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Questions for Atheists

From time to time one of the many atheist blogs (of the many I follow) will post a list of questions posed by a theist to challenge the lack of belief of an Atheist. Typically they are the silliest of questions ranging from “how can you say religion is so bad when atheism is a religion” to “if Evolution is true then how come there are still monkeys?”* These questions are supposed to be trap questions that Atheists are not supposed to have an answer to. The questions stem from a misunderstanding of what non-belief really means by individuals who would rather draw up a caricature and attack that, rather than actually engage the simple fact that Atheists reject belief without hard evidence.

I was rather surprised in viewing my reader when a list of questions appeared that seemed as though the poser was genuinely curious. I’m going to run down the question list as well, the original post can be found here. I’m going to break this up into two parts to avoid TL:DR but I’ll list the remaining questions at the bottom.

1: Why are you an Atheist?

This is a very complicated question but I’ll keep the answer as short as possible. Simply, I don’t see evidence for the belief in a higher power. Maybe the Deists have it right and there is a creative intelligence but that’s a stretch given how arbitrary the universe seems to be regarding what gets created and what does not. Yet the assertion that “there is a god” is not something I can honestly commit to. I find no religious text to be compelling as they merely assume you are going to believe in it and then you have to buy the stories. My collection of Norse Myths is placed right beside the Christian Bible and I believe both of them in the much the same way. Show me evidence and I’ll change my mind but until then I’m not agreeing.

2: Have you ever believed in a higher power?

Yes. I was a believing Catholic for a majority of my life. I was raised in a Catholic household, went to Catholic school, attended church on Sundays, was an altar server, and participated in various religious activities. The last several years of this blog explains why I started drifting away until finally ending up as an Atheist.

3: If so, did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

No. This is a popular stereotype that is pushed by the religious. They think that non-believers only drift away because they are angry at their higher power because they equate disbelieving with hate. I don’t hate god because to me, that would be like hating Sauron or Voldemort. I should also add that I’ve never met another Atheist who has explained that their non-belief comes from some kind of traumatic event.

4: If not, why did you stop believing?

Two main reasons, and as stated above, several years of this blog have been devoted to that explanation. First off, the stories either do not make sense or are contradicted by other stories in the same book. For contradiction: Jesus has two different genealogies which cannot be possible.  For nonsense: the Bible claims a lot of knowledge of the world but as we have discovered (both before its writing and afterward) it’s not true i.e. if I ask how Jesus and family escaped Herod’s troops and the reply is, god’s will, I’m not going to take it on faith. I’m going to read some Roman history and find out that the massacre didn’t happen, the census didn’t occur when it was said to occur, and the idea that you would have to journey to the place of your ancestor’s birth to be counted is an absurd requirement for a number of different yet equally valid reasons.

The second reason was that too much of religious belief was hidden behind “mysteries.” I would be told that there many things that were mysterious and thus weren’t subject to questioning or at least not by a good Catholic. I, like all people, am naturally inquisitive and attempting to stem my nature only led me to read more which cleaved the idea that “mystery” was an explanation. The explanation of transubstantiation was always a mystery, but in looking into it (because, again, inquisitiveness is bad) it was patently obvious that it was made up. Mystery is a label designed to shield hard questions from followers.

5: What do you think happens to us when we die?

Other than an explanation of chemistry/biology I have no idea. Nothing, maybe something, I don’t know but I’m not going to live my life on some Pascal’s Wager/wishful thinking dream unless I can see some evidence for it.

6: Without believing in a higher power, where do you think we get our morals from?

I’m, by trade, a philosopher so I can explain this from numerous perspectives but the simplest answer is that if we are going to be social creatures we need some kind of rule system that is conducive to that. We can’t have a society if we allow members to steal from or murder and rape each other. Even lying impedes it, though not to the same degree. Religious morals are merely deified versions of the idea that “we are all in this together.” Whether you come from a Kantian or Utilitarian perspective morals are merely the rules that allow us to get along before fear of external punishment and ideally these are what the legal system is based on.

7: Where do you think the universe came from?

I really have no idea other than giving the astrophysical explanation as incomplete as that seems to be. The thing about this question is that I feel absolutely comfortable not knowing about what happened in the beginning as I do not knowing what happens at the end.

8: What are your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

Dawkins is the person who coined and defined “meme” and has a great rebuttal to several arguments seeking to prove the existence of god. As an evolutionary biologist his work is impressive. However he has terrible views on women and really needs to be quiet when it comes to subjects outside of atheism and evolutionary biology.

Harris is a neuroscientist who has done some interesting work examining the brain. I have not read any of his atheistic books. He comes across as overly harsh with a severe anti-Islam streak, however his comments are directed so that liberals who too often excuse the actions of Islam as being just the work of extremists will have to face the cognitive dissonance they engage when those liberals blanket criticize Christianity. He’s a bit too extreme for me.

Hitchens was an interesting character. His take down of Mother Theresa was eye opening for me and he was the first atheist writer I encountered who included the Eastern religions in his attacks. He’ll always have my respect for doing that. I also liked that he managed to piss off everyone at one time or another by merely sticking to a consistent world view especially when he would explain that the loss of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was not a bad thing. I’ve read him more than the others.

The thing is that while those three individuals are the most well known atheists they don’t speak for us. Just because they are acerbic to some they get picked out as being the spokesmen for an entire group that has no hierarchy. We don’t have an Atheist Pope or minister that tells us how to think. Robert Ingersoll and Thomas Paine are the anti-religious writers (they were both Deists) that I have read the most. There is no official canon.

We’ll finish the list next week. Below are the remaining questions.

9: Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

*In case you are curious the answer to both are as follows: Atheism isn’t a religion so the question begins on a false premise and the second question utterly misunderstands Evolutionary theory.

Categories: Uncategorized
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  1. November 3, 2015 at 1:16 am
  2. November 3, 2015 at 12:51 pm

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