Ask an Atheist
I don’t expect this post to get any traffic right away, but I hope to have conversations with people over time that will help to normalize how the religious see the non religious. I also realize I don’t have many believers following my blog. This will have to be an investment in the long game.
So, anyone, but especially the religious feel free to ask me anything about my atheism. I’ll answer as best I can.
Carmen has suggested that some would feel more comfortable asking their questions privately. I don’t have a way to do that currently, but if you’re a first time commenter, your comment will go to moderation. Include that you’d like to remain anonymous and I’ll answer with just the edited question and no personal details.
My Good Friend Migarium Has given us some “get the ball rolling” questions!
Question 1: Have you ever thought “what if god exists?”
Yes, I have. It’s a possibility. There might be, at some point in our existence, the discovery of a deistic god, one that Einstein talked about as “part of the universe”. I’m fairly confident that there isn’t a god that the monotheistic religions describe. Those gods are anthropomorphic imbuements of early man’s need for myth to explain the poorly understood things about the world they lived in. Their source documents [holy text] all have proven inconsistencies, and we know from observations and deductions from science that what they say can’t be true in the way they claim them. So when I say “I don’t believe there’s a god” what I’m saying is there’s been no credible direct evidence for one revealed.
Question 2: “Aren’t you afraid of afterlife?”
No, I’m not, much in the same way I don’t have any knowledge of “before life”. What you’re actually asking is if I think I have what some call a soul and that a soul exists eternally. I don’t think I have a soul. I believe when I die, that is the end. As a result, I value each and every day as if it might be my last. We have studied extensively the brain function and every indication is that the brain is the seat of the emergent property we call consciousness. When brain activity ceases, “we” lose our agency and stop existing.
Question 3: It is being said that “atheists are unhappy”; are you unhappy?
Good question. I’m as happy and unhappy on average as the rest of the people on earth are. I experience emotion in the very same way the religious do. We’re both influenced by the same circumstances and environments. I know both religious and non religious people who suffer from depression. Both kinds of people are capable of feeling euphoria or ecstasy from an experience. There’s no indication at all that one feels things differently due to their beliefs.
Question 4: If the Big Bang theory is accepted as the beginning of the universe; the beginning of something must have a creator?
This is a BIG question for a little space. I’m going to give the answer appropriate for my level of knowledge and let the scientists who study these things provide their theories. Honestly, I don’t know if the Big Bang was the beginning of the universe. Most think so now, but there’s some who have other ideas. For the sake of clarity I’m going to adjust the question in an important way. Beginnings of things have causes. There are many catalysts for things and so far, in the entire history of scientific endeavor, none of them have been determined to be a god/creator. Also, we have no way of knowing the state of the universe prior to the big bang. The “something from nothing” paradigm is a bit premature in my opinion. The lack of evidence for a creator doesn’t infer automatically that one exists.
Question 5: How am I so sure God doesn’t exist; do you have a proof about nonexistence of it?
I’m not absolutely sure no god exists. I don’t claim to have that knowledge. I do know from personal experience that no god has manifested itself to me in an observable, testable way. That is what I need in order to believe one exists. The absence of belief is what atheism means. It’s an noun we use to describe the state of our belief in regard to a god. We have many words we use to describe things. Heat indicates warmth. Cold indicates lack of heat. It’s a simple concept that gets bogged down in the mire of philosophical discussion on the way to apologetics. To make it out to be more than that is like trying to stuff 50 marbles in a 5 marble sack. I don’t have proof that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. Yet there’s ample mythology to support it. Heathens and christians alike decorate their homes, buy gifts, celebrate Yuletide cheer, in December. Using the inferred conclusion of your question, christians should then believe Santa is real because they can’t prove he isn’t. We can apply the same logic to all the other gods of religion despite the claims of Christianity [and vice versa] that Allah doesn’t exist. Do they require proof of Allah’s non existence in order to not believe? I think you’ll find they don’t. Why should anyone reasonably expect it of atheists?
Question 6: Don’t you think your belief, atheism, is kind of nonfoundational?
Or to restate this another way, is atheism true? This overlaps what I addressed in question #5 but I’ll try and elaborate to make myself clear as this is a frequently asked question. Much like the relationship between heat and cold, atheism isn’t a positive belief. It’s an absence of belief, an opposite of Theism which IS a belief gods exist. Atheism is objectively true to the extent that it describes the state of belief in regard to the existence of gods. It’s not an explanation for anything else. It’s not a statement on whether evolution is true, or whether or not evolution is a belief rather than a conclusion based in science. It’s not an explanation of the foundations of the universe or a source of morality, or any of the myriad other things religious people like to include along the way. What is unfounded to atheists and rational thinkers is a belief in something there’s absolutely no evidence for.
Question 7: If you would have believed in God, what would you lose?
This is a variation of Pascal’s Wager. A metaphoric buying of the spiritual fire insurance to get a “get out of eternal punishment” card for the savvy. My answer is a simple one. I’d lose my personal integrity claiming to believe something I really didn’t in order to gain a reward. If god is as his adherents claims he is, then an all knowing, all powerful god would know whether or not I believed, and the consequence would be the same as “not believing.” Pascal’s wager is like me whistling gaily past the graveyard at night because I’m afraid of the boogey man.
Question 8: If we would promise heaven to you, why won’t you believe?
Well sure. If I told you you could have all the money in the world but had to wait until you died in order to claim it, you’d think that was legit wouldn’t you? 🙂
Question 9: Are there atheists on falling airplanes?
There are atheists everywhere including falling airplanes. There are atheists in the ministry/priesthood. Where ever there are people, there are atheists. I’m an atheist. I’m also old. I could die any time now. Those are very real prospects I think about fairly often. I’m apprehensive in the sense that I want to continue to live, but the prospect of what happens after I die doesn’t frighten me in the least. It doesn’t even enter into my thinking. That won’t change even if I’m crashing in an airplane. How do I know? How can I be confident that’s how I’ll feel? I’ve died once already clinically. I was an atheist before the experience, and I’m still an atheist now. The calculations haven’t changed.
Many thanks again to Migo for the excellent questions.
For believers: If you feel I didn’t answer a question clearly or would like me to clarify my positions, don’t hesitate to ask.
One final note: I’m not the pope of atheism so one can’t reasonably expect all the other atheists feel the same way I do about things. My answers are my own. I don’t speak for anyone else.