Here’s 10 more. Today, they come from the blog of Robert Nielsen and he has some questions for atheists that I’ll take on. The interesting part is that Mr. Nielsen is an atheist himself and therefore these are not really meant to challenge atheists, he’s actually answering them himself. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one out there that does this, in fact, I’ve seen people on YouTube and other blogs do it as well so I guess it’s a “thing”.
Therefore, I’m not really going to address Robert’s answers, although I may reference them if he makes a particularly interesting point, I’m just stealing the questions.
And for theists, if they want to discuss my answers, I invite them to comment below. I’m not trying to answer these question in a vacuum, I want to know if they are sufficient for theists and make sense.
So without further ado, let’s get going.
1. How Did You Become an Atheist?
That would be a long answer in and of itself and I’ve already discussed it at length in the past. In short though, I spent about 20 years as a Missouri Synod Lutheran, I was seriously considering a life in the ministry, but after being challenged to check out the Bible and Christian beliefs objectively, I did so and discovered, much to my chagrin, that those beliefs were simply not rationally justified and the things that I had been told about the Bible, both by ministers, teachers and apologists, were simply not defensible or true. Therefore I embarked on a long and twisting road to discover what was actually so and ended up an atheist. If you want to hear the whole story, I talked about it once on the podcast, which you can listen to here. Or you can just ask. I’m flexible.
2. What happens when we die?
So far as we are aware, based on the scientific studies that have been performed, we simply cease to exist. I know a lot of theists are terrified of this reality but that doesn’t stop it from being factually true. Perhaps that’s why most atheists value the life that we demonstrably have over an imaginary life that no one can demonstrate is to come. Far too many theists, particularly fundamentalists, treat this life like a training ground for an eternal paradise in heaven. When that turns out to be false, as all evidence suggests it to be, then they have wasted their only chance believing a lie.
3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven?
What if theists are wrong and there is no heaven? Or what if another religion is right and Christians are doomed to spend eternity roasting in the fires of some other pantheon’s hell? To be honest, if I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I’ll tell whatever god is about to throw me into eternal perdition that I went by the only demonstrable evidence I had and I’ll go willingly into damnation. Any god who is unwilling to provide clear, concise, objective evidence of its own existence is not a god worth believing in and certainly not a god worth worshiping. I’m fine with being wrong.
4. Without God, where do you get your morality from?
The same place theists do, I’m just honest about it. The fact is that nobody really gets their moral values from their holy books. Take the Bible for example. It is not possible to live by the various and sundry moral statements made therein without going to prison as a sociopath. The Bible commands people to stone witches and unruly children. It demands that people not work on the Sabbath. It tells people not to eat shellfish or wear mixed fabrics. It tells people to keep slaves and describes quite horrific methods for treating them. I’m unaware of a single Christian anywhere that actually follows every commandment from God in the Bible. Instead, they pick and choose what they like and then rationalize away all the rest. Their moral values come from society and the people in the culture around them, not some silly primitive book.
5. If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?
No, because we have human justice. Certainly, without a god, there is no eternal punishment for temporal crimes, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be punished by human laws and spend your life in human prisons, or be put to death by human hands, if you sufficiently break acceptable social rules. Beyond that though, and this goes back to question #4, it seems that many theists pretend that without the threat of supernatural punishment hanging over their heads, they’d go around and rape, murder and pillage because they don’t have any moral compass. If that’s the case, please, put a gun in your mouth and pull the trigger, you’re not just a theist, you’re a sociopath. Normal people don’t believe that at all.
6. If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?
Certainly it does, but the meaning is mine to provide. I don’t need gods to tell me what my life means and neither do theists. Except for the most vague basics, how do these gods tell you what your meaning in life is anyhow? Nobody can demonstrate that gods actually communicate with them, therefore, other than having an internal monologue, how does anyone know what the gods want from them? Or do they just make it up on their own and then attribute their own decisions to the gods? That seems most likely.
7. Where did the universe come from?
We don’t know for certain, we are unable, at our current level of technology, to discover what happened before the Big Bang. There is no question that our universe began in the Big Bang but beyond that, we’re currently at a loss. That does not mean that theists are free to posit a god though, as no gods have been demonstrated to actually exist. It’s an unfortunate reality that humans are wired to hate unanswered questions and quite often will invent an answer, just to say that they have one. The problem though is that once you think you have an answer, even a made up one, you tend to stop looking for the real solution to the question. It doesn’t matter if it makes you happy, making something convenient and comforting up out of whole cloth is not a rational act.
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?
There are a lot of people who have made a lot of claims. Christians are only too happy to reject the supernatural claims made by non-Christians and vice versa. To date, there is no evidence that any of these claims are factually true, or that the claims are rational in scope or logical in nature. I’ve pointed out in the past where theist claims fail under even the most cursory critical evaluation. The fact remains that none of these claimants have backed up their claims with anything resembling objective evidence or critical thinking. They may claim that they had an experience with Jesus, but how do they know? How did they test it? The answer, of course, is that they have no way of knowing, they simply took an experience they couldn’t explain and arbitrarily assigned a cause to something that they are predisposed to wanting to be true, then they refuse to examine the experience further because their ad hoc explanation might be disproven. It’s really quite sad when you’re willing to look at these claims objectively.
9. What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?
They are humans who happen to be atheists. Beyond that, I agree with some things they’ve said and disagree with others. They don’t get any special treatment because they are atheists. I’ve spoken in the past about my aversion to hero worship and that goes for supposed atheist heroes as well. They’re people. They’re well known. They make a lot of money selling books. That’s as far as I’m willing to go.
10. If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?
Because humans are not inherently rational creatures. As I said above, they don’t like not knowing things, it’s hard-wired into our brain, therefore when primitive man had no means of examining the world around them scientifically or critically, they came up with stories about powerful gods that made the sun move across the sky and made the rain fall and when bad things happened, people assumed that the gods were angry and sought to appease them. This hasn’t changed in thousands of years but today, religion has gotten slightly more sophisticated. No longer do most Christians think God moves the sun and moon and stars, no longer do most theists think they have to perform blood sacrifices so their crops will grow, they’ve accepted a generally scientific view of the world around them because it demonstrably works. It’s just for those things that they cannot study easily that they insert their gods to answer questions that otherwise would have no answers. Religion serves as a security blanket for billions of people, but unfortunately, that security blanket often keeps them from doing whatever it takes to actually solve their discomfort. There are far too many people out there who refuse to work because the Bible says God will provide for them and they’re waiting for a spiritual payday. This is a problem.
So there you go, another ten questions answered and I found that I agreed with virtually everything that Mr. Nielsen said. Good job! Hope you look forward to my next set of questions!