Questions For Atheists-And Some Answers

Some things that is quite frustrating for myself, and I’m sure other atheists, are the misconceptions about what atheism is and how one reaches the conclusion of there not being a theist god.  I am going to address some of the main ones that pop up from day to day and hopefully clear some of the air regarding atheism, morality, and even cosmology.

Why are atheists so smug? They go around acting like they have all the answers yet don’t know anything more than I do!

This is one of the most common questions I have been asked and seen asked of atheists or agnostics.  Theists tend to see atheism as an attack not only on their religion but on their intellect as well since atheists do not subscribe to the same belief about morality, the universe, or some kind of afterlife. Since theism supposedly has all the answers to these questions it seems logical to the theist that atheism must supply some kind of parallel answer and explanation as to how everything works.  This is simply not true since atheism is itself not a kind of religion our belief structure.  Atheism is the disavowal of belief in a theist god, a theist god being a personal god that cares about humanity, listens to prayer, and interacts with the physical world.  None of this entails all the answers about the universe or an explanation of the origin of life. For this we may turn to science and history and reason from there how the world came about, and since an atheist has no need for god to explain certain aspects of our universe, atheists may reach different conclusions than the theist.  However, none of this is an aspect of atheism as a belief structure, but simply reaching a different conclusion by not accepting certain things out of hand like the existence of god.

How can you have morality if you have no god?

This one is also quite common as many theists believe that morality is handed down by divine edict and that without morality we humans would have nothing to let us know what is right from wrong.  Apart from the fact that several societies developed morality that mirrors our own modern morality without knowledge of a theistic deity, it is plain to see that this is simply not true by reading the works of philosophers. Ideas like utilitarianism, humanism, and the social contract are all examples of moral codes that do not require the existence of an external deity.  Examples of secular morality can be found throughout our own culture that are extremely important to Western individuals, like the right to a fair trial or social welfare programs.  This particular question can be particularly tough for an atheist to answer rationally since many theists benefit from secular moral ideals yet still attribute them to a deity. A good example of this is the founding of the United States and several amendments to the Constitution. A cursory look at history shows that many of the moral and legal ideas that exist in the United States are not handed down by divine edict, but rather from men of reason and the study of people.

Why do atheists have to talk about religion? Why can’t they let me be and I let them be?

For this question every atheist could give you a different answer as not all atheists are vocal about their ideas on religion, but here I can supply a reason as to why I am.  In our modern world we live in a democratic republic and in such a government system the will of the majority affects the entire population.  If the entire majority believed in tooth fairies and wanted to pass a law that gave special consideration to people that claimed to be a tooth fairy then even those that found tooth fairies silly would still have to abide by the laws regarding them.  This analogy can be carried over to religion as well.  In a society that has a vast number of people that believe in a deity, it is inevitable that the ideas regarding theist religion are going to spill over into our public sector and effect everyone in our population.  Great examples of this are the battles against same-sex marriage here in Iowa by politicians using religious reasons for its repeal, harsh laws on abortion for women in Oklahoma, again for religious reasons, or the Christianizing of text books that has happened in Texas.  These are all examples of religion spilling into the public sector and effecting theists and atheists alike! Policies such as these, not to mention social norms, are all enabled by the fact that theism is the “norm”, that it is just fine and dandy to be a theist as a neutral state of mind and that atheism is not.  To put it another way, it’s accepted for most to believe in some sort of personal god, yet unaccepted to deny this, and it is just as important to voice a dissenting opinion in our society as it was for advocates of women’s’ rights and minority rights 70 years ago.

These are just some of the questions that I have seen posed to many an atheist and I wanted to address some of them as well as spur further discussion about what it means to be an atheist in today’s culture.  Many theists will find the answers to these questions by simple introspection, however, that is extremely hard to do when confronted with an ideology that is so counter to the one they’ve grown up with.  I would encourage every atheist and theist to hold discussions whenever it is possible about where their beliefs come from and how they arrived to their notions of how the world works.  The sooner we remove the stigma from religious debate the sooner we can find a more peaceful and constructive way to move forward in terms of reason, logic, and critical thinking. I highly doubt anyone theist or atheist finds these a negative aspect of daily life.

Jason K.

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14 comments on “Questions For Atheists-And Some Answers

  1. Mike says:

    Jason,

    As much as you try desperately to disengage yourself (selves) from having a belief system, the fact is that you do have a belief system. Not the same as Christians do, but it is still a belief system all the same.

