1. How did you become an Atheist?
I think it is Carl Sagan. When I was 8, I watched Cosmos. I didn’t understand all of it, but I saw amazing things and wanted to be a part of this thing called science. From then on, I dedicated myself to learning about science (sadly, I failed to realize how mathematics was tangled up in science).
Once you get to a certain level of knowledge about science, you hear all these people spouting things like “geysers of the deep” and “noah’s ark” and “riding horses to heaven” and you just have to ask yourself what those people are smoking. I know several scientists that are religious and, honestly, it confuses me. The contortions they must make to separate their professional lives and their faith-filled lives must drive them crazy.
Science is not something that can easily be dismissed by the faithful. The entire creationism and intelligent design system is based on trying to gain the gravitas of science for their own brand of faith… and it will never work.
There’s a reason that the vast majority of scientists are atheists.
2. What happens when we die?
Nothing. Our bodily systems shut down. The unique patterns of chemicals and energy that make me ‘me’ will cease and I will not exist anymore. I, like everyone else, will only exist as memories in my children and grandchildren. Within three generations, it will be as if I never existed at all.
But that doesn’t fill me with soul-searing dread that it does some people. I’m OK with never seeing my dead loved ones again. They changed me in ways they can’t imagine. I hope that I change a few lives here and there for the better and that’s enough for me.
And yes, I do think that there is no soul. There is no afterlife. There is nothing that makes us “us” except for patterns of chemistry and energy in our nervous system. That is all that the evidence supports.
3. What if your are wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a Hell?
If I’m wrong, then I’m wrong. I’ve been so before and I will be again. It happens. But I have to wonder, if there really is a heaven and hell and god, how much effort are they putting into things? It wouldn’t take much for an omniscient, omnipotent god (who is inordinately concerned with what happens in our bedrooms) to come down and knock on Westboro Baptist’s door and say, “What the fuck are you idiots doing?” How much effort for a god who created the universe to prevent a small number of his worshipers from killing another small number of his worshipers?
Then there’s the whole question of what is heaven. To a viking, heaven was/is fighting all day and drinking all night. To a Muslim, heaven is 70 virgins (not so much heaven for the virgins though). To a Christian, it’s singing praises to god day in and day out. To me, heaven is snuggling on the couch with my wife and son, watching a movie, eating brownies.
Why is my version of heaven any less valid than the vikings or the Christians? It’s not. I just happen to be able to achieve my version of heaven now… while the religious are sitting on their asses waiting for it.
4. Without God, where do you get your morality from?
You mean, the God that drown millions of people? Or the one that destroyed two entire cities? Or the one that commanded genocide multiple times? Or the one that commanded the taking of slaves? Or the one that allowed a bear to kill some children because they made fun of a bald man? Or the one that cursed a fig tree because it had no figs (or was it olives)? Yes, all of these, rehensible acts were commanded by the god of the Bible.
We get our morality from the same place everyone does. Our parents and our culture. One hundred years ago, few people in the US thought it was immoral to treat people with dark skin differently… or to treat women differently… or to work children in mines and factories.
Now, those practices are universally shunned… well, except by a small group of highly religious politicians. Are you getting the picture here?
In 30 years, our kids and grandkids will be wondering what all the fuss about homosexuality was about. It will be normal, accepted by the majority of cultures on Earth and no one will care what your sexual or gender orientation is.
Morals are not based on religion, but on the current culture and society.
5. If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds go unrewarded.
You can do anything you want. God isn’t stopping you. Laws don’t stop you.
However, you must be willing to accept the consequences of your actions. That’s what laws are. They are a statement of actions that the society and culture (there we go with that again) will not accept as correct.
Let’s be clear. God is not stopping people from murdering, raping, cheating on taxes, robbing little old ladies of their mortgage, or anything else. Crime of all sorts is actually down in the US. But something else is also down in the US… religion.
It’s an interesting correlation, is it not.
My hypothesis is that religion eliminates the need for empathy by causing everyone to reject the “other” (that is, the people who are not like “us”). When you reduce religion, empathy tends to increase.
6. If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?
Because I don’t devote my life to religion, I am free to do whatever I want. Instead, I devote my life to knowledge and my family.
Meaning is what we make. Is a life devoted to helping other better or worse because religion is not involved? I think that it would be better. Because a person is choosing to be good instead of being forced to be good by the fear and threat of eternal punishment.
7. Where did the universe come from?
All the evidence points to nothing. There’s a recent paper that I need to do a blog post on that is a mathematical proof that a universe can come from nothing. Honestly, we may never know… and that’s OK.
But, I guess we could ask the religious the same question.
Seven days of creation? Which of the TYPES of creation myths listed here are true? How do you know? Because a book about the creation myth says that it’s true? If that’s all the evidence that you require, then you probably think the movie Titanic was a documentary.
8. What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?
You do understand that people are liars right? You do understand that people say things that aren’t true in order to control other people right? Just because they say things that you think are true as well doesn’t make them trustworthy.
To date, there are exactly zero verified miracles.
Tell me, why do you think faith healers are in churches and stadiums with a paying crowd instead of hospitals?
What about all the people who claim some connection to Napoleon or Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia?
What about all the people who claim to have seen UFOs or aliens?
What about all the people of other religions who have seen their deities/messengers/prophets/etc?
Do they all get the exact same support that you would give for someone of your chosen religion making a religious claim?
9. What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?
They are people. They are smart people who have become famous. They say good things sometimes. They say stupid things sometimes.
10. If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?
The same reason every society has myths of dragons, elves, fairies, and everything else. These are stories. They may tell moral or safety lessons (go read the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales).
Further, religion is an excellent method of controlling people. People will do things for their religion that they wouldn’t otherwise do. Give money, time, pain and suffering. Even to the point of committing illegal acts in the name of their religion.
There are thousands of memes all over the internet showing the Pope, the Vatican, and the Megachurches of the US… followed by pictures of starving children, starving people, and other suffering. Millions of dollars of Catholics tithes have gone to pay off victims of pastoral sexual abuse. And the Catholics are OK with that… because it’s their religion.
Of course, if must include a deity, then there are societies without religion. If you require priests and churches, then there are societies without religions. But if you think of “spirituality” and methods to explain things to very primitive cultures, then yes, every culture has a religion. But that’s all it is.
Just because it’s human nature, doesn’t mean it’s correct.