Matthew

Ask an Atheist!

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I've been thinking about making this thread for a while, now, and just decided to go for it. It may or may not go anywhere, but what the heck.

 

This thread is for people of all faiths, religions, belief systems, etc. to ask questions of those here who identify as atheists (as in, those who do not believe in any supernatural deities). Anything goes (It could even be WTM-related), so ask away! 

 

I should say, though, that since "atheism" isn't a belief system or worldview with any dogma or creed, don't expect to see answers like, "atheists believe this..." or "within atheism, we believe that...". But not believing in a god like most of the world seems to cause some interesting viewpoints sometimes.

 

 

---

 

 

This thread isn't about me, so any of you other atheists (and you waffly agnostics too, if you don't believe in any gods) can feel free to jump in if you like, even if it's to argue with another atheist.

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Okay, forgive me: I must get all the silly questions out of my system first.

 

1) What's it like to not know that God exists?

 

2) What's it like knowing you'll burn in hell for all eternity because you haven't given your life to Jesus Christ?

 

3) What's the difference between Satanism and Atheism?

 

4) Do you believe in Science or God?

 

5) If you don't believe God will send down his wrath in the form of a lightning bolt if you have sex, why wouldn't you do it? Sex is the bomb!

 

PHEW! Now the serious question: actually, a more proper phrasing of (5).

In the absence of a religious background or personal concern with religion, where does the idea of waiting come from?

 

The value of waiting need not be sustained by arguing "Because the [religious text] says so!", but typically, we can expect the knowledge of such an option to at least be born from religion. So when you're an atheist, how do you know waiting is the right thing? How did you learn about it as a concept?

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I've thought about making this topic a bunch of times, but always hesitated because: 

 

I should say, though, that since "atheism" isn't a belief system or worldview with any dogma or creed, don't expect to see answers like, "atheists believe this..." or "within atheism, we believe that..."

 

So I guess that means I ought to chime in to provide another atheist voice!  :D

 

2) What's it like knowing you'll burn in hell for all eternity because you haven't given your life to Jesus Christ?

 

Party_Time_In_Hell.png

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Party_Time_In_Hell.png

 

As a "waffly agnostic"  ;) this reminded me of the "spooky Mormon hell dream" from The Book of Mormon musical:

tumblr_mzo0wbGiJ81qc4cf5o1_400.gif

 

Gotta love the Starbucks coffee cup toppling over!  :lol:

 

Also, this:

tumblr_static_tumblr_static__640.gif

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Warning, this is really long, pretty convoluted, and still probably doesn't say everything I'd like to say. Skip to the last paragraph for the tl;dr.  :D

 

In the absence of a religious background or personal concern with religion, where does the idea of waiting come from?

 

The value of waiting need not be sustained by arguing "Because the [religious text] says so!", but typically, we can expect the knowledge of such an option to at least be born from religion. So when you're an atheist, how do you know waiting is the right thing? How did you learn about it as a concept?

 

I don't believe that waiting is "the right thing" in the sense that I don't think people are doing something immoral if they choose not to wait. Rather, I think it is a personal choice that I think people should feel free to make without ridicule, and I think that waiting at least a little longer than the "three date rule," and refraining from one-night-stands, has the potential to do a lot of societal good.

 

Since I grew up in the Bible Belt, even though my family was not religious, I grew up surrounded by religion. So, of course, I was aware of the idea of WTM due to religion. But for me, at least, the idea of seriously waiting came from...romance novels/movies. ^^; Like most preteen girls, I got quite into them for a few years. I don't know if you're familiar with this or not, but the most common relationship trope in that kind of media is a virginal "good girl" paired up with a sexually experienced "bad boy." As a girl who was raised by a feminist mother, the double-standard was obvious to me, and bothered me from a simple equality perspective (why was the girl bad if she slept around, but it it was a guy it was sexy?).

 

I know many feminists who noticed this same pattern, but they chose to imitate the bad boy hero and promoted sleeping around as the most "feminist choice," rather than expecting guys to change their behavior to be more similar to the archetypal romance heroine. So perhaps the more important question is, why was my reaction so different?

