HERE are six questions asked to an atheist. How will you answer them?

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1. These "big questions" have already been answered.  By SCIENCE. 

2.  Life has no meaning except that which each individual assigns to it at any given moment of his/her existence. 

3.  Theists have caused more suffering, bloodshed, devastation, death, genocide, and countless other atrocities than atheists ever will.

4.  "God" has not solved the problems of evil and suffering thus far and I am certain this will not change in the future. 

5.  Religion is not a prerequisite for a conscience or basic human decency.  On any given day, any one of us will see an example of a theist who behaves in a completely immoral or indecent manner, often using "God" or religion as justification for that behavior.

6.  "Human longings" are explained by the fact that we are human beings with brains, an imagination, emotions, instincts, etc.  If I feel unfulfilled or empty it is because I am not taking care of myself in some way, not giving my body or mind something it needs at that moment.  As for the "hunger for the spiritual," it is always a theist who tells us we are longing for this, period.

I find theists in general to be immature, irresponsible, unaccountable, fearful, insecure, and intellectually lazy.  Same answer for everything --- pray about it.  Not very often do I hear a theist talk about DOING something about it.

Kath,  As you so rightly stated, "2.  Life has no meaning except that which each individual assigns to it at any given moment of his/her existence."

Many years ago I was married to an abusive husband who was very well respected in our community, much loved by my family and his dental patients found him very gentle. He would come home and beat the daylights out of our family. His dental practice partner was abusive to his wife as well. I left first, got an education focusing on psychology, interpersonal relationships, and organizational development. I had a wonderful career and am now retired. His partner's wife left several years after me, she became an alcoholic and was never able to pull herself together. What made the difference between her choices and mine? We both had very young children, we both had only a year of college education when we left, we both had little work history except working while our husbands were in dental school. 

As you so rightly stated, "2.  Life has no meaning except that which each individual assigns to it at any given moment of his/her existence."

I know we are all free thinkers and I am not attempting to convince anyone of you, who is obviously already convinced. But if anyone is having trouble with these questions, I will offer my answers for their review.


1.    If there is no God, “the big questions” remain unanswered, so how do we answer the following questions: Why is there something rather than nothing?

Answer: Read Lawrence Krauss' book, "Something from Nothing" - http://www.amazon.com/Universe-Nothing-There-Something-Rather/dp/14...

Nothing, i.e. empty space, is unstable and gravity shifts polarity constantly. This, at a sub-atomic level, causes energy fluctuations that creates and destroys quantum level matter billions of times a second. Eventually, the nothing becomes something.

Still not convinced? Read The Elegant Universe by Briane Greene. http://www.amazon.com/The-Elegant-Universe-Superstrings-Dimensions/...



2.    If we reject the existence of God, we are left with a crisis of meaning, so why don’t we see more atheists like Jean Paul Sartre, or Friedrich Nietzsche, or Michel Foucault?

Answer: Logical Fallacy, you assume crisis replaces god in his absence. This is not fact, nor can it be posed as question in such way. I am without god, I am not in crisis of meaning. Also, we are seeing more atheists every day.

3.    When people have embraced atheism, the historical results can be horrific, as in the regimes of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot who saw religion as the problem and worked to eradicate it?

Answer: The actions of these men can be only be considered as acts of inhumane cruelty, very similar to the genocidal catholic-raised actions Hitler, the inquisition, the the crusades and more. Atheism does not create monstrosities and murders, tyrants do, as there is no dogma or book telling us to do so. Religions have multiple texts provoking violence.

4.    If there is no God, the problems of evil and suffering are in no way solved, so where is the hope of redemption, or meaning for those who suffer?

Answer: Meaning is a man-made construct used to validate concepts and behaviors. We give meaning to things on our own, and we are not looking for the praise of a father-like man in the sky when we do good. Our meaning is a humanist collective family, who help each other and honor each other's lost out of love of humanity.

5.    If there is no God, we lose the very standard by which we critique religions and religious people, so whose opinion matters most?

