The priorities at Hobart and William Smith Colleges »« I feel so dirty now

It’s always ten

It’s Sunday morning. You’re lazing about in bed, or having coffee and breakfast, or otherwise having atheist happy time. You don’t have to go to church, but you could answer a few questions from a believer, I suppose. There is a set going around that are good for a laugh. Here’s the challenge:

Some Questions Atheist Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer! Which leads to some interesting conclusions…

Hmmm. Now I have to answer the questions, and I also have to ponder why a wacky Christian would think I couldn’t Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer them.

1. How Did You Become an Atheist?

Why would we be unable to answer that one? Most atheists can tell you exactly how they gave up on religion. I became an atheist because I thought seriously about what I was being told in church, and found it unbelievable. Later I found that religion drove people to do incredibly stupid and destructive things, like endorse creationism or control women’s reproductive rights, and I decided I had to be an active anti-theist.

2. What happens when we die?

The available evidence is that your physiological functions stop, brain activity ceases, your body cools, cells begin to self-destruct, and eventually bacterial activity and the work of decomposers cause your body to rot. Your flesh is dissociated and recycled by other organisms.

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

I’m not wrong about the rotting bit. Oh, you mean your bizarre notions about a ‘soul’ that exists independent of your material body that goes on to engage in some undefined, mysterious post-life activity in some other undefined realm? That’s just silly. There’s no reason to believe that happens.

But OK, I’ll play along. If your metaphysical scenario actually played out, and “I” continued to exist after my body died, and I found myself in the fantasy land of your Bible…it would be terrible. Learning that our minds were playthings of some cosmic tyrant who at a whim would condemn you to an eternity of torture, or alternatively an eternity of servitude worshipping a monster would be nightmarish.

I’m relieved that there is no evidence for your evil dreams.

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

Reciprocity, empathy, a theory of mind, need. I’m a member of a social species with finely tuned instincts for interaction with my fellow humans, and I live in a culture where cooperative behavior is rewarded. I don’t really need anything outside of that to explain morality; I’ll also note that individuals who claim to have an external source of moral compulsions don’t actually behave in a more moral fashion than those, like me, who don’t have imaginary voices in our heads.

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

Even with your phantasmal god, you’re free to murder and rape. God never seems to swoop in and stop anyone from murdering and raping, have you noticed? The ones stopping criminal actions are us. Ourselves. People. I don’t murder or rape because harming other people is repugnant and a violation of the social contract, because I have no desire to harm others, and because even if I did, there is a framework of law within my society that limits my ability to do harm.

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

You know, imagining an invisible man who tells you what to do doesn’t give your life actual meaning. I find that doing things — sharing, teaching, playing, working, learning — gives me satisfaction. If I had an ultimate goal it would be to leave the world a better place for my children and others when I leave it.

7. Where did the universe come from?

Read a physics textbook. We’ve got knowledge of 13.7 billion years of the universe’s changing history, virtually none of which is in your holy book. It’s always funny to get that question from people who so despise the natural, physical knowledge of how the universe works that they think “god did it” is actually a good answer to their own question.

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?

People claim many things: they also claim that they’ve seen Bigfoot, that the Queen of England is an alien reptoid, that they can bend spoons with the power of their mind, that little grey men in flying saucers are deeply interested in their rectums. Show me the evidence. Others have tried, and it’s always garbage.

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

Who would think this would be a difficult question for an atheist to answer? There are lots of different opinions of these men within the atheist community. Personally, I like Dawkins, I think he’s a smart person and a brilliant writer, who is a man of his place and time who is unfortunately a bit inept at seeing other social circumstances. Hitchens is dead…but in life, he was the best writer of the bunch, wonderfully courageous and outspoken, but also possessed catastrophically bad political views. I’m not a fan of Harris, at all.

And if you ask a different atheist, you’ll get completely different answers.

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

If there is a god, then why does every society have a different religion, and further, why are there thousands of different sects within each society?

You know, your question only works if we were challenging the existence of god belief. We know people believe in gods, and that it is quite common; that many people believe in false things does not in any way make them true.

We were supposed to get some interesting conclusions from the fact that these are questions that atheists Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer, yet I found them trivial and easy to honestly answer. I think we can draw a conclusion from that, but it’s not particularly interesting.

I have to conclude that whoever composed that list was an idiot.

Comments

  1. birgerjohansson says

    The Golgafrinchans know exactly where the Universe came from. And it is not very hygienic.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Re. @2: The scientists in the world versus an eggplant. And the fundies believe the eggplant. :-)

  3. thewhollynone says

    This post is a keeper, PZ. I’m copying and taking it to my atheist meeting this afternoon; that’s in Mississippi, and there will probably be all of three people there.

  4. Jeremy Shaffer says

    Hmmm. Now I have to answer the questions, and I also have to ponder why a wacky Christian would think I couldn’t “Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer” them.

    They probably think that because we never answer the way they expect us to, thus we are not answering “truly and honestly”. If we were we would admit to being the angry, bitter, immoral sadsacks they “know” we are.

  5. blf says

    the Queen of England is an alien reptoid

    No, she’s a Zygon. Big red rubbery thing. With suckers.

  6. birgerjohansson says

    I’ve got it! God is the system architect in the Matrix! And Morality(TM) is a software subroutine. This is where we get morality from.

  7. birgerjohansson says

    Are the Zygons the ones who suffer from flatulence when the morph from one form to the other?

    “can we do what we want?”
    Why not? The Merovingian certainly did, and the system architect did not stop him.

  8. chigau (違う) says

    I (like everyone) was born an athiest.
    For a 15 or 16 years, I was a told that I was Catholic, and I went along with it.
    But it was just too hard to continue to believe that crap.
    So I returned to the default.

  9. sambarge says

    I followed the link. It’s curious/not surprising that there is no place for atheists to actually answer the questions, thus leading to discussion and “interesting conclusions”.

    What I see is a bunch of Christians at home thinking these are gotcha questions on atheism. Because, like PZ, I’d find it quite easy to answer all these questions and more. There are no stumpers here; no issues that I haven’t considered.

  10. anteprepro says

    Heh. I notice they don’t allow comments on that website. Go figure.

    My answers:

    1. I was always an atheist because I was never indoctrinated and was able to see religion from an outside perspective.
    2. When we die, we rot. Our mind is a function of the brain, so you kill the brain, and you kill the You.
    3. If am wrong, I am wrong for the right reason. And if you are wrong, at least I didn’t waste my finite lifespan trying to convert people into believing a lie using indirect threats.
    4. Morality is best practices for dealing with other people. Humans are a social animal and we need morality. It is in our own personal best interest (do unto others…) and in our collective self interest.
    5. We already know that good deeds are unrewarded. But see above. Morality is our own creation, not handed down from on high.
    6. As far as I can tell, there is no meaning of life with God. But regardless, life has no inherent, objective meaning. Deal with it.
    7. Universe came from Big Bang. Aside from that: Existence exists. Tautologically. It is basically the same assumption you make about your God, except about something we already knows exists and not about an entity we don’t know. Parsimony.
    8. People claim a lot of things. The real concern should be how the “miracles” of today are nowhere nears as dramatic as the alleged miracles of the Bible.
    9. Hitchens was a warmongering sexist with a knack for rhetoric, Dawkins is a pretentious sexist who is inept at any topic outside biology, and Harris is a racist warmonger who I don’t give two shits about.
    10. The answer is basically psychology. Cognitive biases. Religion is “natural”, but it is because it is a product of humanity’s “natural” simplifying assumptions about the way the world works. And those simplifying assumptions have basically been proven wrong.

  11. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    I’m pretty sure that by, “Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer”, they mean something more like “answer in a way that’s consistent with my presuppositions about atheists.”

  12. azhael says

    That’s it? Those are the stumpers?
    Pathetic…

    I’m going to count this as reason 4958181748 to despise religion….it makes you so stupid that you might even think those are difficult questions*.

    *Number 7 actually is a difficult question, a very difficult one indeed. Mind you we can at least be very confident that it’s not made any less difficult by pretending that magic is the answer.

  13. Gerard O says

    It could have been worse — he could have had a sexagesimal fetish and sent 60.

  14. johnmarley says

    I think the “ten questions” thing is due to popular media attention-scrabbling. More to the point is that the list never has anything new, just variations (at best) of long-answered canards.

  15. birgerjohansson says

    @ 15: -Prince Charles was conceived in the same manner as “The Midwich Cuckoos”, but something went terribly wrong. He can hardly be accused of genius.

  16. blf says

    Are the Zygons the ones who suffer from flatulence when the morph from one form to the other?

    Don’t think so. That sounds (vaguely) like the Raxacoricofallapatorian (Slitheen, Blathereen, …) who didn’t morph but wore full body-suits. However, being ten feet tall, they had to scrunch up real small to fit inside a human body-suit, and as a result, had a severe case of flatulence. And they blow up when sprayed with acetic acid.

    It is the Prime Minister who is a Slitheen. The queen is a Zygon. And possibly a werewolf…

  17. birgerjohansson says

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

    Read Terry Pratchett’s novel “Small Gods”. The minor spirits need a sucker (or group of suckers) to believe in them, before they can achieve proper divine status.

    “In the beginning was The Word. And the Word was “Hey, you!”

  18. plainenglish says

    The best argument I have been offered for dropping the anti-theist perspective and adopting the regular attendance of a local church was offered quite honestly to me by my mother years ago. It was summer in Ontario, Canada and it was getting August hot. I was re-shingling my three bedroom house and doing it by myself, apparently because I was an atheist. My mother told me quite simply and clearly: “You get yourself to church and people will help you with putting on those shingles!” This is still the best argument for religion-of-a-kind even these many years later. People who read the black book help with shingling and other renovations too. By noon of each August day as I hefted those bundles of shingles to the roof, I could hear God, the one true God, KJV-squawk in my head: I shall melt thy asphalt shingles under thy burning feet and thou shalt sink down in thy stubborn steps and feel those shingles get mushy as wet bread under thy feet. And I shall keep my people far from thee and thou shalt shingle alone. For about two weeks.” …..Hokey smoke.

  19. badgersdaughter says

    When asked silly questions, I sometimes like to give silly answers that they can’t prove wrong.

  20. blf says

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

    There are many Doctor Who monsters and attempts to invade / conqueror the EarthBritain.

  21. says

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

    Because people are easier to lead and dominate if you’ve already socialized them with obeisance to authority.

  22. oddest says

    I have to conclude that whoever composed that list was an idiot.

    The truth is far worse than that.

    If you follow the source back just one more step, you’ll find the list was collated by an atheist, Robert Nielsen from various other (religious) sources. Nielsen actually included thoughtful answers. However TodayChristian.net dishonestly ignored the answers and relabelled as questions as unanswerable by atheists – even while linking to counter-evidence!

    Robert Nielsen’s Answers

  23. thewhollynone says

    I, too, followed the link to that “Christian news” website, just to see. Apparently these 10 questions are copied from somebody named Robert Neilson who wrote them somewhere in 2013. These people always seem to copy from each other; there’s a dearth of orginality among the religiotards. There was another article on that website about “Evolution vs. God” (where BTW they have a photo of PZ), and that article took comments via Facebook. I left a short comment to another poster, but won’t do it again; no sense in driving up their advertising revenues.

  24. Sili says

    Queen Elizabeth Deux died in 1990. She was flayed, her skin tanned and draped over an animatronic construction from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop to keep prince Charles from ever taking the throne.

    Why do you think Henson was killed?

  25. Galactic Fork says

    I hate hate hate HATE number 3. It makes me so mad. What if they die and find out it’s not the christian heaven, but Valhalla? Are they prepared for daily combat until Ragnarok? What if it’s some afterlife they’ve never heard of, and the pony eared deity is pissed they didn’t leave 7 crushed grapes in front of their home every 4th day?

    Why do they think I believe their christian heaven is so important that I give it more credit than reincarnation, or turning into a weird blue ghost like the Jedi?

    \Rant

  26. says

    Guessing the repurposer of this list never actually thought of these questions outside a religious framework, and has no real concept of “outside a religious framework”.

    I suspect, too, that to the repurposer, the fact that atheists don’t all give the same answer is proof that the answers aren’t true and honest (as opposed to, say, evidence that atheists think and act independently).

  27. blf says

    the pony eared deity

    Bottom is a faerie?
    I always thought he was a rude mechanical.

  28. says

    10 If there’s no god, then why does every society always have a religion?

    If there is a god, why are they always different religions?

  29. microraptor says

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

    Then I’ll at least have the satisfaction of knowing that I didn’t waste my life sucking up to a vicious monster who mets out punishments based on whether or not they believe in him.

  30. Al Dente says

    athorist @31

    If there is a god, why are they always different religions?

    I see this as a strong argument against gods. If the vast majority of people believed basically the same thing then there could easily be one god or one group of gods influencing everyone’s thoughts on religion. But when Christian churchs can’t agree on basic dogma and Muslims have sects ranging from the Sufis to Wahhabi fundamentalism and the Hindus with thousands of competing creeds then it’s obvious that religion is made up as it goes along. The operative phrase is “made up.”