 

I must admit, at first my commitment to waiting started with a simple...feeling of disgust at imagining how I might feel knowing that I'd be sharing something so special and intimate with my partner, and they...had had that experience with many other people. By the time I was 12 or so, I just knew that I could never have my first time with a non-virgin. The very idea of it would send me into an anxious tizzy. By contrast, if I read a romance that featured a couple having their first time together...that felt so incredibly right to me, on a gut-instinct level. This feeling of mine was actually never seriously challenged until -- a bit ironically -- I came upon this site and met some of the lovely non-virgin people here.  :)

 

As well, I was always taught that sex was the ultimate expression of love, and this intuitively made sense to me. And, if it was the ultimate expression of love, shouldn't it be saved for the love of my life, and no one else? Also, as a hypochondriac, I always was well aware that heterosexual intercourse = babies, and so if I were to end up with a guy, I ought to wait until I was comfortable with the idea of them being in my life forever until I did anything with them that had even the slightest possibility of leading to a child.

 

As many of you know, I've had a boyfriend for the past 6 years, and he's the first person I've ever dated, etc. Well, I can say that the idea of sleeping with him didn't even appeal to me until I was sure I was going to be with him forever; after we started discussing marriage, it was almost like a lightswitch had been flipped on.  :lol: So I guess the tl;dr of my incredibly long response is, waiting suits me from an intellectual, emotional, and simple "gut-instinct" perspective! I'm thankful every single day that my boyfriend and I found each other at such a young age, and have been able to build so many lovely memories of our mutual "firsts" together.

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Okay, forgive me: I must get all the silly questions out of my system first.

 

1) What's it like to not know that God exists?

 

2) What's it like knowing you'll burn in hell for all eternity because you haven't given your life to Jesus Christ?

 

3) What's the difference between Satanism and Atheism?

 

4) Do you believe in Science or God?

 

5) If you don't believe God will send down his wrath in the form of a lightning bolt if you have sex, why wouldn't you do it? Sex is the bomb!

 

PHEW! Now the serious question: actually, a more proper phrasing of (5).

In the absence of a religious background or personal concern with religion, where does the idea of waiting come from?

 

The value of waiting need not be sustained by arguing "Because the [religious text] says so!", but typically, we can expect the knowledge of such an option to at least be born from religion. So when you're an atheist, how do you know waiting is the right thing? How did you learn about it as a concept?

 

Well I actually have serious answers to some of your questions...

 

1)  I would word it more like, "I don't believe in any gods" to describe my atheism, but when talking about the Christian god that I used to believe in, I would probably say "I don't think that God exists." So, I'm a little past the doubting phase that lasted several years. Anyways, it feels pretty normal to me now. The weirdest feeling it causes is the feeling of disconnect with my younger self who believed. Also, I haven't prayed in like 5 years, but occasionally I have the feeling of having someone in my head like I used to when I thought I was talking to God or I thought God was watching me. I'm pretty confident that it's just an extension of my own consciousness (and has always been), but it's still a pretty weird feeling.

 

2) Well it was scary for a couple years while I was in my "I can't have faith anymore but it still might all be true" phase, and even after that phase was over, but I'm happy to say my last little panic attack about the chance of burning for eternity in unimaginable agony was several months ago, before I had an epiphany and realized it's just not going to happen. It's a ridiculous concept. 

 

3) Satanists don't eat babies, because apparently they buy that "all life is sacred" crap. Also, they don't actually worship Satan, like any good atheist does. It's confusing, I know.

 

4) In this moment, I am euphoric. Not because of any phony god’s blessing. But because, I am enlightened by my intelligence.

(reference for the unfamiliar)

 

5) Well, I can't actually answer without the influence of a religious background, because I have a heavy religious background and I think it very likely influenced my disposition towards sex, waiting, and marriage. But, I think the simple answer is that it's just what feels right to me. I mean, sometimes I doubt the marriage part (because so many fail, even after half a lifetime together), but I think I just have an ingrained affinity towards delaying physical intimacy until I'm really comfortable with someone and trust that we're going to last a while, and that makes waiting make sense. The hard part is that like most men I'm attracted to a huge variety of women, which conflicts with my romantic/emotional desire to find a "soultmate" and for her to be my only lover. So I do sometimes wonder if I'm kidding myself and it won't be worth it, but for now, my affinity towards delaying sex matches up with my desire to have a family with the woman I love and for us to each other's first partner, so, I'll keep waiting.

 

Edit: to elaborate on 5 because I don't think I answered your sub-questions fully...

 

I grew up getting it drilled into my head that having sex before marriage is one of the worst sins you can commit. My oldest brother had a kid out of wedlock, and he had to go in front of the church and tell the church what had happened and that he'd asked God for forgiveness and then ask them for forgiveness. So that, combined with a crippling shyness around girls, made waiting the only choice for me.

