Hemant’s list of common atheist questions

Hemant over at FriendlyAtheist.com has posed a list of questions commonly asked of atheists, and put out the call for answers. Mine, without further ado, below the fold.

 Why do you not believe in God?

Everything I know about physics, biology, palaeontology, archaeology, history, and basic human nature tells me that man made god, not the other way around. God has thus far failed to disagree.

Where do your morals come from?

Empathy for my fellow human being, and a good understanding of how society relies on co-operation for its survival and the greater good of all its members.

What is the meaning of life?

There has to be a meaning? Why not just be thankful for the fact that you have it? You’re the kind of person who looks a gift horse in the mouth, aren’t you?

Is atheism a religion?

Only so much as black is a color.

If you don’t pray, what do you do during troubling times?

Something constructive.

Should atheists be trying to convince others to stop believing in God?

No. Atheist should be convincing others to think for themselves in all things. Atheism is just a natural side effect.

Weren’t some of the worst atrocities in the 20th century committed by atheists?

Did they commit them in the name of atheism? If not, I don’t see your point.

How could billions of people be wrong when it comes to belief in God?

The same way billions of people are wrong when it comes to belief in a magic pill that will make you thin without having to exercise or eat well – we all like easy answers that don’t require us to take responsibility for our own actions.

Why does the universe exist?

Why does there have to be a reason? How is the more interesting question, and we’re already making real progress answering that one.

How did life originate?

Most likely according to one of the current theories of abiogenesis being explored and argued by biologists, or according to a theory of abiogenesis yet to be discovered by said biologists.

Is all religion harmful?

Any time we lie to ourselves, we do harm.

What’s so bad about religious moderates?

The term is an oxymoron.

Is there anything redeeming about religion?

It’s a comfort to some people. In that respect, it’s about as redeeming as heroin.

What if you’re wrong about God (and He does exist)?

Then he’s got some explaining to do.

Shouldn’t all religious beliefs be respected?

Either all evidence-free beliefs should be respected, or none should. There’s no reason belief in a god should demand more respect than, say, belief in the tooth fairy. They both have about as much going for them. The only reason we think we should respect religious belief over any other kind of belief is because those who believe in a god have historically wielded great political power, whereas those who believe in the tooth fairy have historically wielded great power over their smaller brothers and sisters, and possibly the family terrier.

Are atheists smarter than theists?

No, just more honest.

How do you deal with the historical Jesus if you don’t believe in his divinity?

We can respect a man’s life and his message without deifying him. Martin Luther King. Nelson Mandela. Abraham Lincoln. Saying that a man who preaches morality in a time of immorality can only be inspired by god, shows very little faith in man.

Would the world be better off without any religion?

Depends how you got to that point. I don’t think the world would be better off if you banned religion outright. But it would certainly be better if we all became sufficiently advanced in our moral and critical thinking to realise that we did not need religion, and just got on with the business of being better humans.

What happens when we die?

If we lived our life right, we have loved ones who mourn our passing. The wheels of society turn to dispose of our body in a way that shows respect to our life. We are remembered for a time, and then eventually we are not. The world goes on without us. We are oblivious of all of this, given that the biological processes we interpretted as ‘me’ have ceased to function, and ‘me’ has therefore ceased to exist.

17 Responses to “Hemant’s list of common atheist questions”

  1. residentRsole Says:

    Douglas Adams would have been proud.

  2. “God has thus far failed to disagree.”
    “Something constructive.”

    I answered these as well, but yours contain more awesomeness per calorie.


  3. Con-Tester Says:

    A truly stellar entry in a long and delightful succession of highlights.

    Good on yer, moonflake. And thanks.

  4. “Weren’t some of the worst atrocities in the 20th century committed by atheists?”

    Many of the ‘atrocities’ I know of were committed in the name of religious faith and they have yet to end.

  5. Con-Tester Says:

    This thing about supposed “atheist atrocities” (usually referencing Hitler, Stalin and Mao directly or by implication) invariably misses an important point, besides the one moonflake has made (viz. that they weren’t done in the name of atheism), namely that the atrocities were committed in the name of pseudoscientific, authoritarian ideologies. Phrased thus, the parallels with many religions is immediately obvious, as is the disingenuous nature of this tu quoque argument.

  6. residentRsole, Butch, Con-Tester: Thanks 🙂

    natalith: this question almost always directly follows someone pointing out the fact of religious atrocities, as if it somehow detracts from the argument. As Con-Tester correctly points out, it’s a tu quoque fallacy, commonly found on playgrounds in the form of ‘i’m the rubber, you’re the glue, whatever you say sticks back to you!’… and in arguments with the religious.

