Avicenna 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 question, I figured I’d follow suit and provide my responses without having read either Avi’s or the Lady’s. Then, I can look back and see where they jive and where they don’t. It could be interesting! Note, these are not Lady Atheist’s questions, they are (I presume) questions she has been asked and is responding to.
1. Where do you go when you die?
Me? Well, I’m going to devote my body to a cadaver lab. My thinking on this is that an organ donation can save a life, or even a few lives, but being the means to train a surgeon may well save hundreds or thousands of lives, and I can think of no better gift in death than that. But of course, you’re not asking that. You’re making the assumption that death means you have to go somewhere. I don’t believe that. When we die, our bodies die. The “special us” that exists is a part of that body, and it dies too. Ashes to ashes and all that.
2. Aren’t you worried that you might be wrong and you might go to hell?
Not in the least. I’ll freely admit that, while my faith was being tested and found wanting, I had genuine fear about that. It was like the fear I have endeavored to quit smoking, it’s irrational but very real, and it’s the brain’s way of keeping things normal. I beat faith (even if I keep smoking) and I have no fear of being wrong. I view the world the way I do, and I see no reason to believe, which means I see no reason to be fearful. You might as well ask me if I’m afraid that I could be wrong and there really is a monster under my bed.
3. How can you be moral without God?
I’ve blogged about this at great length in the past and have no intention on rehashing all of that. Suffice to say that morals come from being a social animal. I make good decisions (and bad decisions) every day and try to do my best because I desire to be a good person and to not hurt others. This is not a faith-based decision, it is a decision born of my living in a society and wanting to not be undeserving of that society.
4. You’re really just angry with God
Nope. Not even remotely. I’m also not angry at Snuffalupagus. I never had that moment that Lieutenant Dan has in Forest Gump where I yell steadfastly in the face of God. I was never angry at God, but instead found myself angry at myself for having bought in for as long as I did.
5. You’re really just angry at the abuses of the Church
Well, I’m certainly angry about those, but that isn’t why I lost my faith. In truth, I was essentially oblivious of the abuses of the church when I lost my faith. As time has gone by and I have heard about the way that the members of various churches have behaved and continue to push a disgusting agenda, I get angry. But that’s not what keeps me from loving God.
6. The church has been responsible for great works of art
Absolutely true. I didn’t realize that works of art justified lies and genocide? I’m taking up painting!
7. How do you know the Bible isn’t true?
I can’t and I don’t. I know that what I have read in the Bible has been contradictory, often foolish, often what I can only assume is the product of bronze age people who did not understand the world, often historically debunked, and often despicable. Aside from that last one, I simply cannot view the book as an accurate depiction even of life at the time, let alone a legitimate text for spiritual enlightenment. But for all I know, God is a bronze age schizophrenic.
8. Isn’t it arrogant to presume you’re right and all those Christians are wrong?
No, although I can’t help but find it funny that you don’t see how arrogant it is to presume you’re right and all those Atheists are wrong. I don’t see this as arrogance because we do this every day. There are a lot of people who view Caucasian flesh as somehow better than flesh with differing levels of pigmentation. The fact that there are many who hold this view does not make me arrogant when I disagree.
9. You think you know everything, don’t you? (also: You think you have all the answers!)
Not even close. In fact, I think that in the grand scheme, I’m basically an idiot. A lot of what I think I know is likely wrong, and I am constantly confronted with my own mental shortcomings. I’m not a complete idiot, and neither are you, oh faithful person. I don’t even think you’re stupid for believing what you believe, I just think we have a difference of opinion.
10. Science can’t answer everything. What about love?
First off, science can’t answer everything today. I don’t believe there will be a time where science can answer everything, and I think living in a world where there were no questions left would be very empty indeed, but not being able to answer something today isn’t the same as not being able to answer it period. As far as love goes, are you asking me to speculate on what I think love is? or are you asking me to explain why science can’t currently explain love? If it’s the latter, I’m not a scientist and would merely guess that either we can explain it and I just haven’t heard about it yet, or we can’t explain love because we haven’t studied it enough yet. As for what I think it is, I would shoot a guess that love is a complex biochemical scenario driven by the fact that, as a social species, we have a biological need for both security and reproduction. Those biochemical reactions, molded by experience and genetics, drive behaviors and desires that lead us towards people we connect with and give us the warmest feelings we have for them. But again, who the hell am I?
