you consider some anti-theist arguments. Either way, I see no evidence for doing so. I don't know how to base my beliefs on anything but evidence. Others think they have seen evidence for the divine. I think they believe this for other reasons that don't involve deities.
    – user28485
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 2:27
  • How about the evidence of your own conscience? It is the unwillingness of people to recognize themselves as sinners and be reconciled with God that prevents them from perceiving the truth.
    – user3017
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 14:59

As you said there is different positions and we have to distinct various types of non believers :

  • Agnostics : They are interested in the debate but for them the existence of god is still unknown or unknowable. They don't reject the existence of god because they can't proove that believers are wrong.

  • Apatheists : They don't believe in god because they are not interested in this debate, they have no opinion and sometimes doesn't want to have one. This is a passiv behavior, and it distinct them from "real" atheist.

  • Atheists : They are interested in the debate, they develop arguments, they reject the beliefs, and In fine, the existence of god. They have a clear philosophical positioning and some of them are clearly militants. This is an active behavior.

Most of the time, people are not aware of these differences and declare to be atheist while they are infact agnostics or apatheists.

At best, real atheists are symmetrically opposed to believers, they have no definitive proofs of the inexistence of one or more gods but they choose to accept that as being the truth. Thus it could be qualified as hypocritical when they criticise those who believe without proof.

At worst they consider all beliefs as false because believers are some times non coherent (believing in unicorns is madness while believing in god is acceptable). This a logicial mistake. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Coherence of believers doesn't make beliefs true or false.

God(s) existence (or inexistence) could be considered as axioms in mathematics, axioms are taken to be true and accepted without controversy or question. Axioms or postulates are the basement of scientific theories and they doesn't make these theories automatically wrong.

Graviton is an hypothetical particle, there is still no evidence of its existence but it's not irrelevant trying to demonstrate or refute it.


If one defined a religion whose sole requirement for a god is that it was the prime mover then you're correct. Although explicitly unfalsifiable, if someone were to say they were certain it was untrue then they would be mistaken.

The problem with this though is that there are no mainstream religions that hold anything like this as the definition of their god. Moreover, organised religion, prayer or worship of such a god would be irrational though reverence may still make sense. It would be directly equivalent to worshipping the Big Bang. I'm by no means an expert but the closest I can thing of as a god with this definition is the Gnostic demiurge which isn't a popular choice for worship (if it ever was).

The gods that most atheists are dismissing have attributes that imply a continuing influence. Otherwise, what would be the point of having a religion? There is a stronger argument against gods that affect human activity. The main one being related to the predictive success of science e.g. if god is continually answering prayers, how come we can predict so much? Counter-arguments tend to fall very quickly into a god of the gaps.

Once you start on the gods of specific religions then there are other arguments. It is very easy to dismiss the existence of a god with the traditional Christian attributes using a suffering of the innocents argument. However, I agree though that this dismissal is only valid if your god a) knows about the suffering, b) can prevent the suffering, c) chooses not to and d) professes benevolence. True of the Christian god but not generally so.

So, are atheists being hypocritical? Some of them, sure. Uncritical belief in a lack of a god is no better than uncritical belief in the existence of one. Are people who believe in god stupid? Some of them but there are plenty of believers who aren't. Is it irrational? On balance I would say yes but then I don't consider irrationality to be an insult. I'm frequently irrational.

  • 1
    Dismissing God on that argument would be to stake your destiny on bad logic, i.e. by assuming that points a), b), c) and d) are incompatible. The Bible teaches that suffering in the world results from man's sin, and God would be unjust if He were to ignore it, in which case He wouldn't be benevolent.
    – user3017
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 13:12
  • @Pé de Leão It's not bad logic, it's just bad theology. If you don't consider the Bible to be divinely inspired, it's theological teaching, as against it's moral teachings, aren't especially important.
    – Alex
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 13:46
  • I don't know what you mean. I do believe the Bible is divinely inspired, and you said the existence of God is easily dismissed, but you based that claim on an argument that exhibits bad logic. If point a), b), c) and d) are logically compatible, your argument falls apart. According to teachings of orthodox Christianity, they are compatible.
    – user3017
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 14:04
  • @Pé de Leão Yes sorry, I didn't mean you personally. I meant for atheists who don't believe the Bible to be divinely inspired. In fact, the grammar in that comment was a complete disaster. Not sure what came over me.
    – Alex
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 14:14
  • @Pé de Leão And they are most definitely logically incompatible. The way traditional Christianity gets around that fact is by making the claim that there is no such thing as an innocent, everyone is sinful, so their suffering is justified. In modern parlance this would be called victim blaming.
    – Alex
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 14:21

Everyone has to believe things for which they have no evidence. Hume has still not been disproved. Science believes in causality, as a thing separate from mere correlation, but there can never be any real evidence that it exists. We can only note correlations and declare the ones that accord with a given theoretical mechanism as causes.

So yes, this kind of absolute attack on baseless faith is hypocritical. We all have baseless faith in things like causation, that are grounded in our basic shared psychology, because they work for us.

That said, probability based on observation is one of those things we tend to believe in. It is not hypocritical to witness a succession of failures and state that ultimate success is unlikely.

On that basis, it is perfectly logical to look at the range of religions people have had, the strength of the associated faith, and their ultimate failure, and declare it likely that none of them is true, and that any new one is unlikely to be true. Dawkins is as justified in his several places of accuracy as anyone who disbelieves in perpetual motion, or unicorns to an equal degree.

But his notion of 'failure' is probably wrong. Those religions sustained people, individually and in groups, whether or not they correctly predicted actual events or expressed actual history. We need to come around to a place were we can accept mythology for what it is -- not physics or history but still meaningful.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .