Matthew

Ask an Atheist!

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Finally back at a computer. I'll try to catch up one at a time... Thanks for all the questions!

 

 

All I can do is speculate about the kind of thing I would find convincing, but the short answer would be, "I don't know." That's not really up to me, though. All I can do is live life and try to be observant and honest about reality and my beliefs regarding it. 

 

That brings up an interesting thought, though. Even if it were proven to everyone's satisfaction that we have a creator or creators, what would set him/her/it/them apart as "supernatural"? It seems to me that no matter the properties of the "god" we discovered, all it would do is expand our understanding of the natural world, because as far as I know the natural world is all that there is. What is "supernatural"? So if a god or gods or creator race or whatever were discovered to be real, I might discard the label "atheist" but I still wouldn't see the being or beings in the same way I used to see "God" when I was a believer, and I wouldn't just fall down on my knees and pledge myself to it/them or anything.

 

 

Actually I think that's a very good answer.

"I don't know."

 

I wish more people who were atheists would say that definitively. It's a phrase I use quite often.

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Two questions for the atheists from a deist.

 

Do you believe in free will or determinism? The implications of determinism are big for what it means to be a human being. It is a depression idea that everything we think or do would be determined by brain chemistry or other laws of nature. If you do not believe in free will, how do you deal with these implications? Or if you believe in free will, how does that fit in your world view.

 

Evolution theory has provided a lot of explanations for human experience. Do these explanations play a big role in daily life in how you view yourself and others and what they do? Do you feel these explanations debase things like love (that it is just selfish genes trying to replicate), or are you not bothered by it at all.

 

 

As a Spiritual Atheist I believe it's mixed of free will and determinism. While we make our own path via our choices at the same time we can't go against the will of the Universe.

 

I'll give you this:

 

 

 

5. Lack of Control

Paradoxically, the more control one gains over one’s life, the more one realizes the less control one has over events. True spirituality with the universe recognizes that randomness plays a large part in our day to day lives.

 

Being spiritual means not fighting these changes that cannot be fought, such as a relative dying in a freak accident, losing one’s job because of the economy, having your face ripped off by an angry chimp.

 

Change is the only constant in life, and it is embedded in the laws of physics. To be a part of change is to be a part of the world, being changed is existing. Struggling against change is struggling against the will of the universe. 

 

Source: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ben-atwood/2012/04/5-ways-atheism-can-be-spiritual/

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Do you believe in free will or determinism? The implications of determinism are big for what it means to be a human being. It is a depression idea that everything we think or do would be determined by brain chemistry or other laws of nature. If you do not believe in free will, how do you deal with these implications? Or if you believe in free will, how does that fit in your world view.

 

I'll admit, sometimes determinism makes way too much sense to me. But then I think...if everything is already determined, then what does it matter if I believe I have free will? If everything is already set, then in fact, it would would make no difference: it would actually be my fate to believe in free will. So I'll go ahead and keep enjoying my illusion of choice, if it is an illusion.  :D

 

Evolution theory has provided a lot of explanations for human experience. Do these explanations play a big role in daily life in how you view yourself and others and what they do? Do you feel these explanations debase things like love (that it is just selfish genes trying to replicate), or are you not bothered by it at all.

 

Sometimes I nerd out at how simultaneously elegant and messy evolution is (check out Your Inner Fish on Netflix), but other than that it doesn't have much of an effect on my life. Evolution is a natural process, that's all. Who cares how love got here, so long as we can enjoy the fact that it does exist and it's wonderful?

 

I will also say that I think love is probably the thing that has been most beneficial to our survival and development as humans, perhaps even before our intelligence, and I think that's pretty awesome.  ^_^

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What are some of the things you hate the most about religion?

 

Hate is a word that I don't like to use very often.

 

However, I can tell you one of the things that bothers me the most about some religions. Religion seems to induce in people a willingness to disregard established science if it conflicts with their religious text. To me, that conflict would be a clear reason to doubt the text, not the science. Instead, people chose to believe the text, then try with all their might to make the science fit (I'm looking at you, Answers in Genesis). Based on your "Literal Days of Creation" thread, I can see this issue frustrates you as well. It doesn't bother me so much when I'm making casual conversation with people, but...