Answer: This statement is fallacious as it proposes that religions validate opinions or have influence over "what matters most." Those educated in the matters at hand should have opinions listened to more carefully then those who do not have prior experience. If you need advice on your health, a doctors opinion matters more than a plumbers.

Morality is a word we've created to define the actions of what best advances our survival both culturally and physically. We define that criminal acts are wrong because it is ingrained in our nature, and we have a love of humanity and wish to see it not suffer. The assertion that we require an all-powerful diety to tell us that child molestation is wrong shows a disturbing lack of judgment, character and empathy in the individual promulgating it.

6.    If there is no God, we don’t make sense, so how do we explain human longings and desire for the tr

Do I have to?  I mean there are so many other questions I would rather answer...like...how much money do you want me to GIVE you?  Or would you like a full body massage?  Or would you like to give me a full body massage?  I don't know if there is a real need to ask...unless you want to sell something.  What do you tell a salesperson that you don't want to talk to?  Nothing.  Just walk away.

I would like to pose a succinct counter-question:  why SHOULD life have a meaning at all?

That is, as we go about our daily affairs, of course we get curious about big-picture questions.  But what justifies our conceit in believing that answers are possible, or themselves meaningful?  The incessant search for answers may lead to an impasse, and some people are pleased to call that impasse "god".  Fine.  But if the question is ill-posed, then no wonder that the answer is garbled and self-serving!

Again: maybe life has no meaning whatsoever.  We are bags of chemicals going about our chemical reactions.  We feel pain, sometimes intensely.  We suffer, sometimes intensely.  But that suffering has no meaning.  It neither implies god, nor non-god. 

 I feel sorry for anyone who needs to ask those questions.

1.    If there is no God, “the big questions” remain unanswered, so how do we answer the following questions:
Why is there something rather than nothing?  
== Because. As we are learning, the laws of physics practically demand that the universe be as it is. Forget fine tuning for it does not account for the likelihood that the universe cannot have turned out much different. I posted http://myatheistlife.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/big-splash-not-big-bang/ on my blog about one of many ways that this 'something' may have come to be. That there is no certain answer for why there is something is no more important than why theists believe their deity is eternal. It simply is. We do not need to know where the iron was mined to appreciate driving a sports car, knowing where the universe came from does not make life better somehow. ==

Why is there conscious, intelligent life on this planet, and is there any meaning to this life?  
== There is life because there is. Evolution tells us how it got to be conscious, intelligent, and varied. The arms race of survival practically ensured that one species would become dominant and that dominance requires the ability to out-think it's prey. Why is there life here? We do not yet know but have several ideas. Knowing the exact origin of life would not make life better somehow. This planet is infested with living organic matter from the high atmosphere to the bottom of the ocean and below. The pure volume of that life clearly indicates that life itself is not special, rather it is no more special than igneous rock or asteroids. Asking why there is life is to falsely ascribe intent where no action is implied. If you imagine the accidental forming of RNA and a simple cell wall as one in a billion trillion chance, then 1000 such chances have happened while you were reading this post somewhere in the universe. That we are in one such place is statistically insignificant. Go watch Cosmos! Billions and billions of galaxies with billions of stars and billions of planets. That life happened should neither surprise nor befuddle. We know RNA can form naturally. There is absolutely no reason to suppose that all the rest required the hand of a deity. ==

If there is meaning, what kind of meaning and how is it found?  
== Why should there be meaning? Neuroscience tells us that our brains seek patterns in all we do. Visit the faces in places website to see it in action. Our brains are built for survival and all things must have a cause or meaning as we explore the world around us. The more of it we got to know, the more we seek meaning for it. There is neither meaning nor purpose. Life is, so just be. Pinning the actions of your life and any meaning for it on the answer to a question that is not yet knowable is just eff-ed up. If we all found out tomorrow that life on this planet originated from a lightning strike in a swamp you would still want to celebrate your birthday and still have to pay your rent. The answer is not important. How you live  your life is. Pretending that you know the answer to justify your life is ignoring the facts that are staring you in the face. It is a waste of your time. ==

