Wednesday, 5 October 2016

8 Questions for atheists

So a person on twitter (@InspiredWalk) tweeted a link to 8 questions for atheists. 

Note the use of all capitals for NOT.

Well, Inspired're going to have to change this, because here I am, answering these questions. 

What I found interesting is that the heading of this article is '8 questions for atheists', but Inspired Walk has decided to answer them him or herself. Perhaps it would have been more accurately titled '8 questions directed at atheists, but which I am answering, despite not being one'. are the 8 questions. I'll provide the link to Inspired Walk's answers below. 


Is Atheism a LACK of Belief in God or a BELIEF that there is no God?

It is a lack of belief in God but can also encompass those who believe there is no god. It becomes a tricky area because people have different definitions of belief and knowledge. And when you throw absolute certainty into the mix, it becomes cloudier again. 
What I wonder about is the relevance of the question. I think we sometimes get too bogged down in the definitions and forget to address the claims being made (I know I've done this myself). Forget the definitions and go with these questions that the folks on The Atheist Experience use: "What do you believe and why?" No need for labels then. 

I note that Inspired Walk ends their answer to this question with the affirmation: "Atheism is a CHOICE. It is a belief system"

No, it's not. Something I explained in this passage I wrote: 


If God Exists Would You Become A Christian?

Short answer - no. 

Slightly longer answer - definitely not. 

Longest answer - I would not. Christianity is an abhorrent system. It professes to be about love, but its instruction manual is full of instructions on who you should kill and why. It's a system that tells children (and adults) that they are flawed, and are not only bound for eternity in hell, they deserve it. Oh, sure, they provide an out - a man (god?) was sacrificed in a most brutal manner to atone for the 'sins' of the people. A man living in Palestine 2000 years ago was killed so *I* could get into heaven? Please. And all this because a woman, made from the rib of a man (who himself was made out of dust) was talked into eating a piece of magical fruit. 

By a snake. 

Literal or allegory, the story is absurd. It's rife is logical inconsistencies (god put the tree there knowing Eve would eat from it, but blames Eve for what happened?) and scientific mistakes (world created in 6 days?). 

Even forgetting the Old Testament nonsense (but wait, no OT, no need for saving, no need for saving, no Jesus....anyway) We're lead to believe that humans lived for thousands of years (about 4,000 if you're a Young Earth Creationist, about 250,000 if you're scientifically literate) until such time God decided to send himself to earth as a man, in order to sacrifice himself to save human kind from...what he would do to us if he hadn't done that? Preposterous. 

Inspired Walk says in their answer: "Atheism is the belief that life is “better” without God or that life does not need God." No, it's not. But you already know that. 

The bible reads exactly like what it is, a book of stories, fables, superstitions and myths written by people who didn't know better. We know better now. It's a book about the beginning of the universe written by people who didn't know galaxies exist. They didn't even know Australia existed! 

Christianity is homophobic, sexist, oppressive, guilt driven, and scientifically backwards. 

So if god exists, would I become a Christian? No I would not. 

How Do You Determine What’s Right & What’s Wrong?

The classic reworded version of 'If god doesn't exist, where do you get your morality from?' (note - it's never phrased correctly as 'If god doesn't exist, from where do you get your morality?') 

Many species, particularly mammals, have an evolved sense of 'right and wrong'. We see moral traits such as empathy, compassion, kindness, sharing, fairness, and cooperation all over the animal kingdom. 

There's a reason for this - evolution. Our long-time-ago ancestors thrived because traits we call morality were beneficial. This genetic make up has been passed down to us through the generations. 

Of course we all have differing senses of right and wrong and right and wrong has changed over the years. (Remember slaves?) and these difference can cause issues. Sometimes we solve this with war, sometimes with discussion, reasoning and logic. 

Inspired Walk says in their answer: For the Christian the question of morality and right or wrong comes from the Scriptures / the Bible. But for the atheist, the morality issue is very murky and always changing.