  31. Kevin Kehres says

    Your answers are strikingly close to mine.
    1. I realized at age 8 that the nice lady was making thing up when she told us a story about a big boat and all the animals. Pretty much been an atheist since then.
    2. We decompose. Our atoms are redistributed back into the environment.
    3. What if you’re wrong and the Viking religion is correct? And you wouldn’t get to Valhalla because you weren’t a warrior? When you answer that question, then you’ll have the answer to yours. Myths aren’t real.
    4. Our evolutionary history has a social species that needs to live cooperatively in order to survive and thrive. Even hermits have to go into town once in a while.
    5. Of course not. We have an evolutionary history as a social species that needs to live cooperatively in order to survive and thrive.
    6. My life has meaning in the today. I am not sitting with my hands folded in my lap waiting for this one to end so that I might be “rewarded” for not having screwed up. FWIW: the Protestant concept of “salvation through grace” is pretty messed up. According to that philosophy, Jeffrey Dahmer is in heaven because he professed belief in Jesus, while the people he carved up and ate are in hell. Can’t get more evil than that as a philosophy.
    7. According to the most-recent physics, probably as a result of a natural process within the multi-verse. Or something else. But whatever it was — it was all natural and required no sentient deity in order to make it happen. And if you think it did — then prove it wasn’t aliens. Multidimensional, universe-building aliens. Until you can disprove aliens, you can’t prove “god”.
    8. No such thing. Magic ain’t real. Demontors aren’t real. Nor angels, nor pixies, nor unicorns. Myths aren’t real, either. Stop believing in magic and myths. It’s childish and silly.
    9. Dawkins wrote a few good books, but is apparently socially inept, sexist, and incredibly privilege-blind. Hitchens is dead. Harris — dunno, haven’t really paid attention to him. Dennett is a pretty good thinker–we agree on the concept of “free will”.
    10. Why did the ancients worship gods who controlled the weather? Because they were ignorant. Why did a hefty proportion of humankind think the sun revolved around the earth? Because they were ignorant. Why did people think that illness was caused by demons? Because they were ignorant. What’s your excuse?

  32. says

    thwhollynone:

    I, too, followed the link to that “Christian news” website, just to see. Apparently these 10 questions are copied from somebody named Robert Neilson who wrote them somewhere in 2013. These people always seem to copy from each other; there’s a dearth of orginality among the religiotards. There was another article on that website about “Evolution vs. God” (where BTW they have a photo of PZ), and that article took comments via Facebook. I left a short comment to another poster, but won’t do it again; no sense in driving up their advertising revenues.

    You’re partially right. Neilson wrote the questions, but he’s an atheist. He scoured the net at some point and compiled a list of questions theists ask of atheists and rewrote them so they made the strongest “arguments”:

    On the internet there are many challenges posed by Christians to Atheists. Some are genuinely curious while others are unintelligent and offensive (take that stupid atheists!). Most are questions that Christians genuinely can’t see how Atheists can answer and are meant to open a debate or even attempt a conversion (some examples here, here, hereand here). So I decided to collect some of the better questions and answer them here. I have deliberatively omitted the worst questions (why are atheists evil? Is it because you worship the devil? If we came from monkeys why are there still monkeys?) In case you think I’m making that up there are some examples here and here. A downright offensive one here and a parody here . I have paraphrased the questions to make them as strong as possible. Interestingly, I have noticed that most questions are usually about evolution, implying their argument is with science not Atheism. I’m not going to repeat those questions here because evolution is a scientifically recognised fact beyond question and it only discredits Christians (most European ones have accepted evolution).

    I left them out of the above paragraph, but Neilson included 8 links to various places where he found the questions. I can see why one might think he’s a believer. He doesn’t mention being an atheist until he answers the first question:

    1. How Did You Become an Atheist?

    This is usually a question out of curiosity rather than a challenge or a debate. Like most people in Ireland, I was raised a Catholic (not that I had a choice in the matter). I was an altar boy and I even went through a religious phase when I was about 13 where I would say a decade of the rosary every night before bed. Gradually I began to see Mass as a waste of time. It was boring and never seemed to have any relevance to anything. Also the Catholic Church is one of the most disreputable institutions in Ireland. It caused enormous damage to the country, promoted narrow minded sectarian stagnation and committed horrendous abuse. I stopped going to Mass when I was 16.

    It was until I was 20 that I became an Atheist. Essentially, I set myself a logical challenge based on the problem of evil, lack of revelation and the absence of proof. I then decided that the only logical explanation was that there was no God. (This is a very short version. I discuss my loss of faith in full in another post, How I Became An Atheist).

  33. Rey Fox says

    It all just points to the questioner never really thinking any of these things through. Religion does that to people. It also causes Random Capitalization disorder.

  34. Alverant says

    Of course it wouldn’t be a list of questions without a reference to Pascal’s Wager. Has this person ever considered he might be wrong and worshiping a false god and would be punished for it in the afterlife?

  35. Kevin Kehres says

    What’s interesting about this is that the link PZ provides is from a Christian web site. It lists the questions but does not provide any comment section for people to answer it.

    However, they acknowledge that they did not come up with the list and they provide the url of a web site that is … wait for it … run by an atheist.

    The list was compiled by an atheist, who then goes on to answer each and every one of them. I’d say something about cherry picking and selective editing — but hardly need to. They cherry picked the questions, but not the answers.

    Wow. Just. Wow.

  36. cactuswren says

    Galactic Fork @ 28: A Mormon co-worker of mine, a very vocal RM, thought he was pulling a devastating Stumper Question when he put that to me: Ahh, but what if you’re wrong? He never did answer my, “But David, what if you’re wrong and I’m wrong, and Ali (our Muslim boss) is right?”

    (Of course this was the kid who thought the “Lost Day In History” urban legend was a powerful religious argument.)

  37. Richard Smith says

    plainenglish (#20): They even have a web service for that, now: ChristianShingle.com.

  38. says

    Oh, this is interesting. One of the commenters to Neilsen’s questions decided to be a funny person and tweak the questions. The guy posed these questions.

    1. How Did You Become a Libertarian?
    2. What happens when we abolish the government?
    3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a need for government?
    4. Without the State, where do you get rights from?
    5. If there is no government, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?
    6. If there is no government, how does the economy have any purpose?
    7. What about welfare? What about all the people who claim to need government jobs to live?
    8. If there is no need for government, then why does every society have a state?

    Ah, I see. this person *IS* a libertarian.

    I was an atheist by 16 and a libertarian by 20. I am helping you to catch up.

    He provides answers to the above 8 questions.

    And Robert Neilsen thinks questions 2, 3, and 5 are good.

    I would start clapping but that might sound sarcastic. Either way, I’m impressed and did not see that coming. Good to hear from you again, I was wondering where you had gone. Some of the editing doesn’t quite work, but a lot of it is sheer genius. You almost made me rethink my statism, almost. 2,3 and 5 were particularly good.

  39. Snoof says

    athorist @ 31

    If there is a god, why are they always different religions?

    Different gods, clearly.

  40. Rich Woods says

    @Marcus #32:

    Are there any comparable lists of “10 questions for theists” ? ;)

    Yes, but they’re not strictly comparable: they contain at least an ounce of common sense.

  41. says

    Galactic Fork #28

    What if they die and find out it’s not the christian heaven, but Valhalla? Are they prepared for daily combat until Ragnarok?