 

It wasn't until after my first and only serious relationship had been over for a while and I'd accepted that I wasn't a believer that I realized I was free to decide my own moral system and, consequently, my boundaries in relationships. Thoughts of the girl I liked at the time and what that might mean for the very near future quickly filled my mind... But, I thought about it more and more, and around that time I found this site, and waiting just made sense to me, even without the religious framework (though like I said, it probably had a profound, lasting influence on my disposition and affinity towards waiting). In a way, I'm not sure waiting is a choice for me. Sure, I have to decide not to go out and seek sex partners, or have sex when I'm in a relationship and it's super easy to, but it's barely a decision; I just don't. Part of me believes that if I find the right woman, I'd regret having not waited for her to be my first.

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As a "waffly agnostic"  ;) this reminded me of the "spooky Mormon hell dream" from The Book of Mormon musical

 

I'm not gonna lie, I was totally listening to that song while typing up that post! It's one of the most played song in my iTunes library....

 

If anyone's curious:

 

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As a "waffly agnostic"  ;) this reminded me of the "spooky Mormon hell dream" from The Book of Mormon musical:

 

I don't know why I haven't seen The Book of Mormon yet.

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The weirdest feeling it causes is the feeling of disconnect with my younger self who believed. Also, I haven't prayed in like 5 years, but occasionally I have the feeling of having someone in my head like I used to when I thought I was talking to God or I thought God was watching me. I'm pretty confident that it's just an extension of my own consciousness (and has always been), but it's still a pretty weird feeling.

 

As a life-long atheist this is totally fascinating to me.

 

 

I don't know why I haven't seen The Book of Mormon yet.

 

You definitely should!  :D

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I don't know why I haven't seen The Book of Mormon yet.

 

It's amazing, and surprisingly relevant to the discussion at hand.

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...But not believing in a god like most of the world seems to cause some interesting viewpoints sometimes.

 

Let me just take advantage of this thread, since this case of viewpoints is a nice opportunity! :)

 

Its a bit of a read, but I'd love some atheist viewpoints of this http://philosophyotb.com/w/why-atheism-is-illogical-part-one-atheism-is-a-belief-and-a-truth-claim

 

(Don't worry, as stated in the beginning of that site, "It does NOT assert that God exists or attempt to persuade the reader to accept any religious faith or any claim made by any religion." )

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Let me just take advantage of this thread, since this case of viewpoints is a nice opportunity! :)

 

Its a bit of a read, but I'd love some atheist viewpoints of this http://philosophyotb.com/w/why-atheism-is-illogical-part-one-atheism-is-a-belief-and-a-truth-claim

 

(Don't worry, as stated in the beginning of that site, "It does NOT assert that God exists or attempt to persuade the reader to accept any religious faith or any claim made by any religion." )

 

I read the first few paragraphs and I feel like he's setting up a strawman to knock down. Most atheists do not believe that it can be proven that God does not exist; in fact, most atheists see it as the job of theists to prove positively that God exists. We simply see a total absence of evidence to support their position, therefore, we must assume that God does not exist until better evidence comes along.

 

I scanned the rest of it and saw that he tries to knock down this stance, but honestly, that's ridiculous. We take on this attitude all the time surrounding other things in our lives. For example, when I drop my pen, I believe that it will fall to the ground every single time. When I tell people this, no one goes "Whoa whoa whoa Steadfast, don't be so steadfast in your belief! Always be open to the possibility that it could fly up into the sky or you're being close-minded!!!" Nope, I'm gonna keep on believing it will fall to the ground, until convincing evidence of levitating pens pushes me to change me position. No one has ever taken issue with this. Yet the do, for some reason, take issue with my atheism, even though it is founded on precisely the same logical process.

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Let me just take advantage of this thread, since this case of viewpoints is a nice opportunity! :)

 

Its a bit of a read, but I'd love some atheist viewpoints of this http://philosophyotb.com/w/why-atheism-is-illogical-part-one-atheism-is-a-belief-and-a-truth-claim

 

(Don't worry, as stated in the beginning of that site, "It does NOT assert that God exists or attempt to persuade the reader to accept any religious faith or any claim made by any religion." )

 

I might have to read through it a couple more times (I read all four parts) to fully understand everything he's saying (I'm no philosopher), but it seems like he is arguing against the strong atheist stance that claims that there is no god and saying that the atheists who avoid making such a claim are incorrectly using the term atheism or just lying to avoid criticisms of their beliefs. Well, the vast majority of atheists I've seen are "weak" atheists or "agnostic atheists" and claim only that they do not believe in any god, but do not know there is no god. So the author would probably say that we should not call ourselves atheists and stop criticizing religious belief.

