Six questions to ask an atheist – debunked

by idebunkforme

I decided to open my wordpress blog for my debunking account with @Creation_Resear‘s link posted today, entitled “Six questions to ask an atheist.” These questions reveal the mentality of those who cannot see beyond his own belief system, and is unable to critically think about his own beliefs.

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?

The big questions still remain unanswered even when one believes in any deity. Because you have an answer doesn’t mean it is the answer. And the question posed is philosophical. Why is there something rather than nothing? No one knows. But the fact that there is something doesn’t require a reason, rationale or cause. Most theists treat this type of question as proof that there must be something that created the universe, as there’s no reason there should be something here otherwise. It’s begging the question, and, strangely, usually their own deity who is the reason why there is something rather than nothing.

Why is there conscious, intelligent life on this planet, and is there any meaning to this life? If there is meaning, what kind of meaning and how is it found?

Because evolution brought about brains, which have the capability to interpret sensory input in an organism. But intelligent life did not exist for billions of years after life arose on this planet. If there was a plan for intelligent life, it should have arisen much sooner, one would think.

As for meaning, each person develops his or her own meaning in this life. If one requires someone else to explain what that meaning is, how meaningful is that life, then? This is why the theist idea that meaning derives from a deity boggles my mind. Even worse, some derive meaning as worshiping this deity, putting so much of their lives to what that deity wants of them, on the hopes that an afterlife with that deity exists. How is that meaning?

Does human history lead anywhere, or is it all in vain since death is merely the end?

Death is inevitable. This, to those who accept that this life is all we have, makes it more meaningful. But if one expects there to be rewards for living, one must make his or her life meaningful. Then, no matter what happens, the life lived is not in vain. The whole of human history has shown this.

We remember those who changed history. Who discovered major advancements. Who made a difference. Even in our own lives, we remember teachers who made a difference, family members who cared, friends who went the extra mile, and so forth. How is all of this in vain?

How do you come to understand good and evil, right and wrong without a transcendent signifier?

Because some of us can critically think. That which does unnecessary harm to others is not good in social animals, such as human beings. That theists seem to need a “transcendent signifier” to explain what is right and wrong, good and evil, is also mind-boggling. The most atheistic countries tend to have the lowest levels of violent crimes. In the United States, the prison population of atheists is lower, percentage-wise, than the general population of the country. If good and evil, right and wrong, requires a higher power, reality does not agree.

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?

If we live in a society, it is the group’s opinion that one must trust. One could always live in a solitary location, or with a specific class of associates, to decide these social constructs. As the network grows, so do the voices, as well the potential to harm the minority opinions in the population. Some rights for people should be absolute, even against the wishes of the whole group. These are how we determine good or bad, right or wrong. Displacing them onto a fictitious creature does not make them any more important.

If you’ve been keeping count, that’s six questions already, but we’re still on the original article’s first point. Counting doesn’t appear to be the strong suit for the article’s author.

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?

The author of the article is adamant that meaning only derives from his deity, but that is not the case with so many people. And we are seeing more atheists of the vein of Sartre, Nietzsche and Foucault. We have academics such as Neil deGrasse Tyson, skeptics such as Michael Shermer, philosophers such as A. C. Grayling, and so forth. One must look outside of his beliefs to find the answers to questions he thinks he cannot answer.

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?

Because one is an atheist does not mean one’s actions are justified through atheism. Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot all had similar tyrannical tenets. They cracked down on opposition to ideas and governance, which would make their horrors political, not religious, in nature. Stalin ignored sound science, which helped cause terrible famines that resulted in tens of millions of Russian deaths. Mao destroyed and restricted culture to quell anti-conformity. Pol Pot ruthlessly pushed Maoist ideals. None of these are based on atheism.

But one could argue that religion does result in horrific events. Many wars are the cause of religious strife and disagreement. Totalitarian governments today are mostly religious. It allows these leaders to assert power derived from a much higher authority. Atheism can’t do this.

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?

If the only reason to cling to a deity is for hope, then what is the real point? If you hope that something will change the situation, but do nothing to change it, how will it ever change?

Atheists realize that all the problems are caused here, not in a supernatural realm. That means that they have real solutions, if we can work to figure them out. We can have hope that things will improve, not because we want a deity to do something, but because we can do something. That is how it can, and will, change.

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

We still have a standard by which we critique religions and religious people: how they treat others. We can do this as atheists. When a religious group tortures, robs and leaves for dead entire groups of people, do we, as atheists, have no right to critique how this religious group works? Of course not.

The author seems unable to accept that we can think on our own, and argues that without a deity, we can’t decide things for ourselves. As the final “question” argues:

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

We do make sense. We’re the result of 3.6 billion years of evolutionary history. We desire knowledge and answers. If we can’t understand something, sometimes we substitute answers with belief. And sometimes those answers cannot be resolved for some, such as what happens after we die. If we make ourselves believe that there is much more after death, then it does not seem so scary to many.

These are all well-understood ideas, once someone gives up beliefs and starts looking at the reality around him. Unfortunately, people like @Creation_Resear and the author of the article are unable to do so.