Does human history lead anywhere, or is it all in vain since death is merely the end?  
== Human history is an echo of evolution. It leads where all else in nature leads - survival and continuance. The aunt of the teacher who knew the baker that sold bread to the councilman who knew young Einstein's second cousin lived and died unsung yet she played a vital role in the survival and continuance of the human species, as we all do. If you need more meaning than that you'll have to make it up on your own. The universe does not expand to give meaning to your life. On the scale of the universe, your life is no more significant than the life of a mayfly. Quit thinking so much of yourself, it's not pretty. ==

How do you come to understand good and evil, right and wrong without a transcendent signifier?
== Ethics and morality are not absolute. They are not derived from anywhere outside our own brains. Morality for each person is a personal and relative thing. It is based on how we perceive the world. Politics would be useless if we all had an shared innate sense of absolute morality. That politics is messy is evidence that the transcendent morality has never existed despite the pretensions of those who claim it does. Good is what doesn't harm me. Evil is an over-hyped version of bad. In reality there is a wide spectrum of states in which one of them is some level of good and one of them is some level of not good. We can even say there are ranges for good and not-good. There are no good and evil fish/trees/worms. Some of each are better in our own view than others, but there is no absolute or transcendent good and evil. ==


If these concepts are merely social constructions, or human opinions, whose opinion does one trust in determining what is good or bad, right or wrong?
== Trust your own opinion, for no matter what that preacher says, you'll still decide what you want to do when it comes time to do it. You'll agree with his words or ignore them when they are not to your liking. Quit asking for a source or definition of good and bad. You will make up your own mind when you see them. ==
 
If you are content within atheism, what circumstances would serve to make you open to other answers?
== Actual and solid evidence. Real proof. Forget your arguments, get your god down here and have him demonstrate that breathing life into mud thing. ==

2.    If we reject the existence of God, we are left with a crisis of meaning, so why don’t we see more atheists like Jean Paul Sartre, or Friedrich Nietzsche, or Michel Foucault?
  These three philosophers, who also embraced atheism, recognized that in the absence of God, there was no transcendent meaning beyond one’s own self-interests, pleasures, or tastes.  The crisis of atheistic meaninglessness is depicted in Sartre’s book Nausea.  Without God, there is a crisis of meaning, and these three thinkers, among others, show us a world of just stuff, thrown out into space and time, going nowhere, meaning nothing.
== Bullshit! I do not have a crisis of meaning. See the text above. You don't see them because you are not looking. If you need transcendent meaning to life I can only imagine that you are not smart enough to find contentedness on your own and need help. Deal with it. ==

3.    When people have embraced atheism, the historical results can be horrific, as in the regimes of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot who saw religion as the problem and worked to eradicate it?  In other words, what set of actions are consistent with particular belief commitments?  It could be argued, that these behaviours – of the regimes in question - are more consistent with the implications of atheism.  Though, I'm thankful that many of the atheists I know do not live the implications of these beliefs out for themselves like others did!  It could be argued that the socio-political ideologies could very well be the outworking of a particular set of beliefs – beliefs that posited the ideal state as an atheistic one.  
== Seriously? So political science wasn't your major? See the text above. Good and evil do not exist. Neither atheism or theism has prevented humans from being cruel to each other. To posit that cruelty is due only to lack of belief in gods is insane. We need only look at the cruelty heaped on the face of this planet in the name of gods to know that this question is naive at best and more probably the utterance of one who is ignorant of the facts of the world around them. ==