 

what makes me really angry is when people try to influence public policy and what will be taught in schools on the basis of their unscientific beliefs. Check out a documentary on Netflix called The Revisionaries to see how the Texas school board's highly religious members affected the way science and history are taught to kids across the state in a very real way. The chairman of the board literally said, "Someone has to stand up to these experts!" when talking about how to plan the science curriculum. 

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Hate is a word that I don't like to use very often.

 

However, I can tell you one of the things that bothers me the most about some religions. Religion seems to induce in people a willingness to disregard established science if it conflicts with their religious text. To me, that conflict would be a clear reason to doubt the text, not the science. Instead, people chose to believe the text, then try with all their might to make the science fit (I'm looking at you, Answers in Genesis). Based on your "Literal Days of Creation" thread, I can see this issue frustrates you as well. It doesn't bother me so much when I'm making casual conversation with people, but...

 

what makes me really angry is when people try to influence public policy and what will be taught in schools on the basis of their unscientific beliefs. Check out a documentary on Netflix called The Revisionaries to see how the Texas school board's highly religious members affected the way science and history are taught to kids across the state in a very real way. The chairman of the board literally said, "Someone has to stand up to these experts!" when talking about how to plan the science curriculum. 

 

BINGO.  Thank you so much for this response.  Upon talking to many people "across the aisle," many other people say these things to the letter, too.

 

Do you think that people who claim to believe in God might actually be confusing TEXT with God, also ???

 

Forgive me with a follow-up question in the next paragraph after a little background from this one.  I find people "trying with all their might" to make the text of the bible fit with science instead of admitting its flaws often draw countless amounts of text from non-vetted sources without peer-review outside of the bible.  I find that this argument completely misses the fact that for all the text that must supplement the bible, people still maintain that the bible is all the text they need to understand God (with yet more writing elsewhere).  The contradiction is not only unnoticed, but staggering to me.  I wonder why they just don't do that with peer-reviewed writings...

 

Do you think people who are religiously worshipping mere text are doing it "just in case" there is a "hell" that they are in danger of being thrown?  Why don't they acknowledge that a hypothetical risk of hell might have a flip-side of the coin by how many political arenas have been corrupted by religion and arcane text?

 

Thoughts from "across the aisle?"

 

Btw, these discussions are more "real" to me than the religious ones.  At least people are thinking instead of exhausting preconceived notions.  Thanks for answering, everyone...

 

=)

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Two questions for the atheists from a deist.

 

Do you believe in free will or determinism? The implications of determinism are big for what it means to be a human being. It is a depression idea that everything we think or do would be determined by brain chemistry or other laws of nature. If you do not believe in free will, how do you deal with these implications? Or if you believe in free will, how does that fit in your world view.

 

Evolution theory has provided a lot of explanations for human experience. Do these explanations play a big role in daily life in how you view yourself and others and what they do? Do you feel these explanations debase things like love (that it is just selfish genes trying to replicate), or are you not bothered by it at all.

 

 

I haven't really studied free will vs. determinism enough to have a strong opinion about it, but from what I've heard and read so far about determinism it seems viable to me. It's one of those subjects that interest me enough that I want to investigate further but not enough that I set aside time to do it :D I don't think it should affect how we live though. I mean, it wouldn't mean we aren't accountable to our actions. I think there would be pros and cons to society if determinism were proven and accepted to be true by the majority of people (for example, I think one good outcome would be better treatment of criminals and shifting the focus more to rehabilitation than punishment). While the idea is kind of depressing on the surface, I think that, even if determinism is the mechanism behind our choices, the illusion of free will is so powerful that recognizing that our choices might be made before we realize it need not affect our lives too much. At least not until we learn a lot more about how it works.

 

As for evolution, I would agree with Steadfast that it doesn't really affect my daily life. I've really enjoyed finally learning more about it this past year or so, and I definitely see certain aspects of life differently, but not in regard how I treat people or anything. I also would say it doesn't make me all depressed about love or anything. Even if love is ultimately just a feeling and not some divinely ordained connection with the person we were fated to be with, it is still a powerful force that can bring a lot of good to our lives. if we want it to.

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Why are atheists so interested in public policy?

 

Uh, because we have to live in this country too?

 

Is it a way to spread their atheism?

 

If religious people are trying to insert creationism into the public school science curriculum, that is them trying to use public policy to push their religion on me. I just want science class to stay...well, science class.

