My definition of a “free thinker” is a person who forms opinions about religion based
upon reason, independent of authority, dogma or creed. I contend that belief in a god is
irrational because there is inadequate evidence to support such a claim. Therefore it is a
misuse of language for anyone who believes in God to call himself a Free Thinker.
Furthermore, the word "God" refers only to a cluster of feelings rather than a concrete
fact. Therefore, inserting the word into any statement of fact renders the statement
Ever since Thomas Aquinas, Western theologians have recognized that they have an
obligation to prove the existence of God; otherwise, there is no reason for anyone to
accept their doctrines. Back in the 1960s, when teaching college, I realized that one of
the main reasons students dropped out of school was because they recognized that what
they were learning in science was incompatible with what they had been taught in Sunday
school. They didn't want to go to hell, so they dropped out of school instead. I began a
survey of all the religious and philosophical literature through the ages, and found that
there were only about fourteen basic arguments for the existence of God. I published
"Lucifer's Handbook" in 1977, which articulates all these arguments, and all their
refutations. I will try to summarize those arguments now, to demonstrate that belief in God
The Teleological Argument 1-a states that nature is orderly; therefore, someone must
have created that order. Teleological Argument 1-b states that everything in nature has a
purpose; therefore, someone must have designed it all to work harmoniously.
Teleological Argument 1-c states that evolution proves an underlying direction and
purpose to life, etc.
The First Objection to Teleological Argument 1-a, analyzes the psychological process of
pattern recognition – demonstrating that patterns only exist in our own heads – not
necessarily in nature itself. The Second Objection to Teleological Argument 1-a points
out that a so-called "Law of Nature" is only valid insofar as it allows us to make accurate
predictions about a specific phenomenon. But any given formula might someday turn out
to be incorrect, so it is impossible for us to be absolutely certain about anything.
Consequently, the idea that we are "discovering the TRUE Laws of Nature" – which had
been "invented by God" – is a false assumption.
A recent survey by Dr. Michael Shermer found that this "Argument from Design" is the
favorite reason that religious people give for whatever they believe. But it is primarily
based on ignorance of evolution.
For some people, the most popular reason is the Biblical Argument: namely, that we
know God exists because the Bible tells us so. This is a circular argument which says
that we know God exists because the Bible says He does. And we know the Bible is true
because God wrote it. The problem is that the Bible is filled with contradictions, proving
very clearly that it was written by different groups of very primitive people over hundreds
of years. The reason that fundamentalists cling so desperately to the concept of Biblical
Inerrancy is because if they admit a single mistake then that proves the book was written
by mortals rather than God; therefore, all doctrines based on that book are human
If forced to abandon the Biblical Argument, believers always fall back on the second line
of defense: the Cosmological Argument. This is the idea that everything must have a
beginning, so God must have created the universe. But this argument is based on
ignorance of modern astrophysics. And it also ignores the question that, if God had to
create the universe, then who created God?
The A Priori Argument states that since the laws of mathematics are absolute and eternal
that proves a master mathematician must have created them. But the argument is based
on a misconception of mathematics. Bertrand Russell was one of the greatest
mathematicians of the twentieth century – and an outspoken atheist.
The Ontological Argument says that the very definition of God requires that he exist. But
that argument is based on ignorance of semantics. One cannot "define" something into
The Argument from Man as a Moral Being contends that human beings would not have
moral values unless they were implanted by God. But the argument rests on ignorance of
social psychology and the role of childhood conditioning. Moreover, the most widely
accepted moral codes are those based on common sense rules for social behavior.
The Argument from Mysticism holds that some people have actually seen God. But this
assumption rests on ignorance of brain chemistry and the nature of hallucinations.
The Argument from Intuition states that, since most people have a "feeling" that God
exists, that proves he does. But this also depends on ignorance of psychology, and the
influence of parents and society.
The Argument from Instinct is based on the proposition that, since most cultures of the
world believe in the supernatural, that proves it exists. But the argument overlooks the fact
that their definitions of God contradict each other and that, since all human brains are
wired the same way, they are therefore subject to the same misperceptions. Paul Kurtz
calls it the "Transcendental Temptation."
The Argument from Immortality is a circular argument which assumes that, because
people would like to live forever, that proves they do, and since they are immortal, that
proves the existence of God. The problem is that despite occasional reports of ghosts,
there is no reliable evidence for life after death.
The Argument from Miracles, ignores the fact that it is much more probable that a report
is mistaken than that the laws of nature were temporarily suspended in one small pocket
of the universe just to accommodate somebody's wishes.
The Argument from ESP says that scientific experiments have proven conclusively the
existence of some sort of survival after death. But close investigation into putative
"psychic phenomena" has always shown such studies to be flawed at best or, more often,
When all attempts at "logical" arguments have been proven false, believers habitually
retreat to the Argument from Faith – which contends that even science admits nothing
can be proved with certainty, so it's unfair to require proof of religious doctrines. To
believe without evidence, or even in spite of evidence to the contrary, requires great
courage, they say – for which one would be rewarded in the afterlife. This is just a
semantic shell-game which shifts the definition of "faith" from the scientific meaning of
"cautious confidence" to the ecclesiastical implication of "blind prejudice."
At this point, defenders of any faith generally resort to Pascal's Wager. This is the
pragmatic contention that, since we cannot prove whether "religion" is true or not, it would
be safer to hedge one's bets and assume it to be true – since there is everything to gain
and nothing to lose. The problem with this argument is that it assumes there is only one
choice – ignoring the fact that all religions make the same claim, and that if you arbitrarily
select any one of them you are in equal danger of being condemned by all the rest. So it
is not a question of "yes" or "no," but of "which one" – out of an infinite number of mutually
Finally, a theist may admit that he cannot prove the existence of God, but WE cannot
prove his NON-existence. It is true that no one can prove the non-existence of something
that can't even be defined in the first place. But as Percy Byshee Shelly pointed out, we
can prove that the traditional Western concepts of God are self-contradictory:
1. If God wants us to love him, as preachers claim, then why does he not show himself?
2. If God is all good, then why do preachers say we should “fear” him?
3. If, as they say, he is omniscient, then what is the point of prayer?
4. If he is omnipresent, then why are we supposed to go to a church to worship him?
5. If he is all-powerful, then why does he permit blasphemy and heresy?
6. If he is just, then why claim that man, whom he created full of faults, should be punished
7. If we can only be good by the “grace of God,” as some preachers claim, then why
should we be rewarded for it?
8. If God gave us a brain to distinguish us from animals, then why should we be punished
for using it?
9. If, indeed, this human brain was designed by God, then why would he design it in such
a way that only immature people believe in tales of the supernatural, while the most
intelligent understand that such mythological creatures are absurd?
10. If God not only created hell, but is omnipotent as well, then how could he be absolved
from its administration?
11. If God is omniscient, then he knows everything that will happen in the future; and if he
knows what will happen in the future, then he is powerless to change it; and if he cannot
change it, then he is not omnipotent.
12 Finally, if God is “inconceivable,” then why should we be concerned with him in the
I think I have now demonstrated that belief in an anthropomorphic, supernatural “god” is
irrational, and that anyone who believes in such a god CANNOT legitimately lay claim to
the label of “Freethinker.”
Can a Theist be a Freethinker?
by Milt Timmons
|[Ten minute opening statement in debate with a minister at Freethinkers
Toastmasters on Easter Sunday, April 23, 2000]
The minister didn't even attempt to rebut any of my opening statement, he simply
took that opportunity to preach a traditional Easter sermon to the captive
audience -- and ran way past his time limit.