11. How do you explain the human need to believe in God? God made humans different from the animals.
If there was a human need to believe in God, I would believe in God. There is no need, there is, among some people, a strong want to believe. How do I explain that some people really want to believe in God? Well, I don’t. I don’t understand that want, and wouldn’t have a clue how to say why it exists. And yes, we are different from animals, or, more accurately, we are a different animal than all others. This is called speciation. We evolved differently than other types of animals (and vegetables!) to ensure that we were best evolved to survive long enough to reproduce. There is no deeper truth there.
12. What about the miracles of the Bible?
You mean those word-of-mouth miracles documented by bronze age shepherds and the barely literate 2,000 years ago, in a time when everyone believed the most ridiculous crap was possible? Hmm. How would I explain those… Oh yeah, I would say that they were the product of fanciful thinking, word of mouth story perversion, grandiose dreams, the desire to be a part of something more than we are, and wishful thinking. I would explain them the same way I explain the modern miracles where Jesus appears in a grilled cheese sandwich: either they were faked or they were misconstrued.
13. [insert seemingly miraculous prayer story here] How do you explain that?
That would ultimately depend on what [seemingly miraculous prayer story] was. Most often, it is a matter of personal health, but sometimes it’s about finding courage, sometimes it’s about finding calm in the hurricane of real life, and sometimes it’s about any other bloody thing. But let’s use an example, one that I recently saw purported as true by that creepy Pat Robertson. A guy prayed and his leg grew back. How do I explain that? Simple. I call bullshit.
14. Christianity has been around for 2,000 years. How could it survive if it were false?
Monarchy has been around longer, hasn’t it? Does that make it the correct form of human government? The age or popularity of a thing has nothing to do with the accuracy of a thing. And for many of those 2,000 years, if you questioned it, you were tortured and killed. The easiest way for an ideology to survive is to make questioning it a capital offence. Fear keeps people believing.
15. There are millions of Christians. They can’t all be wrong.
Sure they can. There are millions of Hindus, are you saying they can’t be wrong either?
16. Nothing can exist without a creator, so the fact that things exist proves there’s a God.
That’s just an assumption you are making based on your limited experience. That hardly counts as a universal law. Remember, people were absolutely certain that the earth was the center of the universe, but we learned that we were wrong. I don’t believe that the universe needed a creator, and even if it did, that would have nothing to do with whether or not he impregnated a woman so that his son could die for our sins. Logical leap is not logical.
17. You can’t prove that God doesn’t exist.
I can’t. I don’t have to. If you want me to accept this as truth, you need to prove to me that God does.
18. If you’re an atheist doesn’t that mean that you don’t believe in anything?
That depends on how you are using those words. I believe that my next breath won’t be my last. I believe the sun will rise tomorrow. I believe that gravity holds us to the earth. I believe that The Lovely Lady is the most beautiful woman on earth. I don’t believe in the supernatural parent figure who made everything and impotently rages against me for denying her/him despite using the critical thinking faculties of the brain (s)he gave me against a total lack of evidence for her/his existence, ultimately punishing me with torments after my death. But I do believe that steak tastes good.
19. If you don’t believe in God, that means you want to be God
What? So you’re saying I want to be able to invent light? That makes no sense at all. Like, you’re just trying to be dumb when you say that. Seriously, how are the two even remotely tied together. Mormons want to be Gods (if I understand that whole go-to-another-star-and-you’re-a-god-there thing correctly, which I may not), does that mean they don’t believe? Seriously, anyone who actually asks this question or even makes this assumption needs to be removed from the gene pool.
20. You just left the Church because you want to sin
Nope. I was a sinner long before I left the church. The desire to sin worse was not on my horizon at the time. I left because I found it to be wrong. I stay away because I still find it wrong. I’m certainly a sinner by your definitions, but no worse than you or anyone else. I’m not motivated to sin, I’m motivated to live a thoughtful, meaningful life.
21. So then your life has no meaning
You really didn’t listen to that last point, did you? Well, let me explain. I don’t think life has a MEANING, and I capitalize it to imply some greater imperative. Life isn’t MEANINGFUL in the sense of it having a purpose or a reason. I give my life meaning, and it has a whole lot of meaning. My life has meaning because of the things I do and don’t do. My life has meaning because I attempt to realize goals. My life has meaning because I live it with gusto. The meaning is entirely inside me, though.
Y’know, some of those questions were just dog stupid, I gotta say. Now, let’s compare… Hmm. Yeah, I think for the most part we all answered those questions the same way. Must be cult-think.