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?
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?