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Answering 10 Christian Questions For Every Atheist

Last night, a web site named Christian Today published a list of 10 Questions For Every Atheist, written by a guy named Robert Nielsen. The following are my answers.

1. How Did You Become an Atheist?

I became an atheist the same way everyone became an atheist. I was born. Everyone is born an atheist. Some people become theists later.

2. What happens when we die?

We die.

3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!

If I’m wrong, and I’m irritable, I try to make excuses. If I’m wrong, and I’m in a reasonable mood, then I admit that I was wrong and try to figure out what my error was all about.

Oh, you mean what if I am wrong about there not being a Heaven, as in a place where people go after they die, but they’re still alive somehow, and it’s nice? Oh, and what if I’m wrong about Hell, too?

Let me deal with Hell first, because that’s easier. In Norse mythology, Hell is the name of the trickster god Loki’s daughter, who had a body that was half white and half black, and was the result of the impregnation of Loki by a stallion, after Loki became a mare. Actually, it’s spelled with one “L”. I don’t believe in this weird story, but, if I’m wrong, then… whoah, I’ll have to think about it for a while, and come to terms with a very very strange world.

Now, what if the Christian Heaven exists? If Heaven exists, and your god doesn’t let me into it just because I didn’t believe the Christians’ stories about it, well, that doesn’t make your god look very generous, does it? I mean, who would want to spend eternity with such a mean-spirited spirit?

I don’t bother worrying about this one, any more than I bother worrying about whether there really is a Bigfoot, or if there really is a tooth fairy, or if there really are giant robots on Earth disguised as cars, as The Transformers movies say. They’re all fun ideas, but not enough for me to shape my real life around.

4. Without God, where do you get your morality from?

I have decades of experience in hurting people’s feelings, accidentally and sometimes on purpose, and dealing with the consequences. I have lots of experience in getting my feelings hurt, too. I try to learn from these experiences, but I don’t always get it right.

5. If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?

Of course we can’t do what we want. I would love to fly, and I used to have dreams that I could fly, when I was a kid, but I never really could fly in waking reality.

We are not free to murder and rape. These actions are against the law, and carry heavy penalties. Also, murder and rape are just plain nasty things to do.

Good deeds are sometimes rewarded, and sometimes not, but if we have a genuine understanding of what makes good deeds good, then when we take care to do good deeds purposefully, we always can get the satisfaction of of doing something worthwhile, and that is a reward in itself.

6. If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?

If there is no god, then I can try to build meaning in my life on my own. It’s like how, if there is no divine poet, we can still write poetry. Human beings are very creative, and one of the conclusions I’ve come to is that there is deep meaning in pretty much everything that we do, even though we don’t always see it. Meaning seems to be the human way of interpreting the world.

7. Where did the universe come from?

I don’t know. I don’t even know what “the universe” is. Some scientists suggest that the universe may be just one part of something much larger, but there’s no proof for these ideas. I don’t think that they even count as theories 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’ve never seen any miracles, or any evidence that they exist.

I remember, when I was a teenager, a guy walked up to me on the street, and told me that I was an angel. Then, he told me that I was the Dancing Blue Bear from a Grateful Dead sticker. I think he was taking LSD.

People claims all sorts of things. Some people claim that there is a secret planet of doom called Niburu that will soon extinguish all life on earth. Some people claim that world leaders are actually reptilian overlords.

Sometimes, I think, these people are just pulling our legs to have fun, or to get attention. Sometimes, I think, these people are insane. Sometimes, I think, people are in the habit of believing in extraordinary things that they really don’t have evidence for, not because they’re crazy, but because they are afraid of dealing with the world as it is. Sometimes, I think, people speak of things like angels or “Jesus” metaphorically.

9. What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?

Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris have said what they have said. They think what they think. I don’t have to think what they think, just because I’m an atheist. I don’t let them lead me in any sense. I think they like attention, but then, there are many people who like attention, including many preachers.

I do like the book An Ancestor’s Tale by Dawkins very much. It’s a well-written summary of the diversity of life on Earth.

10. If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

Does every society have a religion? The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a society, and doesn’t have a religion. The Society For The Preservation of Natural History Collections doesn’t have a religion. The Society For The Study Of Evolution doesn’t have a religion. Even the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion doesn’t have a religion.

Also, this question confuses belief in God with having a religion. Not all religions include belief in God, which is a very Mediterranean and Near-Eastern cultural concept, though some religions from other places have hopped on the “God” bandwagon in order to try to communicate with God believers. Not all religious even include belief in gods, as a category of divine beings. Certainly, additional new religions could be developed in the future that have no concept of any god.

So, this question makes some fundamental presumptions that I don’t agree with.

Besides, what if everyone on Earth but me believed that the Christian God is real? Would that, in itself, make the Christian God real? I don’t think so. I don’t think that things become real just because many people believe in them. People have been wrong in the past. Remember your earlier question – what if you’re wrong? If everybody else jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?

Nice questions, there. Now I’ve got a few for the Christians out there. 10 Questions For Every Christian:

1. What is your favorite color, and why?
2. Have you seen any good movies lately?
3. Do you have a recipe you’d like to share?
4. How come there’s not a TV Show called Real Housewives of Nebraska?
5. What if you left your keys in the car?
6. What if Doctor Who was real? How would that change your life?
7. If there was no bacon, chocolate, or cheese, how could your lunchtime have any meaning?
8. If Christmas is Christian, then what part of the Bible does Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer come from?
9. What is your view of J.K. Rowling’s effort to write new stories in the Harry Potter universe?
10. Could you all just loosen up a little bit and allow for people to be different, and let people come to their own conclusions about things… and back off with all those Christmas carols about saviors this year?

