Bugs, Features, and Atheism

James Anderson | June 9, 2015


“It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!”

I heard this one-liner from fellow programmers many times when I worked in computer research. I probably used it myself on a few occasions. At the risk of killing a joke by explaining it, the idea behind the quip is to spin a vice as a virtue: to reinterpret a mistake as an unintended or undocumented benefit. A positive spin is placed on an error, suggesting that what might be seen as a fault is really a feature—even if an unintended one.

Three Common Beliefs

What does any of this have to do with atheism? I want to suggest that the distinction between bugs and features can help us see an inconsistency in the beliefs of many of our atheist friends. Consider the following three views commonly held by atheists today:

  1. Common human traits have a naturalistic evolutionary explanation.
  2. Religion—especially theistic religion—is a bad thing.
  3. Homosexuality is not a bad thing.

The first of these points follows from the widespread acceptance among atheists of the Darwinian theory of evolution. Evolution is taken for granted as the default explanation for where we came from and why we exhibit certain characteristics and behavior patterns. Why do…


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