There are several sets of these questions floating around on the web. I found these on Robert Nielsen’s blog, but he probably just copied and pasted them from somewhere else. He (they) asked, so here are some quick answers…
- How Did You Become an Atheist? Through constant examination of reality, starting at around the same time I stopped believing in Santa Claus.
- What happens when we die? From your perspective and mine, nothing. We are no longer aware. Our bodies, empty shells, eventually become stardust.
- Without god, from where do you get your morality? I use a moral structure that works in the world in which I live. Its pragmatism is its center.
- What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? Pascal’s Wager restated. The implied message here is a threat: “If you are wrong, you are going to hell. Do what we say or else.” Is that supposed to be an honest argument? And no, I don’t think anyone (except my closest friends and family) cares at all about my eternal soul.
- If there is no god, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape while good deeds are unrewarded? This is a rehash of question three, but I will add that the value of our freedom and our lives, and the possibility of losing parts of that or all of that, is at the core or all morality.
- If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning? It is certainly possible that life has no permanent meaning; however, meaning isn’t necessary for existence, and fear of meaninglessness shouldn’t dispel us from accepting it. Most people, and almost all religious people, fear meaninglessness more than anything because in their daily lives they are insignificant and meaningless, and a promise of a magical place full of meaning dispels those fears. But for me, life has meaning in being a part of the species, the planet, and the universe.
- From where did the Universe come? This question seems to be regarded as the magic bullet of theism. The origin of the Universe is far too difficult for most humans to comprehend, so they fall back on the idea that it must be magic. “I don’t understand, so it must not be understandable.” The scientific community has given us many evolving theories about how the Universe began, and with each iteration they come closer to a demonstrable truth. As these ideas evolve, they move steadily away from a divine creator and steadily toward a real explanation; it has never once gone the other way.
- 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? Three questions. 1. Miracles are a giant scam. No miracles have ever been verified. 2. People claiming to believe things doesn’t constitute evidence. 3. Most of the explanations of such visions fall into the category of mass hysteria and the power of suggestion.
- What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris? Each of these men has iterated ideas with which I agree.
- If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion? This question is the equivalent of saying, “XYZ is popular, so you should like it as well.” It doesn’t matter if a million people believe a lie, or a billion. It’s still a lie. I find that the unwashed masses are much more eager to obey and adhere than to examine and decide.
I have asserted many times that I am happy and fulfilled as an atheist.
Can I answer for Agnostics?
1. I don’t know.
2. I’ll probably find out sooner than I want.
3. My morality or your morality?
4. Or you’re right and there is a Hell?
5. Are you not doing what you want? Do you want something immoral?
6. Admittedly, my life has more meaning to me than to you.
7. I find myself more concerned with where it’s going.
8. Random probability tends to swing both ways. (For every Caligula there’s a Christ. Hitler:Ghandi. Indians to Oklahoma:Isrealites out of the desert. Form pairings at your discretion.
9. Did they get a triple play in the 2003 World Series?
10. If there is one God, why are there so many religions?
1. Constant reading of the Bible was a good start. But it’s complicated.
2. I’ve seen people and other animals die. They get cold and stiff. Then they start to rot.
3. From empathy, mostly.
4. Pascal’s Wager is so flawed as to be ridiculous. It’s not even close to 50-50 when considering all the mutually exclusive religions in the world.
5. A restatement of #3, yes. I would add that it takes a sick and flawed human to only be moral because an ancient book says to be.
6. The real question is why should it require an imaginary god to give your life meaning?
7. To quote Republican senators: “I’m not a scientist.” Fact is, no one knows for sure where the Universe came from. Not being able to explain something is a poor reason to say: “It must be God!” Ancients used to think lightning came from gods. And rain. And sun. Now we know better.
8. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If these questions prove god, then all the gods ever mentioned are real, because people have sincerely claimed to have experienced all of them.
9. I only know Dawkins. He seems brilliant, but often makes the classic mistake of conflating religion with God, when arguing against God. (Religion has done bad things; therefore God doesn’t exist.)
10. First, we don’t know that. Most human societies in history left no written record; we just assume they had religion. Second, there actually have been primitive societies with no religion, no creation story, etc. Third, even if all did, it makes sense that they would have, though not originally. Originally, it would have been speculation about things they saw, questions among one another — as soon as language developed. Stories would have been passed to children, and embellished over thousands of generations, until the Ancient Ones attained the status of gods. At that point, moral rules would be attributed to these gods, to give them more force.