 

But I don't really see the problem with the common usage of the word atheist to mean "lack of belief in a god." He says over and over again that since the "God exists" claim is an existential one, that either it is true or not true, and if "God exists" is false then "God does not exist" is true. He then says that if an atheist wants to refuse to accept or disbelieves in the "God exists" claim, they are actively accepting that "God does not exist" is true and believe that it is so. I just don't see the problem with not accepting the "God exists" claim and calling that atheism.

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Well, the vast majority of atheists I've seen are "weak" atheists or "agnostic atheists" and claim only that they do not believe in any god, but do not know there is no god.

 

That's what theism and atheism are all about, in my opinion - belief. Nobody is 100% sure that God(s) exist. Likewise, nobody is 100% sure that God(s) don't exist. The reason I believe is that I've weighed the evidence, science, personal experiences, etc and decided that it is in favour of the Gods' existence, but there is still the possibility, however small I feel it may be, that I might be wrong. As far as I know, for atheists, it's the same - you believe that there is no God, you may even be 99.9% sure of it, but there is always the possibility that there might be. Whether or not you believe, you're still going to have to make that leap of faith (ha ha, bad pun) that your position is the right one.

 

Basically, saying that an atheist should not call themselves an atheist because they believe but don't know God(s) exist is like saying that a religious person should not call themselves religious because they doubt their faith sometimes. Everyone doubts their faith from time to time. What matters is what we think, feel and believe to be right - not what we know. Because really, what do we know? About the universe? About God or Gods, even if we believe? We're so insignificant and imperfect in the overall scheme of things that knowing all the answers is impossible. Expecting people - even atheists - to have them is ridiculous.

 

Okay, back to the topic :P Now that I'm here, may as well ask a question:

 

A lot of people turn to faith in their darkest times. In those moments, do you ever regret not believing? How do you cope when there's no-one to talk to or to help? I don't expect any real-life experiences as those can be very personal (though if you feel comfortable sharing, feel free to do so) but I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

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That's what theism and atheism are all about, in my opinion - belief. Nobody is 100% sure that God(s) exist. Likewise, nobody is 100% sure that God(s) don't exist. The reason I believe is that I've weighed the evidence, science, personal experiences, etc and decided that it is in favour of the Gods' existence, but there is still the possibility, however small I feel it may be, that I might be wrong. As far as I know, for atheists, it's the same - you believe that there is no God, you may even be 99.9% sure of it, but there is always the possibility that there might be. Whether or not you believe, you're still going to have to make that leap of faith (ha ha, bad pun) that your position is the right one.

 

Basically, saying that an atheist should not call themselves an atheist because they believe but don't know God(s) exist is like saying that a religious person should not call themselves religious because they doubt their faith sometimes. Everyone doubts their faith from time to time. What matters is what we think, feel and believe to be right - not what we know. Because really, what do we know? About the universe? About God or Gods, even if we believe? We're so insignificant and imperfect in the overall scheme of things that knowing all the answers is impossible. Expecting people - even atheists - to have them is ridiculous.

 

 

I think you actually agree with the author. He is saying atheists believe that no gods exist and that that position is illogical. He sees atheism as no more logical than theism, and argues that since atheism (in the sense that he is using it: positive belief in the nonexistence of deities) isn't based around evidence like personal experience that most theists claim to have, it's actually less logical. What I'm saying is that I don't see atheism as the opposite of theism in the sense that theism is a belief that a god or gods exist and atheism is a belief that they do not exist, but that atheism is simply rejecting all claims of supernatural deities encountered so far as not being backed by enough evidence to warrant belief. I think that is the view that most atheists I've seen have. The author is saying such people are not really atheists and should stop using the term. So yeah, his entire paper is calling a certain type of atheistic stance, that I don't think is very common at all, is illogical.

 

All that isn't to say an atheist (my definition) is not allowed to believe there are no gods, just that if one does, he/she has can't go around claiming that belief to be provable. But I think the bone the author is picking is with atheists that believe they are justified in saying there is no god and then acting like that claim is more logical than any theist's claim about a god's existence. 

 

Okay, back to the topic :P Now that I'm here, may as well ask a question:

 

A lot of people turn to faith in their darkest times. In those moments, do you ever regret not believing? How do you cope when there's no-one to talk to or to help? I don't expect any real-life experiences as those can be very personal (though if you feel comfortable sharing, feel free to do so) but I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

 

That's a hard question to answer, since I don't think I've had any super dark times in my life besides the existential dilemmas that everyone faces. It could be argued that I'm at my low point right now, and sometimes I wonder if I'd never started doubting if I might have a more clear path in life, but I wouldn't say that causes me to regret not believing or the series of circumstances that led to me not believing. My unbelief has started to cause issues with family, and those can be tough, but still, I'm happy with what I believe/don't believe right now overall. As far as how I cope, I think that acknowledging that as far as I know, life will be over one day and that will be it helps me shrug off some of the bad stuff and appreciate the little things in life. Believing that I might be wrong about being saved and might spend eternity in hell or thinking about the vast number of people in the world, young and old, that would inevitably go to hell was actually pretty stressful in growing up. lol

 

Not sure if that really answers your question..

