As I was browsing atheist blogs, I came across this post by Courtney Heard which linked an article entitled of questions from Christian Answers entitled “What If the Cosmos Is All There Is” and includes a list of 11 questions for all atheists. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for answering questions and I am going to answer the 11 questions here, without having read Courtney’s answers (I’ll read her answers after providing my own). So, let’s get to it!
1) If all of life is meaningless, and ultimately absurd , why bother to march straight forward, why stand in the queue as though life as a whole makes sense?
Now, the first problem with this question is that it makes some heavy assumptions, thinking that all atheistic/materialist people think that life is meaningless, which is patently untrue, the vast majority of atheists believe that there is some meaning to life. But hey, I don’t, so let me answer this!
The basic answer is, why not bother to march straight forward? Life is fun and it contains more pleasures than pains and it doesn’t need a meaning. What is the meaning of Doom III, and why should one play it if it doesn’t have fun? Because killing weird aliens in an ultra-violent breathtaking action is fun. Honestly, this need for meaning, to me, is just a psychological hang up that most people clearly have but I don’t understand at all.
2) If everyone completely passes out of existence when they die, what ultimate meaning has life? Even if a man’s life is important because of his influence on others or by his effect on the course of history, of what ultimate significance is that if there is no immortality and all other lives, events, and even history itself is ultimately meaningless?
Nothing. There’s no ultimate meaning, and obviously no ultimate significance because significance is defined by people, and therefore there is no significance without people, an entirely subjective concept. But again, there’s nothing wrong with this, life, history, and leaving a positive influence on those around you are adequate goals in themselves.
3) Suppose the universe had never existed. Apart form God, what ultimate difference would that make?
Huh? I don’t claim I can understand the question. It wouldn’t make any difference if the universe never existed, because difference is made within the universe.
4) In a universe without God or immortality, how is mankind ultimately different from a swarm of mosquitoes or a barnyard of pigs?
Humanity’s cognitive abilities and evolutionary process is different enough to make it a unique animal and it’s fun to be one. But yeah, there is no supernatural hierarchy where human sits at the top. Humans have rights because they are in an advanced society that creates the functionality of right, but yeah, without civilization, a human is basically a mosquito.
5) What viable basis exists for justice or law if man is nothing but a sophisticated, programmed machine?
Humans want to survive and prosper as a species. Justice and law are among the tools that enable that survival and prosperity. It’s better for me to live in a civilized city than a Hobbesian nature, and without laws the civilized city would crumble.
6) Why does research, discovery, diplomacy, art, music, sacrifice, compassion, feelings of love, or affectionate and caring relationships mean anything if it all ultimately comes to naught anyway?
I have a feeling that I’m being asked the same question over and over. Well the answer is, all good things come to an end, but that doesn’t mean experiencing them is futile. Why read War and Peace if it comes to an end? Why love someone when they or you will die one day? Why eat a great meal if you will have to defecate it later? Because it’s fun. Likewise, apathy or death ends all loves, no peace is eternal, and every great discovery will one day be replaced by a superior one. That doesn’t take away from their value.
7) Without absolute morals, what ultimate difference is there between Saddam Hussein and Billy Graham?
Saddam Hussein was considerably more successful in ruining people’s lives, but I agree that fundamentally they were theocratic monsters with a similar nature.
8) If there is no immortality, why shouldn’t all things be permitted?
Because we mortals have a system of rewards and punishments to maximize our effectiveness in survival and fulfillment and if you make enough of a trouble we have a collection of ways to end you, which might include dropping your corpse in a sea, like they did to Osama Bin Laden. And our punishment, unlike God’s, is real and tangible.
Of course, such a system could only exist if the majority of people subscribed to the project of civilization and agreed cooperation rather than competition allows them to thrive, and they do.
9) If morality is only a relative social construct, on what basis could or should anyone ever move to interfere with cultures that practice apartheid, female circumcision, cannibalism, or ethnic cleansing?
Morality is a social construct, but that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all and anything goes. Morality is like traffic laws: they’re social constructs, but if you say people can drive on both sides of the road, you have awful laws and people will die. All moralities have the same goal, to maximize human fulfillment. Some of them are better at realizing that goal, and some are awfully bad. The same way we can judge the effectiveness of traffic laws we can judge the effectiveness of morality systems.
10) If there is no God, on what basis is there any meaning or hope for fairness, comfort, or better times?
Human reason. God, as imagined in Christianity and Islam, of course, is himself an unfair monster, so the fact that this particular God doesn’t exist creates some hope that humans may be able to create some real justice.
11) Without a personal Creator-God, how are you anything other than the coincidental, purposeless miscarriage of nature, spinning round and round on a lonely planet in the blackness of space for just a little while before you and all memory of your futile, pointless, meaningless life finally blinks out forever in the endless darkness?
I’m not, but I recommend you submit that question to Rick and Morty, you might bag a better writing gig.
Anyway, all of these repetitive questions have a central theme: a sense of cosmic insecurity and a need for divine validation and denial. Ultimately, none of these questions prove the existence of God. Even if life needed an ultimate transcendental meaning, even if morality wouldn’t exist without an absolute and omniscient law giver, and even if life would be bleak without a deity, (and I agree with none), all of these would only mean that the existence of a God would be a good thing, not a logical thing. There’s no guarantee that we don’t live in a bleak world. These questions only appeal to my emotions and not my reason, and I believe they are very transparent in the fact that they look at religion as emotional support, not as a conclusion derived by careful study and a dispassionate quest for truth. Of course, not all religious people are like this, but Christian Answers clearly is.