 

(I should probably acknowledge at this point that this isn't an issue with all religious people; I know plenty of religious people who accept the big bang, evolution, etc. And I know religious people who do not accept these theories, but who acknowledge that their kids are gonna have to learn their religion's explanation for the origin of life and the universe in Sunday school, not in public school. Neither of these people are who my posts are aimed at.)

 

Do you think that people who claim to believe in God might actually be confusing TEXT with God, also ???

 

Do you think people who are religiously worshipping mere text are doing it "just in case" there is a "hell" that they are in danger of being thrown?  Why don't they acknowledge that a hypothetical risk of hell might have a flip-side of the coin by how many political arenas have been corrupted by religion and arcane text?

 

Since I don't believe in God at all, I don't feel that I can really hypothesize about why people who believe do so.

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(I should probably acknowledge at this point that this isn't an issue with all religious people; I know plenty of religious people who accept the big bang, evolution, etc. And I know religious people who do not accept these theories, but who acknowledge that their kids are gonna have to learn their religion's explanation for the origin of life and the universe in Sunday school, not in public school. Neither of these people are who my posts are aimed at.)

 

 

Since I don't believe in God at all, I don't feel that I can really hypothesize about why people who believe do so.

Personally as a religious person I don't believe education in how we came to be should be mandatory.

Whether we teach creation or evolution (as in the history of it and time periods of billions of years, abiogenesis which is required to believe in a atheistic/agnostic evolution, and not the changes of species over time which I do believe is happening) in public schools to me is irrelevant because in both cases it's a bunch of people saying they established something to be true based on "findings" over "experimental hypothesis." Kind of why I think history isn't a science but just an observation of human behavior that we make guesses about, but not all of it is "factual."

 

But why do you want to force people to learn about evolutionary "theory"?

It's irrelevant to how we handle things today. In fact I'd say most of the subjects taught in public schools are NOT helping the situation in the world get any better (again this is opinion based on what I've seen in my lifetime, so it's pretty subjective).

 

I don't believe creationism should be taught in public schools, but I also don't believe evolutionary history has a place either. If it's the changes of species over time, that is provable and observable and it does happen and we have examples, but just because you see some examples doesn't mean everything happened a specific way because a bunch of peers got together and said we all "believe this in the scientific community therefore let's vote on it becoming a fact."

 

That to me is like organized religion.

 

EDIT: Sorry. I'm veering off topic. Since I wrote it and already posted it I'll leave it up.  Should probably bring this to a different topic though. I'll PM you.

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Ringer: I don't think most atheists think so. I think only a few do.

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Do most atheists find anything wrong with pornography?

 

I think it's pretty much impossible to generalize what "most atheists" think about it, because I think atheism isn't really gonna influence their opinions on it one way or another. After all, plenty of religious people can see reasons to be OK/not-OK with porn aside from whether or not they think their deity is OK with it. Atheists will see those same pros/cons and come to their individual conclusions about it. I know atheists who have no issue with it, atheists who think that it could theoretically be OK but the industry as it is now is too full of abuse and objectification of women to make consuming porn a morally valid choice, and atheists who think that it can never be OK if the would-be consumer is in a relationship because it's a form of cheating on one's partner.

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Interesting answers on Pornography.

So as an atheist, do you believe cheating to be wrong? And why is it wrong (if you do believe it's morally wrong)?

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So as an atheist, do you believe cheating to be wrong? And why is it wrong (if you do believe it's morally wrong)?

 

I would say it's pretty clearly wrong, yeah. You're violating your promise to your spouse, you're going to cause them a great deal of pain, and if you have kids, you're risking breaking up the family and causing them a ton of pain and loss of security as well. I think it's one of the most vile things you can do to a person. Pretty hard to make a case for it being a good thing....

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I would say it's pretty clearly wrong, yeah. You're violating your promise to your spouse, you're going to cause them a great deal of pain, and if you have kids, you're risking breaking up the family and causing them a ton of pain and loss of security as well. I think it's one of the most vile things you can do to a person. Pretty hard to make a case for it being a good thing....

What about the argument that as a species your ultimate goal is justified in spreading your seed? Or say you no longer loved your spouse and fell in love with someone else.

 

Or is divorcing someone because of that okay but cheating is therefore immoral?

 

Sorry if it sounds like a stupid question.

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Do most atheists find anything wrong with pornography?

