I saw that fellow Patheos blogger Kaveh Mousavi replied to the Christian website that asked “10 Questions for every atheist” and I figured I could offer my answers as well. The website, Today Christian, claimed that “Some Questions Atheist Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer!” and then lists ten questions. I’m guessing they think I can’t “honestly REALLY” answer these questions as an atheist, but I gave it a try! I actually found them fun to answer and I hope if any believers read this post they can receive some insight about an atheistic worldview.
1. How Did You Become an Atheist?
I became an atheist during my time at college. As a Christian there were several things that really bothered me about my religion, but I could ignore them because I wasn’t really exposed to many different viewpoints. In college I was able to study philosophy, history, science, and other religions that allowed me to leave my bubble. No one told me to be an atheist and I actually became an atheist during my time at a religiously affiliated college without knowing a single other atheist. After looking at the evidence atheism simply seemed to be the religious position that made the most sense to me.
2. What happens when we die?
Nothing happens. Our consciousness stops and we decompose somewhere. I don’t find it depressing to not believe in any afterlife. It just means we should appreciate this short life as much as we possibly can. Just because our life is temporary, it doesn’t mean it cannot be meaningful.
3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!
I would be surprised, but I think if I could talk to a God I would have a response very similar to Stephen Fry in the video below. I would want to know why a God would allow so much suffering. I would want to know why a God would give us a brain with critical thinking and analytic reasoning only to leave such confusing and illogical evidence that he exists. As Kaveh noted in his answer, I’d probably get along more with Lucifer and wouldn’t mind going to Hell. Spending an eternity worshiping a being that does nothing to stop child rapists doesn’t sound like Heaven to me.
4. Without God, where do you get your morality from?
As I wrote about before, I think this is actually a pretty simple question. I understand what pain feels like and I want to reduce suffering as much as I can. It’s basic empathy. Other people keep us company in this lonely universe so we should try to be kind to as many people as possible. I’m more concerned that people think they need a God rewarding them to treat others well.
5. If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?
Well we are bound by laws that try to maintain civil order. Even though we have no supernatural force controlling us, there are still consequences. And as I just said, I have an innate desire to reduce suffering so I find it concerning anyone would need the threat of Hell for them to not murder or rape someone.
6. If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?
It doesn’t have any intrinsic meaning, we create meaning for our lives. We have control over our destinies and we determine what we deem meaningful. The people I love are meaningful to me. My work is meaningful to me. I don’t need anyone telling me what is meaningful, it’s very subjective as it should be.
7. Where did the universe come from?
Cosmologists are still trying to figure that out. There is the Big Bang Theory, but I’m not sure what occurred before that. Importantly, just because we don’t know how the universe came to be, it doesn’t mean it’s an impossible question. It simply means we haven’t figured it out yet.
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?
I understand that those experiences are very important to people and can evoke very strong emotions. However, I have yet to see any evidence for miracles, saints, or angels. It seems much more likely that the person is mistaken rather than there being some sort of supernatural world.
9. What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?
I read some of their work as I was learning about different religions in college. Some of their points were validating to me as I was becoming an atheist, but I also disagree with them quite often. I only met Richard Dawkins out of these three and actually found him to be quite courteous in person, but he is also very ignorant about many things. I definitely don’t idolize any of them as they are fallible humans just like everyone else. I think the atheist movement has many more interesting speakers and writers so I’m glad that other people are finally getting more attention.
10. If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?
This is a pretty silly question because there are several societies that are largely non-religious. Also, many countries are becoming less religious as well. Yes, religion is still very popular, but I think much of that can be explained by the psychology of religious belief. Even if every person on Earth believed in God, it still wouldn’t prove that God exists.