If the first sentence is true, then I'd like to know Inspired Walk's thoughts on slavery and they reached them. The bible specifically endorses slavery. It even tells people how much they can beat their slaves without it being punishable. 

In the second sentence Inspired Walk says that morality for an atheist is 'always changing'. Well, if you read some history you'll find that this is true of all people, not just atheists. The aforementioned slavery, for example. Considered the norm not too long ago, classified as immoral now by every decent person I know. Homosexuality used to be illegal in my country *in my lifetime*. Now we have jurisdictions all over the world where it's not only legal (as it is now here, as it should be) but allowing people in same sex relationships to marry. We have politicians in Australia pushing for that to happen here too. (I'm so embarrassed as to how far behind the rest of the world we are on this issue). 

We, as a species, used to think burning 'witches' was acceptable. Now no decent person would dream of it. The bible instructs a rapist to pay the victim's father silver and then *to marry her*. We don't do that today. 

Morality (the sense of right and wrong) is partly innate, and partly through discussion, compassion, reason, and logic. Not some ancient book. 


How Do You Deal With Guilt & Sin in Your Life?

Well first things first, being an atheist, I don't think there's any such thing as 'sin' so I don't need to deal with it. 

As for guilt, well, it depends on what I feel guilty over. If I hurt someone, I apologise. If they don't/can't accept just yet, then we can have a discussion and try to work it out. The best way to deal with guilt is to try to improve because of it. Learn a lesson from what you did that made you feel guilty. It's a fact that no amount of guilt can take back whatever it was that caused it, but it can help guide your path to being a better person. 

Do You Act According To What You Believe or According To What You Lack In Belief?

Well, I actually think this is a good question. It's a little more interesting than the others. 

I am wary of the use of belief and it carries with it an air of being 'without evidence'. I prefer to assess evidence and act accordingly. If the goal is a healthy and happy society where all people have equal opportunity and are all treated fairly, then for me methodological-secular-humanism is the best approach. It's an idea proposed by my friend Martin Pribble and although it would be hard to get the world to act on it (the rich like being the rich, and too many of the poor in the west think they'll one day be part of the rich) but it would be worth it. 
In the mean time I like to use, where I can, the Golden Rule or Law of Reciprocity. Now before you get all excited thinking it's a biblical instruction, there have been versions of the Golden Rule dating back to ancient Egyptian Middle Kingdom (c. 2040 – c. 1650 BC)

In case you don't know the Golden Rule most commonly takes the form 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. Or in more modern language, treat people the way you want to be treated. 

Pretty simple and straight forward. Of course you wouldn't want *everyone* following this. Masochists should give it a miss, for example. But it's a good starting point.   

In their answer, Inspired Walk makes the following statements: 
Atheists have NO EVIDENCE that non-life can create life but yet they BELIEVE it.
Atheists have NO EVIDENCE as to HOW the universe was created yet they BELIEVE their theories.
Atheists have NO EVIDENCE dinosaurs turned into birds but yet they BELIEVE it.

I don't know what these three things have to do with how you act as a person, but that's irrelevant as they're all completely wrong. When you write that something has no evidence, even going to the point of making it all caps, it really weakens your stance when there is, in fact *loads* of evidence. Never think there's not more research you can do. It can save you making embarrassing statements such as the above. 

Can You Prove HOW the Universe Was Created?

I flat out reject the wording of this question. I have no reason at all to think the universe was created. A better phrased question would be 'What evidence is there to explain how the universe came to be in its current state?' 

People make the mistake of thinking science 'proves' things. The goal of science isn't to prove things. And experiments don't try to prove things, they try to disprove things. Scientists use terms like 'evidence suggests' and 'the conclusion we reach from this observation is..'  and 'current thinking is...' 

It takes a solid lack of understanding of science to ask for proof as it's phrased in this question. 

As it stands The Big Bang Theory is the best supported explanation for how the universe came to be as it is. Things like the expanding universe, cosmic shift, microwave background radiation etc. all support a rapid expansion from a single point. 