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A lot of people turn to faith in their darkest times. In those moments, do you ever regret not believing? How do you cope when there's no-one to talk to or to help? I don't expect any real-life experiences as those can be very personal (though if you feel comfortable sharing, feel free to do so) but I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

 

I actually feel pretty lucky that I have no belief in those moments. For example, a few months ago I had an incredible string of really bad luck. I fell down the stairs and broke my ankle, leaving me totally unable to walk for three weeks, and unable to walk without a walking boot for another six. The day after I fell, the cat I'd had since I was in kindergarten was killed by my neighbor's dog. I then developed a 104 degree fever that did not go away for a week, and I had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic they gave me for the fever that sent me back to the ER and caused me to have hives for an entire week and a half afterwards. Because of all of this, I came incredibly close to failing the last semester of my senior year of college, which would have made it impossible for me to graduate on time right as I was approaching the finish line.

 

My lack of belief meant that I could look at all of these events and realize that I didn't do anything to deserve it; it's simply part of the random patterns of life. My atheism also meant that I didn't have to try to make these cruel events square with the idea that there is an all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful deity out there who could have stepped in to stop it, but for some reason or another refused to. Like Matt said, sometimes I wonder if I might feel like I had a clearer path in life if I felt like I had some divine plan to follow, but I can't believe it'd be worth the trade-off.

 

As for how I do cope...well, I guess I just think that if there is no one to help, and then only person I can rely on is myself, then I simply have to step up and do it. There is no other option, except to lie down and accept defeat. And I have never been a graceful loser.  :D I can also try to imagine what my "ideal" vision of me would do in the given circumstance I'm facing, and do my best to "fake it 'till I make it." I'm lucky in the sense that I've always had emotional support; my mother and boyfriend have always been my stalwart supporters, even if they couldn't always help me physically when I was away for college.

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What's an atheist's favorite pizza topping?

 

I can definitely speak for all atheists when I say pepperoni and bell peppers are where it's at.  :P

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As an atheist how would you explain the desire for romance?

I'll leave the explaining to psychologists and neuroscientists. But I can say it doesn't feel any different now that I don't believe.

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Is there any belief about what happens after death? Or what the purpose of living for yourself fulfills?

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I can definitely speak for all atheists when I say pepperoni and bell peppers are where it's at. :P

Nah, bell peppers are a total euphoria-kill. Simple meat and extra cheese is the way to live the pure godless life.

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Is there any belief about what happens after death? Or what the purpose of living for yourself fulfills?

I don't have any belief about an afterlife. My opinion about what is likely is that consciousness is a property of the structure and activity of my brain and as soon as my brain dies my consciousness ceases and my body begins the natural recycling process of decomposition.

As for purpose, I don't think not believing in a god automatically means one is only living for oneself. There are plenty of things and people and creatures to live for. I don't believe there is any ultimate purpose. That means everyone is free to make their own purpose...or to not. It's not that hard to find purpose, since depending on what one values there are tons of things that need doing. I think the hard part is always feeling a sense of purpose, not necessarily finding a purpose.

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As an atheist how would you explain the desire for romance?

 

I'm not a biologist, a psychologist, or any other kind of "ist," so my thoughts on the matter are mostly a cobbled-together understanding of science I've heard. My basic theory is that humans, unlike, say, tigers, are not really suited for surviving on their own. We don't have big teeth, claws, or exceptional strength and speed. So we rely on grouping together and pooling our resources to survive. Love, in all its forms, serves to tightly bond the group together and make us all very invested in each other's survival. And humans in particular give birth to very underdeveloped young (compare to say, baby horses, that are able to stand and run almost immediately after they're born). Romantic love, then, serves to keep the child's parents together, which will better ensure the survival of the entire family.

 

Is there any belief about what happens after death? Or what the purpose of living for yourself fulfills?

 

I think that my "after life" will be exactly like my "before life." In essence: nothing. This doesn't bother me much, because I wasn't exactly unhappy during my before-life of non-existence, so why would I worry about my after-life of non-existence?

 

I don't think there is any inherent purpose to life; it is up to the individual to decide what meaning they want their existence to have.

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