10 Questions for Every Atheist July 16, 2014Posted by Ubi Dubium in Responses.
Tags: atheism, bible, christianity, critical thinking, Evangelists, evidence, Greta Christina, Hemant Mehta, Matt Dillahunty, morality, Questions, reason, religion
This list has been floating around the internet for a few days. I did a response to a similar list of 15 questions awhile back, and you can find my answers to that one here: 15 Question Atheist Challenge (Edit – and another fairly stupid 10-question set I answered here.) But I suppose I’ll join in and answer these too.
The list recently appeared here: http://todaychristian.net/10-questions-every-atheist/#_
But was lifted from a post by Robert Neilsen, an atheist, here: http://robertnielsen21.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/10-questions-for-atheists/
The first thing that caught my eye is this lead-in on the TodayChristian website:
Some Questions Atheist Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer! Which leads to some interesting conclusions…
And you will never hear any of those conclusions from their website, because commenting was not allowed on that post. Because throwing out an assertion like that wouldn’t be any fun if the real atheists were actually allowed to show up and refute it by truly and honestly really answering them. So here’s my shot at truly and honestly really answering them. I’ll try to keep each answer succinct, since I tend to ramble sometimes.
1. How Did You Become an Atheist?
Short version: I read the bible, just like my youth leaders said I should. Twice, cover to cover, two different translations. And then in college, I ran headlong into people who were crazy fundamentalists of one sort or another, and the nutcase preachers like Brother Jed, each totally certain that they were right and everybody else was going to burn in hell. And I started thinking about whether it made sense to believe any of this, and I realized that it didn’t. And I thought about whether the stuff I had been taught had any more solid basis in reality, and it didn’t. By the end of college I was functionally an atheist, but didn’t adopt the word until later. That was around 30 years ago now, and I’m still not believing any of it.
2. What happens when we die?
We decompose, and the brain that produces the activity that we call our “conscious mind” stops doing that.
3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!
Then I’ll have a wonderful time at the Beer Volcano, while all you christian infidels have to settle for flat beer and ugly strippers down in Hell Lite. Oh, did you mean YOUR version of heaven and hell? Why are those any more likely to be true than all the other versions?
4. Without God, where do you get your morality from?
Same place everybody does. My own sense of empathy and compassion, plus rules devised from the need to live together with other people in groups. By trial and error over thousands of years, we’ve worked out some pretty good rules for co-existing. Not that there still isn’t room for improvement.
Some people think they get their morality from ancient books or supernatural beings. But I think that’s just religion taking credit for something it didn’t invent.
5. If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?
How would there being a god make you not free to do those things? Plenty of religious people do those things all the time, the fact that they think there is a god watching doesn’t stop them.
But I’m not free to murder and rape if I want to live as part of a community of other people.
6. If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?
I create my own meaning in life. Being told what my life is supposed to be by some superbeing would be awful.
7. Where did the universe come from?
I don’t know. But we are developing some good ideas about what happened right at the start, and those come from looking at the evidence and following where it leads. I don’t pretend to know stuff that I don’t, that’s what religion does.
8. What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?
Look up confirmation bias. Humans are really good at paying attention to the things that match up with their preconceptions and ignoring everything that doesn’t. And we’re really good at fooling ourselves.
9. What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?
You left out Dennett! I agree with some of the things they say, and disagree with others. There are other atheist writers and speakers I find more often in line with what I think, including Greta Christina, Matt Dillahunty, and Hemant Mehta.
10. If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?
If there were a god, then why do we have thousands of mutually contradicting religions? If there were an all-intelligent super-being who wanted people to know what he wants from them, why has he done such a lousy job of communicating it?
People are superstitious, due to patternicity, agenticity, confirmation bias and credulous childhoods. From that beginning, religions coalesce and grow and compete for followers, and those that are the most successful endure and spread. (OOOOH- there’s that Darwin again!) The other, less successful ones die off, which is why nobody is still worshipping Marduk or Osiris anymore. Nowadays most people are stuck with some form of the mental malware of religion, but some of us are recognizing it for what it is and getting rid of it.
There, that’s enough for now.