Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In Which I Answer 10 Questions from TodayChristian.net

Once again, gentle readers, I have come across a set of questions written by theists that are designed to . . . well, I suppose 'challenge atheists' would be the phrase, but in this case, the word is most certainly not suited to the action. It is often asked of me why I continue answering them when they are so transparently ineffective. The answer: the only way to prove to the author that they are answerable is to continue doing so, and not merely claim that they are. 

I hope you enjoy my responses and I encourage all free-thinkers to contribute on their various sites as well. I have been brief, as it seems they do not require seriously elongated answers to cover their rather base nuance. 

1.       How Did You Become an Atheist?

 "Baby, I was born this way." Atheists, despite arguments to the contrary, don't come out of the closet: they come out of the womb. We are born tabula rasa (spiritually speaking). No one gives us a pre-natal Bible to peruse for answers before escaping our own ovarian Chateau d'If. In fact, if it weren't for the occasion that people bludgeon us with the idea of the god after we're born, it's certain we never would have conjured the same narrative in the same way for ourselves.

2.       What happens when we die?

 No idea. But to forego credit for an answer you don't have is infinitely more graceful than to claim irrefutable knowledge in the same circumstance, or to readily cling to a nonsensical answer for any number of selfish motivations, including comfort, to assauge personal fear, or to exert fear over others. I rather take to Mr. Clemens' bent on this one: "I was dead for billions of years before I was alive, and it didn't bother me in the least."

3.       What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!

 I've answered this question before in my book. I hope no one will think me overly cheap to refer you to that. 

           If, when I die, my soul leaves my body and I am brought before god as he sits in judgment over all the doings of my life, my reaction will be highly premeditated. At one point in my much younger, less volatile existence, I would have been comforted in the deluded rationalization that god would understand precisely why I think the things I do, he would forgive me on account of the very real and evil doings of his followers, and my lack of faith—nay, my hell-bent fight against it—would be empathized with. He would open his loving arms to me, seeing the goodness of my struggle. That is what I used to think, but frankly, the epiphany is much more pronounced—to imply I was the one at fault, and I was the one who needed to be forgiven. If god is there, who allowed all this to happen in the first place, who idolized himself and performed his capricious masturbation of a divine rule over the world in a helter-skelter riot of laws, disaster, war and gross mandate, I would remember the millions of deaths, slaves, beatings, tortures, and capitulations—I would think of Eric Borges and Matthew Shepard, of David Kato and the children at Wedgwood Baptist Church; I would remember the babies who died from their herpetic mohels and corpses in hospitals at the stubborn behest of Christian Scientists; of abused children whose cries would never escape the confines of the confessional; of countless dying of AIDS for which he ultimately blamed the “debauchery” of innocents—and have merely three words for him. Three words only: “Hasa diga, eebowai."

4.       Without God, where do you get your morality from?

We evolved our morality from an social-based evolutionary psychology. "The Golden Rule" was the underlying principle to the overall benefit of the group. It's simple enough to deduce from there -- if it's not, then no answer I give, however patiently explained, will change the mind of the reader. 

5.       If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?

Frankly, we're more "free" to murder and rape with god than we are without him. An atheist moral compass doesn't mean we answer to no one: it means we answer to each other. It is only when we are given divine license to commit obscene acts -- the command to commit genocide on the Amalekites, to wipe out the innocent town of Jericho, to forcibly impregnate the wife of your dead brother (in the case of Onan), to sacrifice your own child (Abraham, Jepthath, and others) -- can said acts be considered even imaginable, let alone moral.  

6.       If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?

 Life is the wondrous search for meaning. If one comes to the end of their days and finds that their life had no meaning at all -- they have failed themselves, and no illusion of a god would have fixed that. We prescribe our own merit of existence. Besides which, the inverse assumption is that the meaning of life with god is servitude, adoration, and loyalty -- in essence, living for someone else. And when that life is over, the meaning of the afterlife is to spent eternity either in heaven doing much the same, or in hell regretting not having done. This does not sound like any meaning I would want to have stamped on my existence. 

7.       Where did the universe come from?

 See: Answer 2. 

8.       What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?

 The ontological argument of one always fails when compared to the ontological arguments of another! (How Descartes would grimace.) Just because a person claims an experience to be personally true does not mean that that experience is true in reality. Here is a sneak peek at a section of a chapter that will be in a new book, 666, along with chapters given by Lawrence Krauss, Douglas Wilson, and others. 

The deflection of the teleological argument goes hand-in-hand with the rejection of the ontological argument, which has its roots in Anselm of Canterbury’s Proslogion and is refined in the works of Descartes, and essentially submits that if an idea exists in the mind, it exists in reality. The existential questions of this position notwithstanding, it would grieve theists to teeth-grinding to realize that by the same license we must agree upon the existence of leprechauns, dragons, tooth-fairies, Santa Claus, Balrogs, fauns, and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. So easily is the teleological argument razed.

9.       What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?

I have separate views of all of them. Hitchens was the greatest rhetorician of his time. Dawkins argues from a biologically sound view of the universe. Harris approaches things in a distinctly neurological manner, which, while being rationally sound, can sometimes allow him to explore views in a nearly science-fiction manner, as the field moves closer to transhumanism and the potential powers of the brain are now being newly theorized. I've taken their work as more heavily inspiring in some cases, less so in others. More importantly, I'm not sure how this question has anything to do with the challenge to their claims or the claims of atheism as a field. 

10.   If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

Not every society does have a religion. Czech Republic, Sweden, Austria, France, Norway, and Japan all have massive percentages of atheist population, some with openly atheist top-ranking members of government, some of which claim themselves to be secular nations entirely. Given their standards in some areas on a global level, e.g. education, crime rate, mortality rate, and others, it may be of some use to understand how their secularism affects their success as societies. Furthermore, if every society did have its own religion, they would all certainly be contradictory, misaligned, and likely hostile to one another, which wouldn't suggest the truth of a "god" at all but one of two conclusions: that they were all correct and many, many gods exist each claiming authorship of our universe and species, or that none of them were correct and all were born from the same primeval need to explain ourselves and planet without having the tools required. 

In reference to pre-modern societies having hugely dominant spiritual practices, it can only be reasserted that pre-modern humans were desperate for answers to the universe surrounding them. Having none, they theorized using the tools that were available. Humanity has progressed beyond these rudimentary observations and erroneous conclusions -- or rather, a large portion of it has. I shudder to think that I live in a nation outside of the eight mentioned above who are patiently waiting for the rest of us to catch up. 

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