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Oct 24 2013

Lady Atheist: Atheist Catechism Redux – The Hindunator

I was reading the lovely blog The Lady Atheist when I came across her article on questions that atheists get asked and her answers. I figured I could answer them as an ex-hindu. 

Q:  Where do you go when you die? 

When we die as humans our brains cease to function. We don’t go anywhere, we merely stop functioning as the chemical processes in our body run out. The idea of consciousness is the self awareness that we are indeed a very complicated chemical reaction. Eventually the reaction must complete itself either by the breakdown of the vessel (the body) or the lack of input of the reactants needed (the lack of food).

Eventually I will rot if left unattended or even if buried. I would prefer to be cremated or disposed of in some other hygienic way than be simply interred into the earth. I would want my organs donated to those who require them. If that occurs then I will continue in death giving someone an extension. I don’t mind, it’s not like I am using my heart any more and besides, I can’t really complain.

Q:  Aren’t you worried that you might be wrong and you might go to hell?

Not as such. I came from a culture which believes in reincarnation. Hell doesn’t have any cultural significance for me. I am a good person at heart. Sure I may drink and know women in the biblical sense but I try to be the best human being that I can reasonably be. I am kind to those who deserve it, I stand up against those who deserve it and I try and treat people to the best of my abilities. If I belong in hell then I will be alongside other luminaries who didn’t believe in your God like Gandhi. To paraphrase Abu Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!), write me down as one who loves his fellow humans.

Q:  How can you be moral without God?

Morality pre-dates religion. If we compare two societies, ones with moral codes are more likely to survive. See a moral code ensures all members within a society are working together. Do not murder, steal, lie and covet are rules made to prevent fights breaking out. A small hunter gatherer society where members are fighting with each other is no match for an equally sized society where the members are a cohesive whole. It’s shown throughout history. The more inclusive a society the more moral it has to be. Thus we have exceeded the morality of the bible as we accept all people under our laws. Without morality there is no society.

Q:  You’re really just angry with God.

It’s hard to be angry with a mythical entity. And we are more angry with the behaviour of religious people than your mythical entity. You could say that we hate the believer not the idol that you worship.

Q:  You’re really just angry at the abuses of the Church

I am angry at the abuses perpetrated by the church. They are unacceptable, particularly in light of the free ride various church members have gained due to their faith. If they were not priests they would be in real jail. Because they are priests they are given a second chance that they do not deserve. The second chance should come after you do the time. Otherwise we have just proven that belief in a mythology is a sufficient excuse to avoid human punishment.

Q:  The church has been responsible for great works of art.

Artists are responsible for great works of art. Our enjoyment and declaration decides that they are great works of art. Mucha was more famous for his advertisements of vodka than for his stained glass window in the Cathedral of St. Vitus. Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is more loved than his Last Supper. There are plenty of great art that is not church related. The church was merely the patron of these artists because they had all the money.

Q:  How do you know the Bible isn’t true?

Well a lot of the old testament simply didn’t occur historically since a large portion of lands mentioned in the bible as some sort of empire of god were simply owned by larger empires that were demonstrable. It also fails to mention the actual losses of the Jews to these massive empires such as the Hittites, The assyrians, the Egyptians, Greece, Rome, Persia and Babylon. That and the bible states that humans are created as we are when we have blatantly evolved. A lot of the bible is just plain wrong.

It’s allegory, not reality.

Q:  Isn’t it arrogant to presume you’re right and all those Christians are wrong?

The majority belief does not make you right. At one point people believed honestly that black and indian people were inferior to white people. The “majority” believed that. Even religious text was brought up to indicate that we were white man’s burden.

And we back our standing up with the scientific understanding of the universe, not by guesswork. We aren’t presuming that we are right, we are indicating that we are right based on the evidence of a natural universe and the lack of evidence of any other contradictory view.

Q:  You think you know everything, don’t you?

Definitely not. We merely stand on the shoulders of midgets. Men who came before us and stretched the understanding of man a bit further. It is our duty to stretch it even more. We know a lot, but there is probably a lot more for us to learn. We have answers for most things because we think about them rationally. But we do not know a lot of things. I for example cannot really explain String Theory. It’s out of my league of understanding. I am sure others can. I however can explain biology.