 

Well it depends on the person. For me I personally consider pornography wrong because it's not the 'real thing.' For me it's just images and two people acting and bringing it out in the real world brings a lot of issues. (Where I came from, a lot of people (religious and non religious alike) find porn disturbing, in fact during my high school years anyone who admits watching porn were told "Stop watching porn." )

 

Interesting answers on Pornography.

So as an atheist, do you believe cheating to be wrong? And why is it wrong (if you do believe it's morally wrong)?

 

 

Well personally I believe it's wrong because for me I feel betrayed and whoever did the cheating no longer loved me. However, it depends on the person. There are atheists who believe in cheating and their are atheist who disagree in cheating.

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What about the argument that as a species your ultimate goal is justified in spreading your seed?

 

I have never met a person who sincerely believes this. (Except, perhaps, people in the religious fundamentalist "quiverfull" movement.)

 

I know people who believe in having open relationships, but I would not classify that as cheating because both partners are fully aware of what is going on and agreed to it beforehand. These people tend to be child-free, as well.

 

Or say you no longer loved your spouse and fell in love with someone else.

 

Or is divorcing someone because of that okay but cheating is therefore immoral?

 

Personally I think that one's first obligation is to try to restore their marriage. But if that fails to work, I believe they should get a divorce before moving on to other relationships.

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Hmmm..

So as an atheist, what would you say the perfect relationship/marriage would be like?

Or is there no perfection and therefore such a question is incomprehensible and only within the hypothetical?

 

Forgive me, I love hypothetical questions :)

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I'm definitely not religious. I'm still trying to find my way. Thanks for answering my questions. I have a few more.

What are your views on the after life?

How do you deal with "God" being all around you? Including in our laws/ politics. I wish America would elect an atheist president, but unfortunately that means actually following the constitution

.

A lot of people well religious people I know of talk about having morals. Or getting rewarded with heaven if you do good. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think people need religion to have morals? Do you think religious people do good deeds because there might be a reward?

How does it feel to not depend on any religion for comfort? That's there's no God to turn to? No God to prevent things or make things happen? That its only you.

What do you wish for our American society to know about atheism? How do you show people who have stereotypes against atheist that they're wrong.

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I'm definitely not religious. I'm still trying to find my way. Thanks for answering my questions. I have a few more.

(1) What are your views on the after life?

(2) How do you deal with "God" being all around you? Including in our laws/ politics. I wish America would elect an atheist president, but unfortunately that means actually following the constitution

.

A lot of people well religious people I know of talk about having morals. Or getting rewarded with heaven if you do good. (3) What are your thoughts on this? Do you think people need religion to have morals? Do you think religious people do good deeds because there might be a reward?

(4) How does it feel to not depend on any religion for comfort? That's there's no God to turn to? No God to prevent things or make things happen? That its only you.

(5) What do you wish for our American society to know about atheism? How do you show people who have stereotypes against atheist that they're wrong.

 

I added a few numbers to your questions to make it clear what I'm responding to.  ^_^

 

1: I don't believe in an afterlife. I expect that life after death will be exactly like life before birth.

 

2: Haha, yeah, I've seen a poll that indicated that being an atheist is one of the least-electable traits you can have...even more so than being gay, or a Muslim. Though, their most recent poll has seen the addition of "socialist" to the list, so now that is the least-electable trait. Sometimes it can get kind of exhausting to feel constantly surrounded by religion (I live in the Bible-belt), since I feel like I have to keep my atheism under wraps to a large extent. But I wouldn't say it angers me, unless, like you said, religion starts to inject itself into politics, or the public schools....

 

3: Considering that I feel like I'm a reasonably upstanding member of society, I definitely don't think religion is needed to be a good person. I think most religious people would ultimately still be decent even if they were not religious, but there are definitely a few people I've met who worry me when they talk about how they could never be good without God....

 

4: Since I've been an atheist all my life, it's really all I've ever known. And I'd say I'm happy and comfortable with that reality as I perceive it. I really can't imagine what it would feel like to think that God exists. I think it would feel overbearing and claustrophobic to me more than anything else.

 

5: Mostly, that atheists aren't inherently bad, less-than, or in any way feel that something is missing in their lives. And honestly, I think the best way to break stereotypes is to interact with people normally, and not let on that you are an atheist for quite some time. I've definitely surprised some people when I reveal the terrible truth.  :lol:

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Or is there no perfection and therefore such a question is incomprehensible and only within the hypothetical?

