Over the past few weeks, I’ve had opportunity to sit and discuss my atheism with a wide-range of people, from friends to family to strangers. Throughout these occasions, I’ve found there to be a number of the same questions being asked, so I thought, “Since everyone seems to ask the same questions, why not make my answers available to everyone?” So, I will go about answering the questions that we atheists always seem to be asked.
1. So, you don’t believe in God?
I do not believe in Yahweh, Elohim, Allah, a divine Jesus, Zeus, Thor, or any other culturally driven deity. If you break down the specifics of each of those deities and compare what is known through scientific endeavors, you’d be hard-pressed to find any empirical means one could draw any testable and demonstrable similarities.
2. Well, don’t you believe in something?
I believe in many things, but in the supernatural I do not. I don’t believe I need to have a close relationship with any metaphysical beings to experience life in a different spectrum. I can feel, see, taste, and smell all that I need to live a fruitful life. I believe in life and living it is important to me. I do not feel as though I should waste this bit of time that I’ve got on a wishful limb to appease a fear or suppress some unanswerable questions we all ask ourselves every day.
3. Then how do you get something from nothing?
There is a significant difference between the philosophical definition of nothing versus the scientific understanding of nothing. I think it is tremendously difficult for us to comprehend the scientific definition of nothing. The philosophical definition offers hope, a flexibility. And it’s also important to ask what you mean by nothing. Do you mean nothing in material from, or do you mean nothing in the way of a vast, empty, bottomless, timeless void? Outside of our universe, we may never be able to answer the question of how ours came to be. Certainly many theoretical physicists are on the right path and may very well show how it may have been possible – many even think they’ve got an understanding of how this all came to be. If a theist wants to ask how something came from nothing, I believe they’ve got quite of bit of work ahead of them demonstrating why there is something rather than nothing, in theological terms that is.
4. Then why are we here? What is the meaning of life?
Simply, we are products of an evolutionary process – a process that is forever changing until we as a race are extinct. We are descendants of ancient apes, as are our ape cousins which can be found throughout Africa and Asia today. It has been theorized that we are in our present form because of naturalistic and later cultural pressures. Our physical differences, our brain capacity, our thought processes, interests and emotions are all products of those pressures. We are “hard-wired” to be who we are, which also explains why people born in America may adopt Christianity and those born in India will adopt Hinduism. As for the question about meaning, we are autonomous beings from birth and can choose to stay that way. We can adopt the idea that there is an overlapping meaning that we’re all on a quest to get, but some of us can find meaning in the things we do. I don’t believe in an all-encompassing meaning to humanity, and I often find those who are privileged – as well as theistic – ask that question. It’s a very subjective thought, but if they wish for me to answer that question for them, I would like them to answer this question: “If there is a meaning of life defined by your deity, what is the meaning of life for those who starve to death at such a young age or are inflicted with a debilitating and terminal illness so early in life? If the meaning of their life was that it would ended so abruptly and terrifyingly, why would any deity worry about yours?
5. So, how do you explain life on Earth?
Life on Earth is certainly diverse, full of majesty and wonder. Our ancient ancestors also understood this fact, but failed to see our relationship with the rest of the world and sadly separated our species entirely – our higher intelligence also gave us the ability to hold dominion over all life and land. Early humans were capable of construction using organic material, so it shouldn’t to ones surprise that those humans may have also seen design in biological life, as though they were the things of an unseen creator. That was once an idea, but that idea has been falsified through the committed dedication of those in the biological sciences. Today, the evidence is clear. With that being said, if a theist chooses to claim that evolution is false, they have an immense amount of work ahead of them describe how that isn’t so.
6. If God doesn’t exist for you, how can you be moral? or How do you know the difference between right and wrong?
Empathy has an evolutionary beginning. To genuinely care for one another in a physical and emotional way, going out of ones way to help fellow humans, and a general empathy for the weak and the lame are all aspects of morality, and each of those allow our species to continue without a hitch. Our higher intelligence also gives us the ability to develop ethics – how to apply morality to our everyday functions. I and most others define morality as caring for the well-being of others. I don’t want others to suffer, and neither do I. I know what suffering feels like even in its most simplest of forms, something that I try not to inflict to the best of my ability. But I don’t consciously chose to do right or wrong, it happens innately and without hesitation. Of course, cultural pressures also define our ethics, but that is another discussion. Our inborn empathetic nature is where it all begins.
7. So you don’t believe in an afterlife?
Well, what would suggest that an afterlife exists? An afterlife would mean that our consciousness is a transcendent, unseen, and undetectable force. This, of course, this isn’t the case. Scientists understand that who we are as people only exists because of our functioning brain. When we die, our personalities die as a result of our dead brain. In the infancy of our species, humans didn’t know this. They had known life ended, and often correlated breathing with life – the meaning of the word “spirit” has roots in this understanding. Today, it boils down to life. We love it, we love to see it, and we love to create it. We love to interact with the natural world and we also love it when the natural world interacts with us. Why wouldn’t humans be upset to know that ends one day? Most don’t want this life to end, so any religious belief that promotes the idea of everlasting life seems appealing. We have to be weary about the difference between a personal truth and an empirical truth. Someone may personally know that an afterlife exists, but the evidence would suggest the otherwise.
8. Why are you trying to discredit everything I believe?
I have passion for truth – more importantly, an evidence-based truth. Once one understands how the natural world functions, the need for a God dissipates. That then only leaves room for a personal God, one who created everything but loves everyone personally. But most often, if someone realizes its improbable that a God created the biosphere, this world, and the universe, it’s just as improbable that a personal, loving God also exists. I have a right to share that message and I’m not sorry that it doesn’t jive with most theological beliefs. Perhaps if my approach shakes someones faith, maybe that person ought to re-evaluate the foundations of that faith and decide for themselves whether it is likely that what they’ve believed has always been an untruth, sold to them by their peers. It’s not my goal to prove personal religious beliefs to be wrong, facts do a well enough job of it.
That will do it for the time being. Stay tuned for future posts and information on my upcoming book “Improbable: Is There Any Reason To Believe In God?”