Is there a lot to learn about how the universe came to be in this state? Sure. Will the answers come from a book written by scientifically illiterate superstitious goat herders? No chance. 

I'm going to include here, in full, Inspired Walk's answer to this question, and take it apart line by line. Red Italics will be mine. 

"There is no evidence pertaining to the evolutionist explanation for origin of life. There is no 'evolutionist' explanation for the origin of life. All evolutionist explanations for the origin of life and the creation of the universe remain merely as theories, presumptions and hypothesis. Again, no evolutionist explanations for the origin of life.Hypothesis and theories are how science works. No failed hypothesis equals 'god did it'.  The reason is because there is no scientific proof that for example, life may have evolved from non-life or that life resulted due to a “big bang”. As explained above, science doesn't provide 'proof' as such. But there is, in fact evidence to support the Big Bang and evidence to support the possibility of life coming from non-life. Inspired Walk should read more, and assert less. 
Therefore atheists cannot prove how the universe was created. Nor can anyone else. It actually takes faith to believe some of the theories that evolutionists have suggested. No, it's just a matter of following the evidence where it leads. 
The Bible is clear as to who and how the universe was created. God created the universe.
Genesis 1:1-2 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Yeah, except this didn't happen. None of the evidence supports this statement. 

Can You Prove That God Does Not Exist?

No. Well, I can to a court of law 'reasonable doubt' level. I say that having not tried, but I'm pretty confident. The problem would be, of course, that you couldn't possible get an unbiased jury. People would either already believe or not. Nothing you could say would change their mind. 

The point is though, that this question is irrelevant. I'm an atheist. It's not because I can prove gods and goddesses don't exist, it's because no one can give me reason to think they do. Russell's Teapot comes to mind here. I can't prove there's not a teapot orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars...but is that enough reason to believe there is one? Not at all. 

I can't prove god doesn't exist, just as Inspired Walk can't prove Russell's Teapot doesn't exist. But that's not enough reason for Inspired Walk to believe that it does exist. 


Do You Know Where You’re Going When You Die?

Yes. I've been 'not alive' for billions of years. I have absolutely no reason to think it'll be different when I'm not alive again. 

As Mark Twain famously said: 
I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.

When you're dead there's no brain, there's no consciousness. There's nothing left of you to 'go' anywhere. You're either burnt or buried. That atoms that make up your physical form are used in other areas of the universe, doing what they do. There is no more 'you'. You 'live on' in the memories of your family and friends. We live in an age where so many people have an online immortality. Our loved ones will be able to look back an know what we were up to almost every day of our lives. This is how we will be remembered. 

But there is no more 'us'. With nothing to house it, there will be no mind there will be nothing for the consciousness that is MrOzAtheist to reside in. I will cease to be. I will be an ex-tweeter. 

Like Mr Twain, I do not fear death. I'm annoyed by it (at this stage, maybe when I'm 110 I may see it differently) because I love life and I love learning. I love knowing what's going on. There are things I want to see and do. Death will be the end of that. So from that point of view, it's an annoyance. Not that I'll be annoyed after it happens. 

I do fear dying, to some extent though. Because it can hurt. It can take your dignity, and can be traumatic for friends and family. I'm at a stage in my life now where I go to more funerals than 21sts and it sucks. But it's part of life. It's what happens. 

I'm not going anywhere when I die, so I need to make sure I go everywhere I can while I'm alive. 

You can find Inspired Walk's answers here 


  1. That was very well done. Thanks oz

  2. The answer to the last question was demonstrated very well in this week's ABC program, "You Can't Ask That". A selection of terminally ill subjects were asked their view of religion and what they think happens after they die. To a man/ woman, they replied that nothing happens and they do not believe in any religion. I found their forthright answers inspirational and this is exactly what I've encountered with loved ones put in this situation. I'm sure my views will not change when I get closer to death, though I reserve the right to have a change of heart. Who knows?