16 comments to Answering 10 Christian Questions For Every Atheist

  • Mark

    There’s an inherent conflict within Christianity between the points raised in Questions #3 and #5 above. According to #3 we need to have faith in God to gain acceptance into Heaven. But in #5 we need to be good humans to gain acceptance into Heaven. Which is it? If faith is all that’s needed then Christians are free to murder and rape all they want, but still be admitted to heaven. If good deeds will get you in, then why do we need faith?

    • Pliny The Second Elder

      Mark, what you need is to do the good deed of having faith that having faith is a good deed. Also, Jesus has revised his user agreement as of last week, so that neither faith nor good deeds are sufficient for permanent residence in Heaven. All previous Christians may still acquire base level acceptance into Heaven, but in order to obtain elite membership and progress past the pearl-colored gates, some in-app purchases will be required. Offer not valid in Hawaii or Alaska, or to relatives of Jesus.

  • Charles Manning

    Although I hesitate to call myself an atheist because my perception of reality is accompanied by a very strong sense of wonder and amazement that reminds me of what others at least claim they feel toward God, I’m generally in sympathy with your views. One thing you left out. Most people I know, including most of my close relatives, think that belief in a particular religion is a prerequisite to going to the other world or dimension or universe called “heaven.” These people, like the 15 year old girl in Houston who made such a remarkable speech at a memorial to her slain family members, think that they will join their loved ones in heaven. Muslims, among others, are required to accept that they can enter paradise under certain conditions, as well. So if, as an infidel or non-believer, I’m destined to go to hell (another world or dimension or universe), what respect do I deserve from such people here on earth? Perhaps more importantly, since I’m a persuasive person, am I not a threat to their children, since I might persuade the children that they shouldn’t adhere to the beliefs necessary to get them into heaven? When you look at it this way, the Islamic rule, followed by millions or billions of people, that it is a capital sin to leave the religion, as by converting to Christianity or another faith, or becoming an atheist or agnostic, begins to make logical sense. I don’t believe in miracles, but it’s almost a miracle that my believer relatives haven’t executed me for my beliefs – so far.

  • Dave

    No bacon, chocolate, cheese. Hmmmm.

  • Bill

    Peregrin, while you and I sometimes differ on the larger topics of faith (none of which are represented in Christian Today’s inane and tediously predictable top-ten list), still I must tip my hat to you, sir. Excellent work, and a fun read. Your answer to #1, in particular, is brilliant. And regarding your own #6 (“What if Doctor Who was real? How would that change your life?”) this is now a question I fear will haunt me for some time to come.

    Herein, my own Top Ten Questions for Christians:
    1. What made you a Christian? If I buy the yarn, will it make me one, too?
    2. What happens when you masturbate? Don’t pretend you don’t know.
    3. What if Heaven is precisely as boring as the Bible makes it sound and, as seems likely, all the cool kids are in Hell?
    4. Without atheists, who would you have to pick on? Oh, wait, I forgot; Jews and Muslims.
    5. If there is no God, wouldn’t that make Mike Huckabee a lying sack of excrement? On second thought, don’t answer that. Let’s move on.
    6. If God made you, the same way, say, a factory in China made my TV, how can your life have any meaning? Does my TV have meaning? What channel is it on?
    7. Where does that shmutz in your bellybutton come from?
    8. What about the Kardashians? Huh? HUH?
    9. What’s your view of Pope Victor’s excommunication of Theodotus of Byzantium and the Quartodecimanism controversy?
    10. If there is a God, how come the U.S. didn’t win the World Cup?

  • J Clifford

    Buy yarn? I’m a fabric literalist, Bill. What does string have to do with Christianity?

  • Jack McCully

    I wholeheartedly agree with the answer to question 9. I was fascinated by The ancestors tale.

  • Hey there. I myself believe in christianity but i have so many viable questions most don’t think so. There are so many inconsistencies in both old and new testament its ridiculous. I always get vague bible quotes as answers to my questions and it pisses me off, no concrete explanations. However i think i would be a fool to believe that we just for no apparent reason POOF are here. It would drive my mind crazy trying to ignore where we all came from. Or why we are the only planet that just happens to contain the core of living, oxygen. Or the fact that the biggest star the sun is exactly positioned where it needs to be to keep us warm, provide the photosenthesis to plant life for it to thrive, and it stays in that same spot rises up and down everyday and night, but doesn’t go east to west which would kill us all if it did. Or what exactly makes the Earth rotate as it does perfectly instead of spinning uncontrollably. And we have gravity that is NOWHERE else so we don’t float off and die at high altitides or be thrown everywhere from the earths rotation. Just a few examples. I LOVE science because it explains how things work, how things grow, but one thing..it doesn’t explain the origin of how everything came to be

    • J Clifford

      Ronald, you need to get some stuff straight here. We don’t know that Earth is the only planet with oxygen. Gravity appears to be everywhere, just in different amounts. The Sun is not the biggest star. Questions are good. Having knowledge of what is known is important, too.

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