 

Yup, this, basically.   :P

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I'm definitely not religious. I'm still trying to find my way. Thanks for answering my questions. I have a few more.

(1) What are your views on the after life?

(2) How do you deal with "God" being all around you? Including in our laws/ politics. I wish America would elect an atheist president, but unfortunately that means actually following the constitution

.

A lot of people well religious people I know of talk about having morals. Or getting rewarded with heaven if you do good. (3) What are your thoughts on this? Do you think people need religion to have morals? Do you think religious people do good deeds because there might be a reward?

(4) How does it feel to not depend on any religion for comfort? That's there's no God to turn to? No God to prevent things or make things happen? That its only you.

(5) What do you wish for our American society to know about atheism? How do you show people who have stereotypes against atheist that they're wrong.

Used my admin powers to steal Steadfast's numbered version :D

 

1. Don't believe in one. Sometimes that's scary, sometimes it's comforting. 

 

2. I never had a rebellious stage in my teenage years, so sometimes it's fun to feel rebellious, even with little things like not speaking the "under God" part of the pledge, or not bowing my head or closing my eyes when someone's leading the group in prayer (I'm lame, I know). But there are times when I get annoyed by just how pervasive the Christian belief system is around me. I hate the isolationist attitude that many religious people, including my family, perpetuate ("be in the world but not of the world!) I still struggle sometimes to shake off that perspective. As far as politics go, I do wish politicians didn't have to work so hard to maintain an appearance of being a man or woman of faith in order to get votes. It'd be nice if they left their religious beliefs out of it and just got down to business and solving problems.

 

3. I actually heard a really good approach to the morality issue today while listening to yesterday's Atheist Experience episode. One atheist caller described a conversation he had with a preacher friend of his. The preacher asked him how he can have morality without God, and the caller asked him why he should care about morality at all. The preacher was surprised and began to list all these reasons why it'd be bad for individuals and society if we didn't act morally, how there'd be no way to trust anyone and it'd be chaos. The caller was like, well you just explained exactly why I have morality, and you didn't mention god once.

 

Obviously, I don't think people need religion to have morals. I don't even think most religious people would lose their morals if they lost their religious beliefs (in fact, I think many would improve). As for whether they do good deeds for rewards, in my experience the people that consistently put others ahead of themselves were genuinely selfless people and didn't do it for future rewards. Even the ones that believe in future divine rewards for specific acts on earth.

 

4. Since I never noticed any divine intervention in my life beyond emotional/psychological changes in my own head, not having a god to turn to now really isn't that much different. It was mostly just an invisible shoulder to cry on. Looking back, I always felt out of place in my religious community when people would talk about how close they were with god and would refer to him like he was a real presence in their life. The times I felt the strongest presence and connection to my beliefs was always at summer youth camps where there was an inevitable emotional climax where all us hormonal, angsty teenagers would feed off of each other's emotions and the emotional rhetoric of the various speakers.

 

I guess you could say I spent most of my life trying to believe that it wasn't just me and finally accepting that it was. For the most part it's more comforting not having to worry about pleasing and not offending an all-powerful deity. And as scary as death is to me now, it's honestly less scary now that I don't feel the threat of eternal torment.

 

5. That atheists are just normal people with a different perspective on some things. That not all atheists are angry and bitter and many that are have legitimate reasons for being angry and bitter. That atheists are all individuals with their own perspectives and ideas, so when in doubt, ask them directly before making assumptions about their beliefs. That atheists are human too and just as susceptible to thinking uncritically as anyone else; you can't take every example of an atheist thinking uncritically as being a mark against atheists in general.

 

I keep quiet about my atheism in real life, unfortunately. I'm still trying to figure out for myself how to be open about it without making things awkward or tense with the religious people in my life. After a couple tense discussions with my brother when he confronted me about my spiritual life, things are pretty normal between us but it seems that's only because we don't talk about it anymore.

 

 

3: Considering that I feel like I'm a reasonably upstanding member of society, I definitely don't think religion is needed to be a good person. I think most religious people would ultimately still be decent even if they were not religious, but there are definitely a few people I've met who worry me when they talk about how they could never be good without God....

 

Relevant:

 

 

As funny as I find that video, I honestly think both Comfort and Hovind would be descent people without Christianity, even if they can't conceptualize it. Well, Comfort maybe, I have my doubts about Hovind.

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