4.    If there is no God, the problems of evil and suffering are in no way solved, so where is the hope of redemption, or meaning for those who suffer?  Suffering is just as tragic, if not more so, without God because there is no hope of ultimate justice, or of the suffering being rendered meaningful or transcendent, redemptive or redeemable.  It might be true that there is no God to blame now, but neither is there a God to reach out to for strength, transcendent meaning, or comfort.  Why would we seek the alleviation of suffering without objective morality grounded in a God of justice?
== Even if you believe in gods the problem of evil and suffering are not solved. What the hell are you thinking? Today my mother in law accidentally stepped on the head of a new born puppy. It's dead. Where do you think redemption and meaning come from in that situation? Put the crack pipe down. Re-read what I've already written. There is no redemption, no meaning, and no absolute morality. EVERYTHING is relative. I do not need a god for strength and comfort. I am. I will be. It is on my own strength that I suffer the slings and arrows and busy myself making a path for my life and my kin. I suffer them to see the morrow. I comfort those in my clan because they will comfort me. I share my meat with them because they will share theirs with me and together we shall see many morrows. Eat, drink, fuck, sleep, wake... repeat. Somewhere in the midst of it I will take joy in the tumbling of a cat off the sofa or the wonder of a bee pollinating my garden, or a lizard hunting on my window at night. I need no comfort. I need no crutch. This is MY life and I'll not let you tell me how to live it. I need no one to tell me. I know what is good and bad when I see it because I have my own ethics, my own moral code. I live by it because it is mine, not because someone dictates it to me from the pulpit of their mega-church in a 1200 dollar suit. Yes, I built that set of ethics on my own. I took from here and there the things I found useful and good. I do not need a god never mind your preacher or dusty old text. I already know how to live. Quit insulting me with your insinuations that I cannot be thus. ==

5.    If there is no God, we lose the very standard by which we critique religions and religious people, so whose opinion matters most?
== I criticize and mock religions and religious people by THEIR standards. It does not matter to me that their efforts are useless and delusional. It is their standards they claim to live by so when they fail I am happy to point this out. ==

Whose voice will be heard?
== Why do you need a voice? Is there something wrong with your larynx? I just finishing telling you where my ethics come from and previously told you how to know you have your very own subjective set of values too. The law of reciprocity has served us well for hundreds of thousands of years. We compromise to survive when needed, we fight to free ourselves of tyranny when we feel it. Wait, that is a nice loop back to why I criticize religion. ==

Whose tastes or preferences will be honored?  In the long run, human tastes and opinions have no more weight than we give them, and who are we to give them meaning anyway?  Who is to say that lying, or cheating or adultery or child molestation are wrong –really wrong?
== Now you're off in the weeds. If you lie to me, I'll make you regret it. If you cheat me, I'll repay you in kind. If you cheat on me I'll leave you in the cold to find your own food and shelter. If you molest my offspring I'll end you. I'm a selfish bastard. In our society we have made a pact, an agreement to not do these things to one another so that we can all focus on the all important tasks needed for survival against the elements. If you think you need some ghost to tell you that you should protect your children or dislike those who cheat you, then you're doing it really really wrong. If you don't know that someone raping your child is wrong for you and your child, then perhaps you shouldn't be asking me these questions. Clearly you are clueless and need more than help, you need a doctor. I don't harm others because I don't want them to harm me. If they harm me I will harm them. This is as it should be and how it has always been. That you don't understand this is somehow very curious. ==

Where do those standards come from?  Sure, our societies might make these things “illegal” and impose penalties or consequences for things that are not socially acceptable, but human cultures have at various times legally or socially disapproved of everything from believing in God to believing the world revolves around the sun; from slavery, to interracial marriage, from polygamy to monogamy.  Human taste, opinion law and culture are hardly dependable arbiters of Truth.
== Science MF, do you speak it? Reliable knowledge is found through science. Your holy book advocates rape, murder, genocide, incest, slavery, and death sentences for trivial infractions of delusional laws. We know that it is not healthy to take your laws from religion. It was religion that said the Sun revolved around the Earth. You've got allt hat mixed up and religions do not know the facts for a modern world. They are no guide at all. Sure, lets heal leprosy by killing a couple of birds, yeah, that's the thing. SCIENCE, its the only way that we can know anything reliable. Live with it! ==

