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Answering Some Questions About Atheism

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of AtheismThis entry is another I've recycled from Quora, but unlike all of my previous recycled Quora material, this one comes from the comment thread to one of my answers, and isn't the answer itself. The Quora question was What questions (and answers to these questions) led you to become an atheist, or to denounce your belief in religion?. If that sounds familiar, it's because it was the subject of a blog entry of the same name not too long ago. Just recently, someone left a reply with a series of questions. I responded in that thread, but figured that since these are someone common questions from religious people, I'd repost them here on the blog. The person who posted these questions has followed up with a few more, which I plan to answer on Quora, but the new questions, in my opinion, aren't as interesting or informative, so I don't plan to re-post them here. Still, if you want to follow along with more of this discussion, go check it out on Quora.


1.I don't get it why people always say that God is only to explain the unknown. God is the source of the unknown and the known. i.e. why is that drinking water quenches your thirst, while drinking oil will not? How is that water has the water-ness, if you say because its made of H2O, then how is that H2O has its H2O-ness?

There is an Arabic saying from Ali: camel crap* leads you to a camel, a building leads you to an architect, how is it not that a whole universe with such delicacy in its creation shall not have a creator/architect?

We have countless examples of camel crap*, and can use that experience as a great predictor of where a newfound piece of crap came from. Likewise for buildings - we have lots of experience seeing buildings coming from architects. We only have one universe, and so don't have any experience to draw from to say where universes come from.

To add to that - canyons come from erosion. Snowflakes come from freezing water molecules. Rivers come from water flowing downhill. We have plenty of examples of 'things' that form without conscious creators. Why require a conscious creator for the universe? (Then there's also the standard question of who created the creator? A creator creator? Is it turtles all the way down?)

Also, I wouldn't say people always use God to explain the unknown, but God of the gaps arguments are pretty common. And reading through a book like Genesis really does seem like a collection of just-so stories.

2.We as humans have wisdom...and an accident or bing bang is wisdom-less to create us--humans who have intellect. For us to be created by something that doesn't have wisdom is as if a robot would create something that has life from it's own robotical tissue( birth, sickness, fear, love, hatred, pain, anger, sex, death, etc.)whatever created us must have had wisdom as well or perhaps even a higher level of wisdom.

You're making an unfounded assumption. Evolution is a fact, and explains perfectly well how we evolved to become intelligent without an intelligence guiding the process. (Please don't tell me that you reject evolution.)

Even from a gut feel, I just don't understand this. Which makes more sense - that our universe had rather simple beginnings and over eons and eons the interaction between all this matter gradually led to increasing complexity, until eventually evolution produced organisms as intelligent as us; or that the very first thing to exist was a super-intelligent, super-complex, super-powerful being that just was out of nothing? Does the second answer really seem more satisfying?

And like I pointed out in response to your first question, if something with wisdom or intellect requires a creator with wisdom or intellect, does that creator then require a meta-creator with wisdom and intellect? And then does that meta-creator require a meta-meta creator? And on and on. Obviously, both of us accept that something with wisdom and intellect can come about without a prior being with wisdom and intellect that created it.

3.We as humans have free-will, and again that is beyond the level of reach of an accident or bing bang, whatever created us must have had free-will as well. Or perhaps even a higher level of free-will

I reject your premise - I don't think humans have free-will in the sense that most people understand that term.

4.I can not imagine a God who is not just, this is probably the only point where you took it too far! I think you have read too much of Zeus and Hades. :|

Many people believe in unjust gods, even if they're unwilling to admit it. Any god that would massacre every last man, woman, and child on Earth other than one family doesn't sound particularly just to me. Neither does infinite punishment in response to a finite life.

5.Do you only believe what you see? Do you see jealousy? joy? Karma? love? pain? Do you see hope? Do you see luck? Do you believe in good and bad? right and wrong? [None of these are scientific]

Do you believe that working making money with your own money and working with money stolen from orphans are same and there are no scientific outcomes when you steal from orphans?

I try my best to only accept as objectively true things for which there is sufficient evidence. There is plenty of evidence of jealousy, joy, love, pain, and hope. They're emotional states of people (and perhaps other animals). My personal experience is evidence enough for me that I feel them, and the actions of other people around me is strong enough evidence to convince me that those people experience the same emotions. Karma in any type of cosmic sense is something I haven't seen evidence for. Luck is just a word we use to describe good things happening outside our own control. Good, bad, right, and wrong are similar to the other emotions I already talked about. They exist in people's minds as subjective feelings, and we can see evidence that people have these feelings. They do not exist objectively outside of that.

I don't understand the point about scientific outcomes from stealing from orphans. Since science deals only with the objective (and not morality), of course there are scientific outcomes - the orphans have less of whatever was stolen from them. If you're looking for a moral judgment, then science isn't the right place to look. Instead try philosophy, like secular humanism.

6.Other than Christianity disapproving homosexuality, did it provide any reason? [ you can ask me a single question and I can give you 100 different answers. My point is how do you conclude such easily]

CARM.org - What does the Bible say about homosexuality?

7.Did you try any other priest? Or you just said 'I'm done with all religions'? HOW can you be sure that there is no out there that has an answer to your questions?

I did try a few different Christian sects. I also read a bit about a few other religions. But honestly, without being indoctrinated into religions from childhood, most don't seem to have any compelling reasons to accept them. Do I really have to examine all 4200 of the world's religions to say I'm reasonably sure none of them are true, even though atheism seems to fit so well with the evidence I've seen? If so, are religious people under the same obligation to examine all 4200 of those religions to be sure that they've chosen the right one?

8.Why is that people always challenge religion, but never challenge atheism? Isn't atheism identical to that of religion which also requires to be challenged? If you are challenging then go out and read about other sects/doctrines/approaches...

First of all, the onus is on a person making a positive claim to back up that claim with evidence. If you claim that something exists (gods, souls, afterlives, demons, fairies, unicorns, leprechauns, etc.), then it's up to you to provide evidence for your claim. Otherwise, it can simply be dismissed along with all the other myths people have dreamt up over the millennia.

Second of all, you must interact with a very different community than the ones I interact with. Here's just the very first result that came back from Google when I searched 'atheism is wrong', 7 Things Atheists Get Wrong About God. And believe me, there were a lot more results than just that one. It's also not as if Americans have very positive feelings about atheists, as revealed by several public opinion polls (e.g. How Americans Feel About Religious Groups). In my experience, atheism gets challenged plenty. (And rightly so from a skeptical perspective, even if I think most of the challenges against atheism are unconvincing. We still need to examine the reasons why we believe things and always be open to changing our minds given new evidence.)


*Actually, camel 'crap' wasn't the term used, but I've had this site blocked a few times by network admins who had set up prudish firewalls, so I went with the PG term on the blog.

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