    Also – you MUST supply answers for the things that you deny. There can only be ONE correct answer. Either it is the case that the evolutionary model is the only plausible explanation for the origins of the universe, or it is the case that the creation model is the only plausible explanation. It cannot be both. Therefore, if you want things your way, you must prove to the rest of us that you have the truth, based upon evidence, science and reason, just as I would prove to you the creation model.

    You can’t just assert that “several” societies developed morality that mirrors ours without knowledge of God – you must prove it with specific examples.

    There is no denial that ethical codes such as Utilitarianism, Humanism, Relativism, Situationism, etc. exist – the problem is that they are products of men in an effort to pervert ethics.

    Fair Trials are based upon God, while a welfare system is based upon man’s doctrine.

    Please tell us, what secular ideals do “Theists” benefit from? Even non-theists?

    Jason, I believe you do greatly err in your history. The founding of the United States (Federsalist Papers, Mayflower Compact, Constitution, Bill of Rights) are ALL based upon the ethical code of God, not man. Most laws were at one time based upon Biblical principles, but with progressivism working to take over, more and more of our laws are based upon humanist codes of conduct.

  2. jastiger says:

    I do have a belief system. Of course I do, and so does every person on the planet. However just like you may enjoy your steak medium rare doesn’t mean that is a BELIEF SYSTEM about steak. Atheism in and of itself does not entail a certain belief system, it is simply the denial of another.

    I think the denial of a creation story has been sufficiently proven in so many different ways it would take fifty of these pages to go through them all. A simple fact is that the belief in a creator forces us to suspend our reasoning long enough to allow a deity to exist by fiat. Basically, we must allow a creator to exist in order to believe in him and follow all the rest of the stories. However, we find no compelling reason that we must believe in that creator in the first place. In order to find one we must go back to the beginning, see the results of a supposed creator and go from there. In essence, god created the world because the world exists. What kind of reasoning is that?

    Several societies eh? Native Americans come to mind. Many there believed in monogamy and a distinct division between men and women. This is found in Christianity. The pygmies of Papua/New Guinea are another example. These are more collectivist societies, but still hold ideas like murder, rape, theft, and adulatory to be contemptible, just like a Christian ideology. Even one society holding several of the ideas we hold today that was not a Christian one is evidence that we can reach morality without the belief in a Christian deity, not to mention a possible better morality on those same terms.

    Fair Trials are based upon God? I fail to see how this is true. Wasn’t Jesus himself murdered for being Jesus? Doesn’t sound very fair. Also, the Bible says nothing of welfare systems? No go amongst the poor or heal the sick? Contradictions?

    The ideals secularists enjoy are those that are attained by free thinking and reason. By viewing actions, measuring the consequences, and thereby altering actions in an attempt at a more favorable outcome. A person that claims absolute moral superiority is hampered by the fact that their beliefs are absolutely correct, regardless of the outcome. A good example of this is the jailing of drug users. This does more harm than good, however the prevailing idea that all drugs are evil reinforced the doctrine of jailing drug users. We then find ourselves in a worse off position than if we did not jail drug users. The belief in absolute morality is what hampers us in this situation, and the same applies to theism. Secularists are free from such limitations.

    On this last point, a quick Google search will disprove everything in your last paragraph. I will not do this for you, as this is something that even the most naive theist will find in about 20 seconds to be true.

  3. Mike says:

    Oh Jason, your much learning has made you ignorant. You do greatly err, not knowing what you are talking about.

    I just love the way you talk in circles, but then that is the primary premise behind secularism.

    I have a belief system, but its not really a belief system. And you say you apply reason?

    Nothing could be further from the truth, that belief in THE Creator “Forces” us to suspend our reasoning. Science, evidence, logical deduction and reason, as well as honesty point toward the creation model, which means that there MUST be a designer/creator.

    Yes, the world/universe exists, therefore, there must be a designer/creator – what type of reasoning is that you ask? Its basic science, and logical deduction. Or do you not understand what that is?

    As for the societies. My friend I believe you have put the proverbial cart before the horse. While your college professors may like the idea of attributing the ethics of various societies to what Christians believe, the fact is that it is the other way around. We are not talking about Christianity itself here, we are talking about the innate ability instilled within each of us by God, to know there is right and wrong. It has been that way since the beginning. I understand that you have a problem with that, but it is more plausible than your ideas.

    Ahhh, fair trials. Again, it is difficult to explain to someone who has never studied the Scriptures, but there is a code of right and wrong conduct within the Scriptures that is meant for everyone upon the earth. That does not mean that everyone will choose to follow (ie the trial of Jesus), but it is there. This is the problem with denominationalism and the sin it causes in the world. Because denominationalism is not approved by God, and they follow their own brand of religion, it is easy for them to commit many of the atrocities that have occurred over the centuries and then chalk it up to God’s will, when in fact it was their own will that did it – not God’s.

