Defending the faith is hard. Trust me, I’ve been there. But there are some arguments for theism I come across that aren’t arguments at all, and I think need their own category. These are usually used by your everyday Christian, not apologists (I’d hope). This is when someone claims something is true just because they want it to be. I call these “Arguments from Wishful Thinking”. For example : “If there’s no God…”
“That would mean… There’s no ultimate justice!”
“I don’t want to live in a world where Hitler isn’t punished.” Erm… Yeah, sorry. Do you really think Christianity is the only world view with a “ultimate” justice system? Every religion comes with a built-in system of justice. Protesting that Hitler won’t be punished by the Christian or Islamic God is like saying, “But if there’s no reincarnation, that means Hitler will just be dead and not be turned into a worm to be stepped on like the scum he is!” Uh yep, pretty much (sorry, Hindusim).
It may seem grossly unfair, but just because you wish that bad people would get what’s coming to them, doesn’t make it true that they will. Of course we want to think that evil is punished and good is rewarded. Hate to break into you, but there may be no universal tally of all the good and bad deeds people have done. I don’t want to live in a world where chocolate doesn’t grow on trees in my backyard buuut… just because we want something to be so, doesnt mean it is.
“That would mean… There’s no ultimate purpose in life!”
I guess that depends on what you mean by “ultimate” purpose. Yeah, it’s a little scary to think that we’re out here on our own, just a few billion people on this rock in space, just getting through life and sometimes contemplating our place in the universe. It’s juuust a tiny bit daunting.
But just because it makes you feel better thinking that there is some ultimate being pulling all the strings — I mean, sorry, that God has a perfect plan for precious little you — doesn’t make it true. I understand how comforting that thought can be, but there is no argument here.
“That would mean… There’s no afterlife!”
There are quite a few ideas wrapped up in this one. Fear of death. Fear of the unknown. The idea that if life sucks now, it’s okay, ’cause there’s another one coming. The thought that if the poor will be better off in the next life, we an excuse not helping them now. The fact that we wanted to be rewarded for being a “good person”. All of these come into play when someone tries to ask, “So what happens after we die?” This one, I think, best fits the Argument From Wishful Thinking category, just because there are so many implications there if theism is false.
Look, I don’t know what happens after we die. But I can recognize that just because I’d like there to be some kind of continuation, or that I would like to see my family and friends again, doesn’t mean that there is, or that I will. Yeah, that sucks. But guess what? It’s not an argument for theism. It’s just wishful thinking.
As Neil Degrasse Tyson warns…
Are there any other “arguments” you think fall into the “Argument From Wishful Thinking” category? Let me know in the comments below!
8 thoughts on “The Argument From Wishful Thinking”
It’s definitely the purpose thing that gets to me. How can your life have purpose if there’s no God? I mean, I have definitely been there, wanting there to be some need for my life, some great thing I’m supposed to do, but wanting it doesn’t make it true. I long ago came to terms with the fact that you make your own purpose and even if God was there and had the ability to give us a greater purpose, he sure is ignoring it. I mean, if he were there, he wouldn’t have let me write this entire comment in run-on sentences, would he?
LikeLiked by 2 people
I’m calling that “the Argument From Bad Grammar”. Checkmate, theists!
LikeLiked by 1 person
When I was a theist, I thought the purpose of my life was to serve God as best I could. Spread his word, give people hope and prepare them for everlasting salvation.
When I became an atheist, I realised all that was bollocks. Life is a song, and we each contribute a verse. The purpose of my life now is to still live the best life I can, but to make my mark in a positive way.
Very well written piece, Nancy. You covered all the bases. Well done and top marks! x
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks so much for reading and sharing! I felt the same way, and so many other atheists I know became atheists in trying to be the best Christian I could be, by learning and researching. I wish I could rescue people from the idea that the purpose of life is to spread a myth! Especially nuns/priests.
I really like that idea… Life’s a song. We write a verse!!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Wow awesome article! I think a good addition to wishful thinking is the self deluded confirmation bias religious people use, which reaffirms their false conclusion from this wishful thinking.
With your example of the afterlife, “well I told grandma to drop pennies all over when she dies to let me know she watching”. Lo and behold every time a penny is found, the wishful thinker knows it’s grandma watching. And if this time god/the afterlife/religion is true why wouldn’t other things be true? Thus the cycle of ignorance gets stronger each time it is completed.
Glad to know there are some critical thinkers left out there.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Nice article! (again 🙂 I’m a bit of a wishful thinker but not for the reasons you described above. I’ve been questioning the possibility of intelligent design for quite a while now and most recently on twitter. First, a little background. I was brought up in Lutheran school until 8th grade where my mom didn’t need to rely on after school care for me. I entered public school and was taught the basic theory of evolution and from then on my quest to poke holes in the bible was on. For decades (I’m 54 now) I was surrounded by Christians and I found it very stimulating to provoke them into an argument about their beliefs. It became very easy for me but I found over time there was never going to be a winner or loser of the argument and discovered what I was really doing was trying to get them to see the light, so to speak, that I saw when I entered public school, much like they wanted me to see their light, which I already saw but it wasn’t nearly as bright.
Now moving ahead, I’ve been taking the science of evolution for granted since high school, watching documentaries that supported my belief and so forth, but I guess in the back of my head I’ve always had some serious doubts about the natural selection process. I’m no scientist by any means but I am an engineer by nature and I’ve made a pretty good career out of it. I love to take things apart and put them back together, trying to modify it to suit my desires. Restoring cars, making them faster, better looking has always been my passion since I was a child. I’m really a computer geek by trade but would’ve much preferred to be part of the drag racing world.
Now about this natural selection thing, from a logical view it seems virtually impossible for life to get where it is today without some decisions being made somewhere. Over the last few years I’ve come up with some very specific situations that, for me, required intelligence. I never had an opportunity to present those situations (seems there’s a better word for it) to anyone who knows more about it than me, and I know very little. That’s when I decided to join twitter in hopes to get people like Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson to respond to me. I didn’t get a response from either of them but I certainly found many who would and those encounters have left me in a, for lack of a better term, weird state of mind.
Your topic ‘The Argument From Wishful Thinking’ really defines that weird state of mind that I’m in because as an engineer I first look at how it was designed, who designed it and why. I’ve been looking at life from that perspective, trying to make sense of it all so I tend to reverse engineer it in my own head. But to think there’s no design, let alone a designer, is a bit frustrating. Not that I’m hoping there’s something better out there for me or a life after death, I could care less, but that I want to appreciate what is here like I appreciate Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, etc. for the things they’ve done. It’s kind of an empty feeling not knowing the true origin of life so I try to imagine how there could possibly be a creator. To me that idea is about as far fetched as life originating from mere elements but one has to be true and the other not. I’ve watched a lot of debates, most of which Christopher Hitchens was on the panel and I’ve really found where I stand in the overall discussion of design vs. natural selection. I can’t say I’m satisfied but I’ve pretty much run out of questions that haven’t already been argued and/or answered. I concede to the rules of science as there’s no evidence of a designer and plenty to explain how we got here without one, although that evidence doesn’t prove there is no designer either.
So in conclusion, I do wish there were a designer so I could understand the thought process of how and why things are from an engineering point of view. Natural selection seems to rob me of the ability to think that way but I still try and pick apart things in life that are really beautiful and nice, and even all the ugliness and brutality we see around us everyday, and try make sense of it all.
I always have to apologize at the end because I could really go on and on and have to force myself to shut up, Lol.