We understand a lot more about the natural world though because we actively study it and it’s processes via science. If we don’t know we can try and point you out to someone who does.

Q:  Science can’t answer everything.  What about love?

What about it? It’s pretty damn amazing really. It’s also a chem
ical thing. This entire argument is at it’s heart constructed in the chemistry of my brain. That’s actually a lot more impressive than the concept of love that I can love another “very complex set of chemical reactions” based on both the effect of the actual container (What she looks like) of the chemical process and the alterations in the applications of the chemical reaction itself (her mental variations).

Q:  How do you explain the human need to believe in God?  God made humans different from the animals.

In skinner box experiments, animals can be made to develop complex rain dances by randomly giving them food. We believe in god as a stop gap to understanding our universe. We are actually incredibly similar to animals particularly apes. Our genetics are the proof of common ancestry. It’s actually the basis of experimental animals and drug testing and most of our medical knowledge of how we function.

Q: What about the miracles of the Bible?

Which ones? You know they can simply be fairy tales or fables. What about the miracles of other religions? What about the miracles of science? As we speak this is posted through the power of tame lightning on a device made out of sand, dead monsters and metal. That’s pretty miraculous if you ask me. A lot more so than something that may not even have happened.

Q:  [insert seemingly miraculous prayer story here]  How do you explain that?

Correlation does not mean causation. And besides there are plenty of people who prayed and didn’t get saved. A good example is a man called Louie Zamperini who was a WWII POW. When under gunfire in a life raft surrounded by sharks he survived, praying to god that he would survive. He did survive. However later one of the people on the raft succumbed to salt water poisoning and died. Did god only hear one prayer?

Another story is that during the Holocaust Primo Levi recalled a man praying to god to thank him that his name was not called out during the call up for people to be marched into the gas chambers. The man praying didn’t realise that he was saved by chance. And that the place meant to him was filled with another man. Are we to think that God doomed one man who probably prayed all the way to his death to save another? Or was it the random hand of chance?

Q:  Christianity has been around for 2,000 years.  How could it survive if it were false?

Hinduism is older than 4000 years old. Many animists have faiths that date back to the dawn of humanity nearly 20,000 Years ago. That doesn’t make them right. It survived because it actively sought to dominate human thought and crush any dissent. When it couldn’t crush dissent it changed itself to avoid conflict. It’s own history is laden with various events and wars and changes to it’s own theology such as the Arian heresy, Crusades and various decrees from popes to the entire Lutheran protestant movement. It’s not survived it’s original format, it’s been forced to change based on human changes.

Q:  There are millions of Christians.  They can’t all be wrong.

There are billions of people who don’t believe in christ, they can’t be all wrong either. The number of believers does not make the things true.

Q:  Nothing can exist without a creator, so the fact that things exist proves there’s a God.

Honestly we don’t know what existed before the big bang. However there is no reason for it to be the christian god. In any case that would only allow a deist or spinoza’s god to exist. Not the christian one. Indeed  each religion rejects the gods of other faiths as non existent. And there are various mechanisms for natural processes to cause the existence of a universe and indeed the question of what existed before god arises not to mention a whole bunch of others.

Q:  You can’t prove that God doesn’t exist!

Neither can you disprove the existence of unicorns, doesn’t mean we should believe in them. Besides in the real world of proofs you need to prove the existence of your belief. The lack of evidence indicates that the existence of god is unlikely. The people saying that he does exist are the ones who need to provide the proof. Not us.

Q:  If you’re an atheist doesn’t that mean that you don’t believe in anything?

It means we don’t believe in any gods. I believe in love, friendship and the fact that I am an excellent dancer despite all evidence to the contrary. Plenty of atheists believe in silly things like psychic powers.

Q:  If you don’t believe in God, that means you want to be God.

Not really. I just want to be a doctor, find someone who loves me, settle down and have a life. Maybe make a bit of money to live a comfortable one. Indulge in my love of video games and technology. Have a good time on the way. Not really lofty but there you go.

Q:  You just left the Church because you want to sin 

I left Hinduism because I was shocked at the behaviour of people I considered kin. I am only sinful in the eyes of those who consider everything to be a sin. I am no more or no less sinful than the average human being. And I judge what is sinful and what isn’t by it’s effect on others not by what I am told by an old book.