    Con-Tester: interestingly, Hitler is often stated as one of these ‘atheist’ aggressors, when in fact he was a Christian. In Mein Kampf, he wrote “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” That said, i agree with your point – where non-christians have committed acts of atrocity that are comparable to the Crusades, the Inquisition and 9/11, it is usually because of some other belief that they hold dogmatically, without evidence.

  7. Con-Tester Says:

    moonflake: Yup, Hitler’s religiosity is examined at some length IIRC in Dawkins’s The God Delusion but there remains some uncertainty exactly what his persuasions in this context were. It seems that at the very least he held with deistic notions, if not theistic ones, and he may have invoked theistic ideas more as an oratorical device in order to sway people than because he actually believed them. But he did subscribe to a whole grab-bag of assorted occult stupidities.

    Nevertheless, despite these uncertainties, he’s often pointed at by religious zealots as one of the world’s all-time top-of-the-pops atheistic (and hence amoral) evildoers.

  8. “What if you’re wrong about God (and He does exist)?

    Then he’s got some explaining to do.”

    He? :@)

  9. antares Says:

    Nicely answered. My thoughts on the matter are almost the same, I just couldn’t articulate them correctly.

  10. Very well said! I consider myself an Agnostic, but I agree with many of your answers. I couldn’t have answered them better myself. 🙂

  11. mattmitch Says:

    If evolution is true then how did the avian lung develop.
    That’s right I went there. While you atheists can place your store in purposeless fallacies I choose to hope because hope is all that is left of our ignorant race. And maybe one day as I did, instead of closing your eyes maybe you will open them and see your lies, or even accept the truth as I did, instead of trying to bury it!

    —thus spoke mattmitch.
    feel free to send a rebuttal

  12. […] The Avian Lung A recent comment on this blog, challenged me thus: […]

  13. Meta_meme Says:

    moonflake: as always, thank you for your sharp wit and insight!

    mattmich: when the rapture comes, can I have your car?

    PS> Alluding to the fact that you once subscribed to evolution and then asking such a poorly thought-out question just highlights how little you understood about the science in the first place, making you look twice as ignorant…

    I’m sure it makes you look impressive with your fellow re-borns when you regail them with how you used to be a godless heathen before you “saw the light” but it really falls flat in a forum such as this, as it merely highlights how little you actually understand…

  14. mattmitch Says:

    Yes I was a godless heathen and recognized my folly. When rapture comes (which it will) you can have my orange juice. “it merely highlights how little you understand” well I have studied evolution and creation and obviously chose the latter. Yet you fail to explore the other side, so as to expand your knowledge. I understand more than you know and could comprehend in your misguided mind. Still I wish that you find the truth, because like it or not you are a child of god and I hope you obtain whatever assurance you are searching so eagerly for.
    ” in proffessing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” that was the bible.

    the words of

  15. Meta_meme Says:

    mattmich – I see you have not had the presence of mind to reply to moonflake directly, as she has (rather effectively, in my mind) completely debunked your argument in a separate post…

    Studied Evolution? I daresay I think not… I have enlightened friends who are believers AND who subscribe to evolution, as any rational person would who truly understands the sheer magnificence and beauty of the underlying mechanics…the only difference is that I attribute a different catalyst to the process than my believer friends.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that, unlike your very limited and restricted little world view, evolution and faith are not mutually exclusive

    It seems only within the domain of fundamentalist believers (such as yourself) one somehow cancels out the other… by adopting this stance, you only serve to strengthen my argument that you actually understand very little about what evolutionary biology encompasses.

    Furthermore, please do not question my knowledge of the Judaic-Christian belief system – I would wager that most skeptics (or godless heathens, as you would call them) actually know more about your system of faith than the vast majority of self-professed Christians…

    Case in point: THE RAPTURE, my dear mattmich, was not part of the original biblical script and was dreamt up by a deluded farm girl who claimed to hear the voice of the virgin Mary – it was added into selected revisions of the bible by an evangelistic splinter group, popularized in the late 18th and early 19th century through a selection of questionable books on the subject of “Tribulation” and has since been adopted by numerous fundamentalist groups, even though it is widely disregarded by almost all biblical scholars (and most major denominations)

    So if you are going to judge and berate me, at least do so with accurate references and not some pseudo-prophetic nonsense.

  16. Meta_meme Says:

    Oh and by the way, ” in proffessing themselves to be wise, they became fools” is not so much THE BIBLE as a sad, tired old quote used on every single creationist website I have ever had the dis-pleasure to read

    So well done, mattmich – you have well and truly been engulfed by the Meme that is fundamental belief!

    How does it feel to know that your “god-given” intelligence and capacity for critical thought is being eroded as we speak?

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