    Watching You Can't Ask That Series 1 Ep 10 Terminally Ill in iview

    1. I disagreed with all of your claims but I'll only point out a few major ones.

      Question 2 - You claim that "Christianity is homophobic, sexist, oppressive, guilt driven, and scientifically backward." when you don't give any evidence towards any of your false accusations. You can't just look at one Christian and say that they are all exactly the same just like how you can't look at one atheist and say that they are all exactly the same. If you know a few Christians that qualify to one of the above, doesn't necessarily mean that we are all like that.

      Question 3 - In the old testament, a slave was not determined by the color of your skin. Slaves were people who were so poor that they decided to sell themselves in exchange for shelter and food, someone who is in debt and repays the person they owe money to by working for them, or sometimes a person captured from war. Slaves were often considered a part of the family. Say your master didn't have a son and you were the oldest of all the male slaves or was favored among your master, the inheritance that would have gone to the first born son would have gone to you.

      Question 7 - There is such a thing called general revelation (which I explain in detail in the comment section on your post in December of 2016) and speaking in tongues.

      My overall statement is that if you're going to target one religion in particular, then you had better know what you're talking about. Instead of making heated accusations, try making logical claims with real evidence.

    2. Homophobic: Leviticus 18:22 and Deuteronomy 20:13 are explicitly anti-homosexual.

      Sexist: 1 Timothy 2 is all about how men get the benefits and women should remain in silence. To this day there has never been a female head of the Catholic church. There hasn't been a woman anywhere NEAR the top. Women are not allowed to be priests in many Christian denominations. Colossians 3:18 tells wives to submit to their husbands. 1 Corinthians 14:34-36 forbids women from speaking in church. There are many more examples.

      Oppressive: See above for gay and women's rights. Also Christianity has a long history of stifling progress - in fact the anti-marriage equality movement existing in Australia *today* is being lead by the Australian Christian Lobby. They're all about oppressing the lives of others.

      Guilt driven: Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9 Exodus 34:7 Numbers 14:18 are all about punishing future generations for the sins of their ancestors. The whole Jesus myth is about *someone else* paying the price for our "sin" and people heading to confession on a weekly basis to ask for forgiveness for doing things we should feel guilty about. The Christian message is about humans being flawed and sinful and begging god for forgiveness.

      Scientifically Backwards: Christianity says earth was formed in a day, on one day out of 6 it took to create the entire universe. None of this is correct. It says the human race was started by just two people. DNA shows us there were never fewer than about 20,000 humans. It says the entire world was consumed by a flood, which is impossible given the amount of water on earth and the height of mountains. And its description of the firmament, pillars or earth etc. are completely wrong.

      Slavery: Exodus 21:7 says that if a man sells his daughter she shall not go free as a manservant would (more sexism here) 1 Peter 2:18 talks about how servants must submit to anything they masters want to do to them. Genesis 26:12-14 says Isaac is great because of the number of slaves he has.
      And you seem confused with your last line here. I never said 'All Christians are..." I said 'Christianity is...' There's a difference. I'm well aware, and thankful, that many Christians ignore a lot of what Christianity teaches them. Exodus 21:20-21 Talks about how much you're allowed to beat your slaves. You can beat them so much that as long as they survive a few days, you won't be punished. So you can try to dress up slavery in the bible as much as you like, but when someone brings this up I always ask if they would trade their life today for that of a biblical slave. No one ever says yes, they would.

      Question 7: Neither general revelation nor 'speaking in tongues' proves a god exists. Speaking in tongues is pure nonsense. I've no reason to think it's anything other than people, either consciously or subconsciously, pretending.

      In reply to your overall statement: I'm not targeting one religion in particular. This post is responding to something *someone else* wrote about *atheists*. As for 'you had better know what you're talking about'...well, clearly I do know what I'm talking about. I suppose I could have included all the above references in the actual blog, but knowledge of these things is so common I took them as facts already in evidence. Also, the post was already lengthy enough that I didn't see the need to include things everyone already knew. I'll try to include footnotes next time.