6.    If there is no God, we don’t make sense, so how do we explain human longings and desire for the transcendent?  
== Seriously, get cable television and an Internet browser. There are plenty of shows that describe this for you. Study some biology, neuroscience, physics, astronomy... We DO MAKE SENSE. We are a product of the environment we live in and the processes of evolution. No gods needed. Human longings are all based on selfishness and the desire to delay death as long as possible. The desire for the transcendent is nothing more than advanced abstract pattern seeking... one of the things that made humans one of the best survivor species on this planet. These are byproducts of evolution. Our current thinking and behaviors are the very ones that were most successful at survival. If you lived in a time long ago when death was 2 meals away, and cooperating with your kin and community was a valuable survival behavior you would not be asking me these silly questions. The entire universe and value of the human species is not expressed in each and every person. You, by yourself, are not important. What you do in life is. You aren't even you, you are the effect of several processes working together inside your brain. You simply perceive yourself as a single entity and process. Science bi-a-tch! Study it and quit asking me silly questions.==

How do we even explain human questions for meaning and purpose, or inner thoughts like, why do I feel unfulfilled or empty?  Why do we hunger for the spiritual, and how do we explain these longings if nothing can exist beyond the material world?
== If you read all that above and are still asking, I'm going to assume you have comprehension problems. It's in your genes. Evolutionary processes bred you this way because these traits helped our ancestors to survive very harsh environments. You are in fact alive today because your ancestors had these traits bequeathed to them genetically. Secondly, you have no idea that there is something beyond the natural world... none. Pretending that you do is idiotic. Stop talking as if the existence of things beyond the natural world is common knowledge and proven beyond doubt. It is not. Framing your question as if they are is irritating and condescending. Stop it. Show me proof of such things and then we can have a conversation. Until then you are asking me to validate your wishful thinking and delusions. I won't. Wake up and get you some science. When you start really trying to understand the world around you I'll be glad to entertain your misunderstandings and questions. Till then, go away kid, you bother me.

POW!  No beating around the bush, no squishy answers. Just clear and concise responses that at one moment jolt me, another amuses me and then something I loudly cheer!  I get it!

I've been told I'm arrogant. I like to think of myself as confident. Perhaps the best I can hope for is being thought of as opinionated?

I get the same labels, and for years I couldn't understand why. Then I realized that if I have an opinion it is because I have read, listened, inquired of so many people from all sides I could identify and then I make a decision. I always realize I could have made the wrong decision, but until I am given better evidence I have no reason to change. 


My wise, thoughtful, informed son-in-law is very skilled at giving me reasons to change an opinion and I am so blessed to have him as a caring participant in my life. Not all people have such a gift as he.  

A fine effort at addressing these indeed irritating questions, myatheistlife. It must have took you some time. There is not much more that can be said, really, and much of it has been said before in various ways (notwithstanding your obvious originality). The really sad thing for me is that little of this common-sense commentary penetrates to those who think it valid to pose such questions. But let's keep at it. They are slowly capitulating and non-theism has made grand strides in the last ten years, from what I've seen. The grip of the deists and ideologues is surely weakening, even in America. Religious apologists are doomed to failure as long as they are pressed to produce evidence for their beliefs, because it will lead them to the inevitable conclusion that they are behaving like apologists. Keeping government, schooling and scientific research secular seems to be the most important battlefront.

I agree, but we may disagree on how that is accomplished. One might argue that in a war we must keep children, women, and food supplies safe yet the best way to do that is to utterly defeat the enemy on their home territory. There are, of course, many views. I believe we need to attack the problem at its source....

They call me a nihilist, but I am just me. I see the world around me as I see it. To be honest with you, you probably would not like the way I see the world. Not many people do. I am an ape. Just an ape. A clever ape, but just an ape. There are no absolutes, there is only survival to see another day... a new day without purpose. A new day without meaning. Any meaning or purpose to be found is what I personally ascribe to it. In this manner I am alone, have always been alone, and will always be alone. From this point of view I see hubris in the phrase 'atheist community'. When rational thinking people cooperate and work to make life better, that is called humanity rather than some kitschy 'atheist community' or some other moniker.

Clearly, the delusion of religions must be fought back at every point possible. I gladly cooperate in all such efforts. I also feel that attacking the very idea of gods is of primary importance. It is a dangerous idea. It is an idea that will continue to harm humanity until it is pushed past the edges of reasonable thought. That is to say that it will continue to harm us until almost all of us think it insane. Religion may never die, but I'll be more content when it is very very lonely. Just some thoughts....

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