    Not a chance. Lousy, sniveling fools, dying in hospital beds instead of in glorious combat. They’d never be allowed to set foot in Valhalla.

    What if it’s some afterlife they’ve never heard of, and the pony eared deity is pissed they didn’t leave 7 crushed grapes in front of their home every 4th day?

    Both Calvin and Homer made similar points. With illustrious names like that backing you up, you know you’re on to something.

  42. ragarth says

    Completely, truly, and honestly answer is just religious asshole speak for ‘Parrot the answer I’d personally give.’

  43. throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble says

    From the comments section Tony! links to:

    2. What happens when we abolish the government?

    Nothing. That’s the short answer. …

    I find your reasoning highly speculative!

    3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a need for government?

    Well then I’ll feel pretty stupid.

    There’s no need to wait!

    [note: about where our morals derive from if not from government]
    As a normal person, I think [certain] things are wrong and unjust, but if I took my morals from the government I must conclude that they were right and just. Clearly no one in their right mind actually bases their morals on the government.

    Yes, a clearly “normal” person, as opposed to anyone who doesn’t come to the same conclusions as they do, fails to recognize that socially agreed upon rights are enforced by protections from the government by giving recourse to violations. It’s the social solution being fawned over at a larger scale and able to be transparently administered and have the processes changed for any shortcomings. Try that with a neighborhood or town and you will have as many different variations on rights as there are residents. If you want to say that “mutual agreements” can be reached, then you acknowledge the point that the proposed solution is no different than what is in place now.

    [with regard to number 5, about punishment for crimes]
    Of course, there are plenty of ways by which crime will be punished and good deeds rewarded in a free society, which will be far more effective than what we have today.

    Just trust them! I’m sure they’ve got plenty of ways by which crime will be punished and good deeds rewarded… They’ll have a place called a ‘penitentiary’ where the people who violate, um, whatever rules we agree upon, (let’s call them ‘laws’) will be sent after the community evaluates evidence in a building devoted to such things, we’ll call it “having court”, and it will occur in the “courtroom”, and the members of the community who evaluate the evidence and decide whether the alleged perpetrator is guilty can be called a ‘jury’… I could really get behind such a system!

  44. badgersdaughter says

    I’d actually like to see a really good, thoughtful, intellectual “top 10″ questions that atheists actually do have trouble answering (not that there aren’t answers, just that the answers may be obscure, technical, or just unpopular).

  45. says

    The thing about number 3 is that people always assume that after they die they will end up with a version of their mind at its most coherent and rational. But what if that isn’t the case? Imagine a life after death filled with people whose mental state is the same as that of when they died. Some folks would be coherent, some less so, and then there would be those in the last stages of Alzheimer’s, or those who died as very young children, or even babies. It’s disturbing to think of a 6 month old baby’s mind wandering about for eternity.

  46. robro says

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

    I understand that the religion is common among humans, but I wonder if this is even true. Has every society that ever existed had religion? That’s probably difficult to answer since many very early human societies left so little evidence. If we do see evidence in some ancient society that looks like religion to us, say a carving on some antler or a cave painting, we should be careful about projecting our notions onto the evidence when we see religion. My favorite example of this is Göbekli Tepe in southern Turkey. Klaus Schmidt, the German archeologist who has been digging it out, dubbed it the oldest temple. Perhaps so, but that’s just a guess as we have no way of knowing what its function was.

  47. says

    Let me take a crack at it:

    1. It was a long process. I became born-again when I was 17, but I wasn’t a very good evangelical. I always had questions, but in the end always said, “Walk by faith, not by sight.” It wasn’t until a year or two ago that I started reading the arguments against theism and thought, “Well, where is the evidence for God?” I became a humanist about a year ago, and I’m quite happy, thank you.

    2. Basically what PZ said.

    3. Anyone could be wrong. If you’re a Christian, you could be wrong about Allah. If you’re a Muslim or a Jew, you could be wrong about Jesus. And if you’re a believer in general, you could be wrong about the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    4. I look at the consequences. If I murder someone, I know that my victim’s family will be upset. If I lie to a friend, I hurt their feelings and they have a hard time trusting me after that.

    5. According to existentialism, you have the freedom to do whatever you want. But it doesn’t make it good.

    6. I create my own meaning. I think it’s incredible that we beat the odds to get where we’re at now. We’ve evolved over billions of years to become who we are now, and we have the ability to create something beautiful. Isn’t that great? That’s the gospel I preach.

    7. Big Bang, from what I gather. What came before the Big Bang, I don’t know. But I wouldn’t say “God did it” because every time we think something has a supernatural explanation, turns out there’s a natural explanation.

    8. I’ve never seen a miracle myself, so I’m skeptical. I’ve heard stories, but I want to see medical records to see if it really was a miracle. As far as religious experiences, I think the mind is capable of doing incredible things. Through meditation, the mind can produce moments of pure bliss. Doesn’t mean God intervened.

    9. I’ve read Dawkins, but I haven’t read anything by the other two. I don’t agree with everything Dawkins says (I don’t think he’s entirely conscious of white privilege and institutional racism), but he did influence my atheism. Harris can be a bit too Islamophobic. I don’t want to profile Muslims at the airport.

    10. Sociologists might be able to explain this better than I can. Some guy thinks he’s founded enlightenment or God, and he passes off his own beliefs as gospel truth.

  48. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    @birgerjohansson:

    This is clearly a case of mistaken identity. If you look carefully, that eggplant doesn’t say “GOD”, it says “GOG” with the last G reversed. Now we just have to find this Gog character and figure out what it wants of us.

  49. mykroft says

    badgersdaughter@49
    Apparently anything having to do with women’s rights would suffice. Or anything about applying the same logic that led us to disbelieve in gods to social issues. On an individual level the answers might be easy to give, but they’d be all over the map within the atheist umbrella.

    Being an atheist does not mean you are automatically free from illogical/unsupportable/sometimes vile beliefs.

  50. raven says

    I’d actually like to see a really good, thoughtful, intellectual “top 10″ questions that atheists actually do have trouble answering …

    1. Where do socks go when they disappear from the washing machine?

    2. Do xian televangelists really believe their gibberish or are they just raking in lots of money from their clueless followers?

    3. Does the Multiverse exist? (Probably but it is going to be hard to prove.)

    4. What are Dark Matter and Dark Energy?

    5. Is Romney really a Reptilian shapeshifting UFO alien?

    6. How can anyone vote for the Tea Party/GOP lunatic fringers?

    7. Are humans bright enough and rational enough to last another few thousand years?

    8. How can anyone take Plantinga, WL Craig, CS Lewis, or Kent Hovind seriously?

    9. How can xianity be considered a source of morality when xian morality is an oxymoron.

    10. When will the middle east join the 19th century?

    11. Why do some xians want a New Dark Age?

    I’m sure there are more than 10 of these questions and others have their own.