Q:  So then your life has no meaning

My life has the same meaning as yours. I have hopes, dreams. I have people I love and people I hate just like someone who believes. I prefer the meaning to be the things I achieve for those I love and the things I achieve for myself and to try and leave the world slightly better than when I came to it. It’s not lofty but it’s what we all really aim to do deep down. For me the reward is the journey itself.

Well there you go. Thanks to the Lady
Atheist for posting up this list of questions.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Gideon

    Avicenna: regarding that "lovely blog" you speak of…

    Your statements to me on that "lovely blog" will be challenged on mine, if you're really interested in debate. That way, I know I'll get my say… although, I doubt that given what I read here, there'll be any more in the way of a receptive, unbiased attitude in you than anyone there. We'll see, I suppose.

  2. 2
    Avicenna

    If you insist. I will warn you that I do have a real career and may not be able to post regularly though.

    Avicenna

  3. 3
    Gideon

    I didn't appreciate that little ditty you left on LA's blog about me insulting you, here. If you're heading into this with that kind of attitude, I can see it would be futility even entertaining you.

    If expressing my well-founded reluctance in debating someone that sympathizes with trolls and hate-driven anti-theists is insulting you, you're either overly sensitive or biased, perhaps beyond reasoning with.

    No matter. As I said on LA's blog, I'll eventually be posting about this latest post of yours on my blog. You can participate or no. I'll be out of town, myself, this week, but, will try and do something along that line when time allows.

  4. 4
    Avicenna

    Go for it. As I said, I myself have university during most days. If you leave one over the weekend I will get back to you.

    However the passive aggressive stuff stops. It's a proper discussion. And I am agreeing to do it on your own blog.

  5. 5
    ColoradoChris

    Not to break up the argument here in the comments section, but I have to compliment you on your succinct and enjoyable summary post. This is great stuff, logical and keen! Cheers, Avicenna!

  6. 6
    ColoradoChris

    Not to break up the argument here in the comments section, but I have to compliment you on your succinct and enjoyable summary post. This is great stuff, logical and keen! Cheers, Avicenna!

  7. 7
    Gideon

    I didn't appreciate that little ditty you left on LA's blog about me insulting you, here. If you're heading into this with that kind of attitude, I can see it would be futility even entertaining you.

    If expressing my well-founded reluctance in debating someone that sympathizes with trolls and hate-driven anti-theists is insulting you, you're either overly sensitive or biased, perhaps beyond reasoning with.

    No matter. As I said on LA's blog, I'll eventually be posting about this latest post of yours on my blog. You can participate or no. I'll be out of town, myself, this week, but, will try and do something along that line when time allows.

  8. 8
    Avicenna

    Apparently Gideon has decided to censor my own posts on his website. No matter, it was expected.

  9. 9
    Al Dente

    This Gideon is something of a whiner.

  10. 10
    Carlos Cabanita

    Eventually I will rot if left unattended or even if buried. I would prefer to be cremated or disposed of in some other hygienic way than be simply interred into the earth.

    None of those things will happen to you (or me), I hope. Death would have already ended the “me”, the subject of that experience. Only one’s corpse will rot, be interred or cremated. It’s just a lifeless thing, not a person.
    I say this because in our post mortem fantasies often creeps the notion that we will be somehow spectators in our death.

  11. 11
    B-Lar

    The worms go in and the worms go out,
    The ones that go in are lean and thin,
    The ones that go out are fat and stout,
    Your eyes fall in and your teeth fall out,
    Your brain comes tumbling down your snout,
    Be merry my friends, be merry…

  12. 12
    Ani J. Sharmin

    Q: You’re really just angry with God.

    My usual answer to this is that being angry at a fictional character doesn’t prove that the fictional character is real. Plenty of readers become passionate about their favorite stories, but our passion doesn’t prove that the characters exist outside the novel. Hatred of Lord Voldemort or Dolores Umbridge doesn’t mean that they are not fictional characters.

  1. 13
    Lady Atheist’s Questions (Via Avicenna) | Meddling Kids

    […] has a blog post at A Million Gods answering questions that were posed on Lady Atheist’s web site, and when I saw the first […]

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