I was poking around at random today and I came across a few atheist blogs that were answering theist questions. This isn’t uncommon, I’ve done it plenty of times here, but it seemed to me that most of the questions are the same over and over and over. Once you’ve answered the same question a couple of times, it gets boring, not only for you but for your readers. I’ve already made it clear how I feel about a lot of the most common questions so I went looking for something out of the ordinary.
I have no idea when these were written, specifically, although I’m assuming some time in 2011. I’m just going to copy across the questions, if you want to read what the original author had to say about them, by all means to check out the original site.
1. If there is no God, “the big questions” remain unanswered…
Unfortunately, a lot of those questions are meaningless. Why is there something rather than nothing? Because there is. Because if there was nothing, we wouldn’t be here to ponder it. Sorry, don’t mean to be flippant, but it is a fact that there are plenty of people who spend altogether too much time noodling their navels and trying to find the answer to questions that are fundamentally pointless to begin with. Why was there a Big Bang? Who knows? Why implies purpose. There may have been no purpose. Why did Stephen Hawking contract Lou Gherig’s disease? Isn’t it more important to ask “how”? Or “what do we do about it now?”
The problem is, so many of these “big questions” that theists want to ask aren’t big questions at all, they’re pointless, stupid questions. They are questions that assume an answer when they simply may not have an answer, or at least not an answer which may be satisfying to them. What is the ultimate meaning of life? There may be none. In fact, there seems to be none. Whether that makes you feel good inside or not is entirely irrelevant to the fact of the answer.
And that right there is the issue. Asking these pointless, unsatisfying questions is often how theists get to their conclusions. What is the meaning of life? They don’t like the answer that the real world seems to give, therefore they invent a new one that is more satisfactory. Their own personal emotional states become more important than the truth.
2. If we reject the existence of God, we are left with a crisis of meaning.
Certainly untrue. At best, we are left with an absence of externally-generated meaning, but who says that meaning must come from without? We are certainly able to provide meaning for our own lives and each of us does that every day. Unfortunately, there seem to be some who are so intellectually inept that they cannot accept their own responsibility for their own lives. Instead, they have to turn to an imaginary friend in the sky who they think watches over them, to allay some internal fear of their own responsibility. If things go badly, it’s not their fault, “the devil made them do it”. If things go well, it was God’s will. Yet, people succeed or fail in roughly the same percentages no matter what gods they believe in or whether they believe in gods at all. In the end, we’re left with a lack of responsibility and a lack of understanding that the answers aren’t out there somewhere, but within us all.
3. When people have embraced atheism, the historical results can be horrific.
Of course, all of this has been dealt with many times before. Atheism means the lack of belief in god(s), period. No one can act in the name of atheism because atheism has no creed, no laws, no rules. It doesn’t make demands on disbelievers. What’s really being confused here, often on purpose, is that atheists can, and do, bad things. So do theists. However, while theism can demand that certain actions be done, atheism cannot. Were Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao atheists? Almost certainly. Did they claim to do anything in their regimes in the name of atheism? Absolutely not. Of course, if you want to claim that atheism is responsible for all acts performed by atheists, then you must also acknowledge that religion is responsible for all acts performed by the religious, especially since so many of these horrors are claimed, by the religious, to be ordered by their gods. Hitler was very clear that his crusade against the Jews was commanded directly by God. American slavery was promoted as a Christian concept almost entirely. Let’s not forget the Crusades and the Inquisitions of the Middle Ages that came completely from religious grounds, they could not have happened had it not been for the Catholic Church. In fact, it’s only been within the last century or so that wars have stopped being almost entirely religious. Warfare for thousands of years has been little more than “my god is bigger than your god!” Centuries upon centuries of genocide and slavery rest solely at the feet of religion. Besides, I don’t see atheists flying airplanes into buildings in the name of atheism.
That requires religion.