  51. plainenglish says

    Richard Smith @41.
    I wish you were you joking. Christianshingles: get God’s thatch for your roof….. holy faggot service, Batman! I’m having flashbacks. Peruse the top 100 Christian websites and see how far you can get without hallucinating. I made it to “Managing God’s Money”: You work to earn God’s money and even though it is all HIS cash, he wants you to keep some of it for yourself! I’m off now to spend a good-gawd-dollar on some B.C. beer.

  52. says

    timgueguen 50:

    or those who died as very young children, or even babies. It’s disturbing to think of a 6 month old baby’s mind wandering about for eternity.

    Won’t someone think of the fetuses?

  53. Menyambal says

    Again, to emphasize. The site that PZ linked to has a web address at the bottom, of the place they got them from. It isn’t a link, I had to copy and paste.

    http://robertnielsen21.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/10-questions-for-atheists/

    That site has good atheist answers to all the questions, along with the atheist author saying that he compiled the list.

    The Christians stole the list, stripped out the answers, and posted it. The odd thing is them posting the address, but not as a link. But that seems to be how they attribute other articles on other posts — as non-clickable addresses.

    The author of the list now has a link to the Christian site, in an update describing what happened.

  54. David Marjanović says

    “Meaning”? Do they think life is some kind of symbol? A symbol for what?

    If there is a god, then why does every society have a different religion,

    The Pirahã don’t have any.

    to keep prince Charles from ever taking the throne

    Oh. That makes sense.

  55. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Rey Fox, 37:

    Random capitaliZATION Disorder.

    FTFY

  56. David Marjanović says

    I forgot: there’s no clear evidence for religion in the Indus culture.

  57. larrylyons says

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

    I have always disliked the implied blackmail to that question. I don’t respond to divine extortion – believe in a set of warped religious beliefs or burn in hell forever. I prefer this approach instead of the threat implied by Pascal’s Wager:

    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
    ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

  58. Al Dente says

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

    Many Christians believe if they indulge in murder, rape, etc. and then say “Jesus, I’m really sorry I shot a man in Reno just to see him die and I believe in you” then they’re forgiven. The chief torturer in a reeducation camp can go to Heaven as long as he says the magic charm before he kicks off. So Christians can do what they want.

    As for good deeds going unrewarded, that’s what happens all too often. The unconscious universe not only doesn’t care, it cannot care.

  59. unclefrogy says

    christians in my experience always resort to a quote when discussing anything that relates to god or belief. They will never venture personal answers any deeper than their personal testimony of accepting jesus.
    They will refuse to Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer in their own words and thoughts those questions nor discus the answers. They will resort to quoting from other sources most often the bible. It is almost as if they had a pathological fear of those very questions and what they might imply.

    Long ago when I was in much conflict over what I was taught by the church and what I had learned through education., reading and science I came upon this book
    Primitive Man As Philosopher by Paul Radin phd.
    ( https://archive.org/details/primitivemanasph031975mbp)
    and was much impressed in the depth of analysis of the question of what people have believed and the distinctions being made. It helped me understand better many things about religions. It also taught me that just because a society has a “primitive technology” does not mean it can not have a sophisticated philosophical understanding of life. As in our society there are many depths of thought by different individuals.

    uncle frogy

  60. says

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

    This presumes one would want to spend all eternity licking god’s boots. So many theists seem to think that heaven is some wonderful place. They seem to never question how wonderful the place will be if we’re supposed to continue worshiping god, singing his praises, and doing the same thing for all eternity, all while our loved ones who didn’t make the cut are in limbo? purgatory? hell? How enjoyable is eternity if you don’t get to spend it with your loved ones? Oh I know most people probably think they and their loved ones will make the cut, but they have nothing but wishful thinking to base that on. Hell, what about the extended network of friends & family most of us have? Not just mom, pop, sis, brother, but second cousin on your mother’s side. Paternal great great grandfather. What about your grandmother’s best childhood friend? Unless all our friends and family are guaranteed entry into heaven, we’re bound to have people we love/care for that won’t make the cut, and we’ll miss them. Or the people we care about won’t have all their friends and loved ones around to enjoy heaven.
    These arguments about the “glory” of heaven never seen to consider the details.

  61. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    Most of these questions can be used even more effectively against believers with a little modification:

    How Did You Become a Believer? Isn’t it odd that you learned about the truth and others didn’t? What about people who never had the chance to learn?

    What if you’re wrong? And there isn’t a Heaven? And there is a HELL!
    What if you’re wrong a different way? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL! And you’re going to go there?

    With God, where do you get your morality from?
    What makes you think god is moral?

    If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?
    doesn’t god think murder and rape are sometimes good deeds, depending on who is murdered and/or raped and who commits the murders and/or rapes?

    If there is a god, how does your life have any meaning? How does god have any meaning?

    Where did god come from?

    If there is a God, then why does every culture have a different religion?

  62. Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk says

    What if I’m wrong (about the existence of god?) then
    I would have lived a life where I actively tried to make the world a better place, which is more than you can say for god. And I would be morally superior to god in every way.

  63. Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk says

    Sorry, hit post too son. Wanted to say if doing my best to be a good person isn’t enough for god and all that’s needed to get into heaven is fawning worship, regardless of the hurt you caused (coz it’s all forgiven), who wants to be in heaven with him anyway.

  64. twas brillig (stevem) says

    I read this list as pure confabulation of what to ask their straw atheist for a group chuckle. That’s why it says no atheist will ever give, as, “some Questions Atheist Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer! Which leads to some interesting conclusions…”
    But I’ll play this game and give them a slap, by answering Truly and Honestly; Really! [only a few for now]

    1. How Did You Become an Atheist?
    By waking up to reality, seeing reality’s problems can be solved with a little thinking; and “God diddit” is NOT an answer to any question about reality.

    2. What happens when we die?
    Our bodies rot, our brains stop working. full stop.

    3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!
    I’ll say I was wrong. I can accept errors I made. Can’t you accept your own mistakes? Or are you error-free and always right about everything? Did you take the SAT’s? What did you get, straight 800’s?

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

    5. If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?
    Empathy, I don’t think you understand what empathy is.

    6. If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?
    By me giving it a meaning by the actions I take to cooperate with the people in society with me.

    7. Where did the universe come from?
    Here. Everywhere is here; the universe came from everywhere at a single instant of time. There was no “before”, no other place for it to come “from”. Analogy: What is North of the North Pole? That is perfect analogy of your question, where did universe come from? That question is so poorly constructed, it does fall into the classification of “Not even wrong”

    [enough for now ^_^ (had to get my answer to #7, out there) ]

  65. says

    It’s disturbing to think of a 6 month old baby’s mind wandering about for eternity.