    This I believe is what has caused (your) confusion and willingness to seek alternative reasons for life.

    There is quite a difference between helping others in need (benevolence) and giving to people who just will not work, and taking from one group against their will in order to help others. There is much in the Scriptures against such. Welfare is man’s system, not Gods.

    I understand the secularists ethic, (situationism, humanism, utilitarianism, etc.). Isn’t it nice to believe in a system that has no boundaries, unless of course it happens to affect you directly, then suddenly it’s wrong.

    I really enjoy your illustrations that are supposed to “rationally” argue for your position. They are neither sound or valid.

    As for the case of the founding of our country, I don’t need to google anything. I’ve studied it for years and have not been hampered by the secularist view of college professors who hate our country and teach unsuspecting children the opposite of the truth.

    • zntneo says:

      Ok mike it is not a logical conclusion that the world exists therefore there must be a designer. How do you know that Jason has never studied your scriptures? In fact our advisor is a biblical scholar shall we ask him about it?

      Also secularist ethics does have boundaries and isn’t a system of ethic by fiat.

      The last paragraph is that ignorant garbage

    • Abby says:

      Judging from your condescending tone, I’ll be you felt very smug and self-satisfied after writing this post.

      “secularist view of college professors who hate our country”

      So, you’re saying that someone who doesn’t believe in God hates America?

  4. Mike says:

    zntneo,

    ya’ll continue to throw out “ignorant garbage” but NEVER prove it to be so. Really makes a good argument huh? But that’s the type of education people are receiving these days.

    As for your biblical “scholar” – it is people like them that have created all the confusion today. Because they really don’t believe in anything either, and have twisted the Scriptures to their own destruction. If they really were “scholars” they wouldn’t be where they are. Lost in denominationalism.

    As for my argument and logical conclusion that the existence of the universe demands a designer – the proof is there, but no one seems to be willing or able to defend against it.

    • zntneo says:

      So you argument is the argument from design? Can you spell out your exact argument in a bit clearer argument then “the universe exist therefore god”

      • Mike says:

        If you are asking that we both have a public debate on this issue, then yes, I will state the argument in precise premises for us to agree to or deny.

    • zntneo says:

      Yes because i want you to show me that the last paragraph is true since you said that you have “ive studied it for years and have not been hampered by the secularist view of college professors who hate our country and teach unsuspecting children the opposite of the truth.”

      Also, what do you mean they don’t really believe anything either? Are you saying that atheists don’t believe anything?

      • Mike says:

        It is Jason’s duty to show us exactly where the founding fathers did not rely upon Scripture to establish this nation. It was his post.

    • zntneo says:

      Just like to know if you’ve read humes response to the design argument?

  5. Mike says:

    zntneo said….
    Also secularist ethics does have boundaries and isn’t a system of ethic by fiat.

    Please enlighten us as to “WHAT” boundaries there are. Not one secular ethic has “a” standard, everyone can make up their own.

  6. jastiger says:

    As to your idea that secularism has no boundaries, this seems like an argument leaning towards the idea that if you do not have a theist belief system that we will all descend into immorality and hedonism. While that is a false dilemma it’s still worth mentioning that its simply not true. One example would be someone who places the welfare of humanity above the welfare of their own selfish desires. One doesn’t need a god to know that killing others is wrong. This is an extremely succinct and broad description, but we don’t have to look far to see how untrue it is that people need theism to be moral.

    Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1797. Article 11 states: “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility [sic], of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and, as the said States never have entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

    That is just one example, however, its obvious that a country founded on democratic republic ideals can not BY DEFINITION claim a religious affiliation in and of itself. Imagine everyone was Jewish, but a minority claims “oh no we were a Christian nation”. Does this mean now that 90% of the Jewish population is now going against the ideals of government because of their faith and now must abide by Christian law, though their votes are for Jewish ones? No, of course not, and the same applies to Christians and atheists today. The United States is not a Christian nation, the founding fathers were mostly deist in thought and word and Unitarian by action.

    I would like to see further proof of an existence of god simply because the universe exists. Just because something exists does not mean that a god necessarily created it or that a theist god exists. If god created the universe, who crated god? If everything has a purpose, then what is god’s purpose? How can you or anyone purpose to know the answer to this question in any meaningful way? More importantly, if it is so obvious, why don’t more people know the answer to these questions?

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