4. If there is no God, the problems of evil and suffering are in no way solved.
That asserts that there is a problem of evil. Certainly, evil is a problem that we ought to try to solve, ending suffering is a worthwhile goal, but in reality, isn’t it religion that refuses to deal with the problem, instead making asinine excuses for it? After all, don’t Christians claim that their God is all-powerful, yet does nothing to end earthly suffering? It’s the same as someone beating their wife and telling her “it’s okay, you’ll be rewarded for your years of suffering after you’re dead, so get over here!” It’s a conveniently empty claim because so far as we can tell, there’s absolutely nothing after death. It’s as absurd as an employer claiming “work for me for free and you’ll get paid a billion dollars after you die!”
So we return to the “problem” and discover that religion is the one with the problem. They do not seek to actually solve the problem, or at the very least, accept that all evil cannot be fixed easily or quickly. Instead, religion makes up an explanation for why you’re not going to get what you want and should just stop asking for it because you’re going to get your just rewards at some unspecified time in the future, conveniently beyond any capacity for verification. If you never get the reward, you can’t come back and tell everyone it’s a load of crap.
What a scam!
5. If there is no God, we lose the very standard by which we critique religions and religious people.
I’m not sure where they get this. So, without Nazism, the Hague had no standard for evaluating the Nazis? That’s absurd. The belief is that all intellectual ability springs from God, therefore if you reject God, you cannot have any intellectual ability. Since the existence of God has never been demonstrated and thus, the claim that such ability must come from God cannot be justified, it’s a load of nonsense. You might as well substitute “unicorns” for “God”. Once that kind of thinking comes into play, you’re not longer talking to reasonable people, you’re talking to fanatics and you cannot debate with fanatics.
Once you start demanding objective truths without being able to demonstrate objective truths, you’ve abandoned the intellectual high ground and thrown any credibility right out the window.
6. If there is no God, we don’t make sense.
Certainly, we do make sense. The original author claims that unless God exists, that man cannot explain our “desire for the transcendent“. Yet I have problems claiming that man has a desire for the transcendent, rather that man is hardwired to seek out explanations for questions about the universe, yet until relatively recently in human history, the actual answers to those questions have been beyond human comprehension. If you took your computer and put it in front of someone from 5000 years ago, they’d have no way to evaluate it except for as magic. It would be a gift from a god or a curse from a devil, depending on your point of view. They’d have no frame of reference from which to properly evaluate a modern piece of technology.
So does that mean that the computer actually comes from God? Or that primitive man was wrong in their assertion? We know where computers come from, we know that we build them. We also know what the sun is and how it operates, but it wasn’t that many thousands of years ago when people thought it was a fiery chariot being ridden across the sky by the god Helios. When most of these myths started, man had no way of comprehending that the sun was a star, one of uncounted billions in the sky, powered by nuclear fusion. They just knew it was important to life, it provided heat and light and helped the plants to grow. They just knew that the sun was much more powerful than they, therefore they made it a god. The earliest gods, including the Hebrew God of the Old Testament, were very human. They had human emotions. They got upset. They punished people. It was the only terms that primitive man could understand and therefore, when something went wrong, when there was a drought or a storm or an eclipse, those weren’t natural events, they were angry gods.
Today though, we know the real answers to most of the questions to which “God” was a placeholder. We don’t have to believe in gods that make the sun cross the sky, we don’t have to believe in gods that cause the rain to fall, we know those are wholly natural phenomenon that do not rely on the actions of deities to explain. Yet, the concept of gods has become ingrained into the psyche of man socially. It’s become a popular ad hoc explanation for anything that cannot easily be demonstrated otherwise, but as those explanations become fewer and fewer, gods move into smaller and smaller boxes, as well as farther and farther from their human roots. Why do we hunger for the spiritual? We don’t. We hunger for knowledge and when that knowledge is absent or emotionally troubling, we turn to our oldest explanatory beliefs: the supernatural. Slowly but surely, little by little, we are weeding out the need to turn to the supernatural, just as we have done away with our need to believe in gods to make the crops grow.
It turns out that these questions are no better than the most common ones that flood the Internet. They just aren’t impressive because they assume that religion is right and anything that is not religion is wrong. When we look at these questions objectively, we find out just how absurd they really are.
Come on, doesn’t anyone have any worthwhile questions to ask?