    Oh, now I’m reminded of a Kurt Vonnegut story, positing heaven as a place where you get to decide how old you want to be for eternity. In the story, I think it’s Vonnegut’s fictional author Kilgore Trout who writes the tale. When the writer gets to heaven, he chooses to be 30 or so, mature but still physically in his prime. The writer’s father, unfortunately, chooses to be 7 years old forever, and the writer has to deal with his 7-year old father for all eternity and all that entails. Periodically, some of heaven’s teenaged residents steal the father’s underwear and toss it down the hole leading to hell. Adolph Hitler is down there, and every so often, in addition to the fire and other torments, the former Fuhrer finds his head draped with a pair of boy’s underwear.
    The comedic possibilities are endless.

  66. says

    I was born an atheist.
    As a kid, as is typical, I enjoyed fairy tales and make-believe.
    Then one summer day when i was four I found out to my astonishment that some people, ADULTS even, actually believe some of them.

    I’m still astonished.
    It’s not much of a story, I know.
    *shrug*

  67. grumpyoldfart says

    Without God, where do you get your morality from?

    I always turn that question back on the Christians and remind them of the story in Exodus 32 where Moses came down from the mountain with a commandment that said “Thou shalt not kill” – and the first thing he did was to kill 3,000 Israelites! If that’s god-given morality then we’re probably better off without it.

    15 Then Moses turned and went down the mountain. He held in his hands the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back.
    16 These tablets were God’s work; the words on them were written by God himself.

    19 When they came near the camp, Moses saw the calf and the dancing, and he burned with anger. He threw the stone tablets to the ground, smashing them at the foot of the mountain.

    26 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and shouted, “All of you who are on the Lord’s side, come here and join me.” And all the Levites gathered around him.
    27 Moses told them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Each of you, take your swords and go back and forth from one end of the camp to the other. Kill everyone—even your brothers, friends, and neighbors.”
    28 The Levites obeyed Moses’ command, and about 3,000 people died that day.

  68. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    5. We already know that good deeds are unrewarded. But see above. Morality is our own creation, not handed down from on high.

    Well, good deeds are often “unrewarded” in the sense that they involve foregoing unfair advantages or even actively sacrificing our own resources to assist others. We could certainly, as a society and as individuals participating in it, choose to organize society such that good deeds were preferentially rewarded compared to other behaviors, either tangibly or intangibly, and largely refuse to do so due to a vestigial feeling that actions which benefit others that also benefit oneself somehow don’t “count,” which seems to derive from religion, is basically a form of petulance, and occasionally leads to supreme idiocy such as declaring “building the kind of world you’d like to live in” a “selfish” motivation. >.>

  69. says

    The very common set of questions is only proof of the arrogance of theists and their lack of originality and rational thinking.

    I’ve been atheist for over 50 years and those questions have not changed in that time. For that matter, neither have the answers.

  70. cicely says

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

    If there is a god, that same free will that they claim prevents God from preventing Bad Things from happening, means that they are free to murder and rape. IOW, they can do what they want anyway, confident that no god will prevent them.
    This is not at all different from the free will that exists (or doesn’t, because I’m not looking for a philosophical argument beyond my weight class) without a god.
    -

  71. says

    1. How Did You Become an Atheist?
    Kinda like Santa Claus, you find out that what you thought was true cannot hold up to evidence.

    2. What happens when we die?
    Somebody buries us and the matter and energy in our body is returned to the earth.

    3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!
    Of the millions different religions? Which heaven? Which hell? For all the evidence shows that if there is one we have no idea if it is even possible let alone which one it actually is.

    4. Without God, where do you get your morality from?
    Myself and my social environment, just like you. No god is necessary to care about the well being of another person.

    5. If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?
    Technically yes, however, unless your suicidal (murder people and it is likely they will murder you) or just wanting to be rejected socially (bad behavior like rape is a stigma that will not go away) it is ill advised (if you want freedom to live among society). Good deeds don’t go unrewarded, they have a social impact on others and therefore they will have a reward.

    6. If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?
    It has as much meaning as I make out of it. And given that it is the only one I get, I wouldn’t want to waste it in worship.

    7. Where did the universe come from?
    The universe came from the big bang. If you mean before this, well the honest answer is, it came from where it did and not where it didn’t and until we can determine which one it is with falsifiable evidence I will not determine what it is, least of all supernatural (since we have zero evidence of supernatural things).

    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?
    I have to quote my favorite author on this. “When someone is saved from death by a strange concentration of circumstances, they say that’s a miracle. But of course is someone is killed by a freak chain of events. -Oil spill just there, safety fence broken just there.- That must also be a miracle. Just because it is not nice doesn’t mean it’s not miraculous.” Terry Pratchett; Interesting Times

    9. What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?
    I have no problem with any of them. Their faults are not their strengths and since I evaluate what they say and don’t worship them I can agree at times and disagree at other times. There people too. I will however add that I have more respect for them than any person who asserts that reading a specific old book gives us all the answers.

    10. If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?
    What about Buddhists, they are a larger religion than Christianity, there is no god in that religion. So your question is really nonsensical, since it presupposes a God.

  72. says

    Second part of question 8: People see and experience stuff all the time that is unfounded by evidence. The brain is easily tricked. As for the people claiming a connection with Jesus, well people find connections with people who they have never known through quotes, stories, and writing I see nothing special here.

  73. Olav says

    With regard to prince Charles: I recently read an interview with Charles. It managed to change my opinion on him a little bit. I still don’t like him because a. he is royalty (duh) and b. he does promote some silly ideas. But also some good ones, and in general he appears to be trying his best. He appears to be a more complex character than I thought.

    No reason to stop mocking him of course.

  74. says

    firstapproximation:

    I noticed that. Have they no shame? (Rhetorical.)

    Seriously though, how hard could it be to make up your own list of ten questions atheists couldn’t supposedly couldn’t answer? Not only is it dishonest, it’s very lazy.

    In all fairness, Robert Nielsen didn’t make up the questions either. He collected questions from around the net that he felt were good. Still, that shows how easy it would have been for the christian site to do the same.

  75. blf says

    Robert Nielsen didn’t make up the questions either.

    Yes & No. Mr Nielsen wrote “I [collected] some of the better questions … I have paraphrased the questions to make them as strong as possible.” So yes, he didn’t make them up. And no, they are not necessarily literal transcriptions, but edited.

    Details aside, it is clear the site poopyhead quoted is cherry-picking Mr Nielsen’s text, quoting only the questions, omitting Mr Nielson’s replies, omitting to note their source (which they did, to give then some credit, reference, albeit not as a hyperlink) ix an atheist site, and not providing any obvious method of reply or rebuttal.

  76. palmettobug says

    Q4 always struck me as racist, at least when asked by conservative/fundie Christians. There’s an implicit assumption that no other culture besides a Christian culture can truly be moral. I’m sure that if you bring up the moral codes of other cultures (ancient Greeks, first nations people, Africans, etc. etc.), most evangelicals would scoff, thus betraying their racism.

  77. says

    Re: #4— I really hate the idea of explaining morality as a product of the natural instinct of a social species. It smacks of the naturalistic fallacy, and it abdicates any real meaning behind morality— it doesn’t put any weight behind the idea that something can be wrong; it merely describes the facts of how humans tend to behave without any more moral judgement than evolution itself.

    If I had to justify it to an amoral religionist, I’d describe it as an implied contract— we all agree not to do bad stuff because the cost of not being able to do bad stuff is less than the benefit of not having bad stuff done to us. Our social instincts merely serve as the prerequisite, giving us the mental wherewithal to form such agreements in the first place.

    I think the social contract approach to morality has problems, but a person who claims it’s impossible to be good without God clearly doesn’t have any understanding of the concept of something simply being wrong so the social contract approach is the best option.

  78. badgersdaughter says

    1. How Did You Become an Atheist? Despite half a lifetime of trying, I just couldn’t find the Christian God in the Bible. I thought that if there was a God or gods, they wouldn’t want me believing the wrong things about them. Through seeking and study I found that there were no right things. Your god stories are no more right or valid than anyone else’s, despite your obvious sincerity.

    2. What happens when we die? It’s like laying down a pen after having written a letter. There was a time before we started writing, and a time when we finished writing. Our writing session is ended, but what we have written remains. Whatever there is that lives after us is contained in the writing, and in the thoughts and memories of other people who read it.

    3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL! Are you asking this out of concern for my welfare, or because you just have a need and a duty to convert me to your way of thinking? If it’s out of duty, you have done your duty, please stop now. If it’s out of concern, thank you for your concern. That said, I see no reason to think I’m wrong, and you cannot provide that reason.

    4. Without God, where do you get your morality from? What makes you think morality comes from God? Because that’s what you were told? Honestly, does God strike you as a perfectly moral being by any decent definition? Haven’t you always thought that “God as the source of morality” was a little suspect at best?

    5. If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded? Oh, right. Try it and see what happens. Life isn’t a live-action role-playing game where your feedback is determined by dice rolls and you can slay “monsters” and “rescue princesses” with impunity. Other people exist, our behavior affects them, they give us feedback, and actions have consequences (good and bad).

    6. If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning? What exactly is the meaning that you suppose God gives your life? Why do you act as though there are other meanings that you want your life to have?

    7. Where did the universe come from? A big humanoid living in some pre-existing chaotic state wished it into existence for no better reason than that he felt like it. Oh, wait, that’s what you believe. Come to think of it, where did God come from?

    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? Oh, claims. If you tell me why you don’t believe in magic beans and pills that turn a tank of tap water into gasoline, I’ll tell you why I don’t believe in miracles and unlikely claims.

    9. What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris? I like most of their writings, dislike some of their writings, and otherwise don’t believe I have their acquaintance. Why, what do you think I’m supposed to think about them?

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

  79. ohkay says

    On Sunday morning, the thought of church literally never crosses my mind. I never think: Sunday, oh yes, time for church. No disrespect, but I’ve been a non-theist for most of my adult life. I enjoy the peacefulness and quietness of the morning. Church is just more noise I’d rather not be subjected to. I appreciate the idea of spiritual connectedness, but organized religion has never been my preferred way of reflecting on my/our mortality or on the meaning of life. I’d rather watch the shadows shift throughout the day than have stricture imposed on me.

  80. knowknot says

    I am still plumbing for the difficulty in any of those questions. Dirt up to my neck, and haven’t foundit yet.
    Problem is, I think there’s a hidden requirement: It has to be a snappy answer, the parsing of which requires firepower not to exceed that of a Commodore 64.
    Or, on second thought, it’s probably more that the term “answer” is taken to mean “correct answer according generally to my chosen sect, and specifically my little personal spin on my chosen sect.”

  81. HolyPinkUnicorn says

    You gotta love reading these Questions Atheist Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer! So I’ll give some interesting conclusions of my own (mild sarcasm warning):

    1. How Did You Become an Atheist? I filled out the application like everyone else. Five to six weeks later…

    Actually, I can’t honestly say how I really “became” one. It was more just realizing who I had been all along, and then eventually not going to church anymore (which I felt would have been incredibly disingenuous), etc. This was years before 9/11 and the whole “New Atheists” thing, not that I think they really would have mattered too much (see #9).

    2. What happens when we die? Physiologically, I imagine it is (at best) like slipping into a deep sleep–from which one never wakes, of course. From there, it’s the usual bloating–>decaying–>(eventually) stardust route.

    Though, per my wishes from an earlier thread in May, I currently prefer all but the last step ofpromession, after which the remains are loaded onto a sounding rocket and shot into space, and then crash-land into an active volcano. (Science!)

    3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL! Then I was wrong! We all make mistakes, though I’m not wasting my life betting that this is one of them. Plus, heaven sounds overrated, and we all know HELL! has the better music anyway.

    4. Without God, where do you get your morality from? I “get it” from a constant effort to empathize with others, especially those not like myself (which would be damn near everyone, in my best estimate). And though it’s selfish, in being good to others, they may just be good to me in turn, or at least make me feel a little better about myself.

    And I would say it’s far easier to do this, then it is go around scolding everyone with a seemingly endless list of rather arbitrary rules concerning behavior and thought. A couple of women holding hands or marrying each other(!) is not in any way comparable to actions that actually cause others real harm, no matter how “immoral” you may think they are.

    5. If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded? Yes, technically we are free to do so, just as much as you are. Though don’t think any higher spiritual power is stopping you from doing so. I’ve recently been reading Jon Krakauer’s excellent (but horrifying) Under the Banner of Heaven, and God certainly didn’t do anything to stop all the raping and murdering described in the book.

    As far as good deeds going unrewarded, you’re a selfish ass if rewards matter that much to you.

    6. If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning? Perhaps it doesn’t have any meaning. But again, so what? Can it not at least be meaningful to others? Can I not try and leave the world, and maybe a few of its inhabitants, better off than I found it? Is it a belief in God that makes believers’ lives meaningful?

    7. Where did the universe come from? I would go with the Big Bang. Yes, 13.7 billion years is a huge number (like Catholic Church assets huge), but that figure alone fills me with more awe than the silliness of six days of creation plus a day off. (Granted, six day work weeks do suck.)

    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? They’re interesting, in that holy-shit-this-sounds-stupid kind of way, so forgive me for laughing.

    Honestly, just clean your skillet more often and Jesus will stop showing up in grilled cheese sandwiches (commonly known as the Miracle® of Soft Scrub). And if you’re claiming to have seen saints or angels, then I’m guessing it was psychedelics, lack of oxygen to the brain, or both. Either way, anecdotal claims don’t mean all that much to me.

    9. What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris? I can’t say I’m a big fan of any of them. Dawkins can be arrogant and pretty rude, though sometimes that is a good thing, and historically, outspoken atheism has almost always been censored. I like a lot of Hitchens’ writing, but he could be quite rude too, and was practically religious about invading Iraq (and never said it was wrong). Harris, who I sometimes think is a long lost brother of Ben Stiller, can sound militant at times, though not because he’s an atheist.

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

    It keeps the proles in line (frequently with the use of force); brings people together (though also fiercely separate from other groups); and gives a lot of people with otherwise immensely shitty lives some sort of unprovable, unquestionable hope that there is something greater to the universe than the misery they suffer through. I would also add that most people really had no choice in the matter, and likely thought it was better than getting hauled off to the nearest gallows.

    Granted, I don’t think any of these reasons are actually good or beneficial. Atheists can still accomplish all the necessities for functioning modern societies like build power plants and engineer water treatment facilities–and without marching people lockstep into church–but it’s just that most of history has been filled with nonsensical and forceful theocracy, and not for the better.

  82. David Chapman says

    86
    palmettobug

    Q4 always struck me as racist, at least when asked by conservative/fundie Christians. There’s an implicit assumption that no other culture besides a Christian culture can truly be moral. I’m sure that if you bring up the moral codes of other cultures (ancient Greeks, first nations people, Africans, etc. etc.), most evangelicals would scoff, thus betraying their racism.

    It’s not exactly racism involved in that question, rather it’s spectacular cultural bigotry. There’s no doubt that that’s underpinned and reinforced by racism in many, many cases. Christianity is innately anti-semitic anyway, and anti-semitism is frequently racist and religiously bigoted at the same time. But there’s an important point here, namely that fundamentalist Christians are not necessarily racist. ( You possibly imply this but the matter merits clarifying and emphasizing. )

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

    If there is a hell, it was rather unsporting of Yahweh not to let the ancient Hebrews in on that rather important fact in the Pentateuch. He goes to great lengths to terrify them with the dire consequences resulting from disobeying his will, for committing adultery, snogging camels, all that. But these are all mortal, temporal punishments he has in mind; he never gets round to mentioning that he’s going to torture them after they die as well.
    Granted, he isn’t a very nice omnipotent being all round, but not warning people about that particular theological nuance — well, it doesn’t reflect well on the old bloke, that’s all I can say.

  83. David Chapman says

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

    The implication being that of course that a perfect being would punish people for their beliefs or lack of beliefs. A revolting idea, and an enormously dangerous one.

    But of there were an afterlife, and there were hideous punishments for people who believe genuinely wicked things, I would be concerned for fundamentalist Christians. For believing in that massive wad of hypocrisy and moral nihilism. A close study of the text of the Bible ( actually a cursory reading, if one is not hindered by the industrial-strength conceptual biases of our contemporary culture ) reveals that when Jesus of Nazerath is ostensibly preaching love, understanding, and compassion for the needy, he is actually exalting hatred, murder, practical and ethical irrationalism, and all the totalitarian religious precepts of the Old Testament. They had all this straight ( or the closest it’s ever been to straight ) during the Reformation, and the Catholic Counter-Reformation, when
    everybody tried or pretended to try to get back to basics. Thus illustrating exactly what the basics are like. Europe was devastated by religious wars and polluted by a renewed infestation of ecclesiastical thought police. The process of European culture learning to defuse and pacify this situation has actually been the process of denaturing and reinventing Jesus as an advocate of peace — despite the fact that he explicitly stated he was the opposite — and the author of the concepts which make democratic and decent civilization possible. Quite bizarre. ( With the arguable exception of the seperation of Church and State, which is one of the happier outcomes of Christianity. )
    The perception of Jesus Christ ( or rather the character(s) portrayed in the New Testament ) as a great and important moral teacher is a sinister fabrication, a product of our society becoming better — or just bearable — whilst simultaneously being unable to reject its noxious Ancient Roman religious traditions. This is not a good blueprint for a wise and humane future.

  84. kc9oq says

    1. How Did You Become an Atheist?

    I was born that way. Children are by their nature lovers and sponges for knowledge. They need to be taught hatred, and to mindlessly bow to authority figures. They must be taught that critical thinking is wrong. Unfortunately, churches are excellent teachers of all these. Fortunately for me, no one forced me to take those lessons.

    * * *

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

    Since I have not read any of their works and since all I know of them I’ve heard third-hand, I have no opinions of them whatsoever. As an independent thinker I don’t need an authority figure or textbook on how to be an atheist.

  85. kc9oq says

    PS:

    You didn’t ask me my views of PZM. I have read his work first hand and do have opinions but since you didn’t ask I’ll keep them to myself.

  86. says

    badgersdaughter @88:

    2. What happens when we die? It’s like laying down a pen after having written a letter. There was a time before we started writing, and a time when we finished writing. Our writing session is ended, but what we have written remains. Whatever there is that lives after us is contained in the writing, and in the thoughts and memories of other people who read it.

    Nice analogy :D

  87. Crimson Clupeidae says

    The problem with the idea of heaven, is that I’m more afraid of it being like it was described by Twain, than any of the descriptions of hell.

  88. woodwose says

    For engineers the question of what if you go to hell has no terror. A standard brain teaser for thermodynamics is “How would you air condition hell?” Power from little sulfur waterfalls, thermal gradients etc. Besides we always want to make our working environment more comfortable.

  89. robinjohnson says

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

    Then I’m wrong, and there is a heaven, and there is a hell, and I guess I go there. That one’s not hard at all, it just betrays a total lack of logic.

  90. U Frood says

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

    Even if life without a god has no meaning, that is not proof of god. If you can find no meaning to life without God, maybe that just means life has no meaning.

  91. John Horstman says

    “Some Questions Atheist Cannot Truly and Honestly…”

    What is it with these people and their inability to use articles like “an” or plurals where appropriate? It’s the most confusing thing. Do they think “Atheist” is a proper name and that there is only one? I realize typos happen (I make them all the time), but I have seen HUNDREDS of people do this, repeatedly in some cases.

    At any rate, on to the meat of the post (er, tofu, I guess – I just realized how odd my use of that idiom is, as meat does not comprise the main course – or any other – of my meals).

  92. twas brillig (stevem) says

    For engineers the question of what if you go to hell has no terror. A standard brain teaser for thermodynamics is …

    Followed by the literature ‘gotcha’, discounting the “When Hell freezes over” phrase, noting Dante’s Inferno, where the very center of Hell is solid ice (at absolute zero). And the other thermo demonstration that Heaven is actually much hotter than ‘the other place’ (i.e. Hell). It is so much fun to concoct hypotheticals based on fiction stories about imaginary places.

  93. John Horstman says

    So, 10 isn’t even true. We here at Pharyngula, for example, constitute a human society without religion. In fact, we may well be a larger society than, say, that of the Yap Islands (population around 11,000 – what’s the site traffic here?). It’s an attempt to claim that religion is a human universal even in the face of someone who isn’t religious.

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