"Why do you not believe in God?"
I will qualify my disbelief in human anthropomorphizing of 'god' in the following way.
Consider the following questions:
Do you believe in Zeus?
Do you believe in Horus?
Do you believe in Pele?
Do you believe in Odin?
Do you believe in Allah?
Do you believe in Yahweh or Jehovah?
Now consider that 90% of Americans will answer the the first five of preceding questions in the negative and will answer the last in the affirmative.
So the only REAL difference between myself and a theist is I believe in one less god.
Now let me state this for there to be no confusion.
I do not have proof that there is no GOD at all.
I also have no proof of leprechauns, fairies, unicorns, the Loch Ness monster, bigfoot or sasquatch or the Jersey Devil.
I don't believe that any of these exist. Can I prove that they do not exist? No I cannot. I can't prove a negative.
As for the deities listed previously, plenty of people in the world today fully believe that one of these examples exist.
My questions this: What is the basis for your belief?
I have concluded that there is insufficient evidence for any of the examples I just named.
What evidence is there to support the existence of ANY of those gods?
90% of Americans will say there is no evidence for the first 5 gods. But when a candidate of that same 90% consider Yahweh or Jehovah, he or she will no doubt come up with all sorts of evidence gleaned from biblical evidence, personal experience or a convoluted pseudo-scientific proof.
Now ask a citizen of an Arabic country to take the same test. What do you think this citizen will say? This person will almost certainly reject Yahweh or Jehovah as the myth. What accounts for this glaring discrepancy?
Is it not logical to conclude the the flavor of deity you choose has much more to do with culture you are born into than any convoluted reasoning?
I will not go into my own reasoning for rejecting the biblical and 'scientific' evidence for rejecting Yahweh, it is well beyond the scope of this writing. But I consider the proposed 'proofs' for the biblical God to be wanting and ridiculous to say the least.
I feel it's important to state that to my conclusion was not reached lightly. This issue is something I have struggled with from a very early age. I have endeavored to be open-minded and intellectually honest in my pursuit of knowlege and truth. I should also state that I do not completely reject the idea of God completely. I have chosen to reject the archaic and logically absurd Gods of the ancient mythology which I'm sorry to say includes Yahweh or Jehovah or whatever name you'd like to label the Christian God with. That said, there may indeed be a supreme being responsible for the organization of the physical laws that govern the universe. But every fiber of my being tells me that it would be a being far beyond my current level of comprehension and knowlege. If such a candidate God wanted my reverence, it would know how best to reach me, and it would have it.
Some might view my lack of faith as a character flaw. Well, maybe. But this is what I am. I have not chosen Atheism because of some deep-seeded need to 'sin'. I have come to my 'atheistic-agnosticism' after many years of reading and philosophical thought. I base my views and conclusions about the universe on science and empirical reasoning...the greatest tools we have. These tools are hard won and the legacy of almost a thousand years of thinking men and women before me. I am in very good company!
"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." - Isaac Newton
"Where do your morals come from?"
I feel this is as loaded a question as ever there was. When I hear this from the lips of a fundamentalist bible-believer (I say that because I have NEVER heard it from anyone else) what they are really saying is something similar to this:
"Without a deep belief in God you'll be free to do anything: stealing, murdering, lying. It's all on the table for you because in your view, you answer to no one. Without Christianity we'd all be savages."
Really? Do you REALLY believe that?
Consider this for a moment: Wolves.... do wolves run around murdering each other for no reason? No! Usually when a wolf takes the life of another animal, wolf or otherwise, generally there is a good reason for it. Wolves like Humans are social animals. They have instinct in their brains that says: Hey it's a good thing to live in a pack and to be cooperative. We get to eat better, we can protect our young more easily. The whole safety in numbers thing. From where did the idea come that it's good to cooperate with your brethren rather than kill them? Was there a lupine version of Moses that brought forth The Lupine Commandments? Do I really need to continue this?
Wolves clearly inherited this behavior from their ancestors. Maybe it wasn't even in wolves in which this behavior originated but a species from which they evolved. Whatever view you choose to accept clearly the pack mindset has been a good thing for our furry friends. Until we humans recently took a dislike to them, wolves were common almost everywhere on the Earth. Very successful animals!
Now consider humans. Would we be able to cooperate in societies if we allowed murder, theft and false witness to go unchecked and/or unpunished? Now whether you accept the scientific view of human origins or not you have to conclude that early human societies would have had to come to up with some guidelines or rules that encouraged and enhanced those social behavior. Did these rules really need to be handed down from a supreme being? Don't you think humans would have figured out very early on that they were much more successful working together than separately? Couldn't an argument be made that what we call morals today were matters of survival thousands of years ago? These morals evolved from the rules that primitive societies came up with to enhance their survival. I'm sorry but these morals and the moral sense arose long before Christianity or even Judaism.
Christians tout the Bible as the our basis for modern moral life. Really? Do you REALLY believe that?
The Bible advocates stoning for adultery, homosexuality and for disobedient children! Do modern Americans advocate these policies? Of course we don't! Because they are desperate and cruel. Where did we get that idea? Some would answer: Jesus swept away that law and gave us a new law. But did Jesus not say something like: I come to fulfill the old law not to dissolve it? That aside, if you view then morals of the Old Testament as anachronistic then why continue to read it? Why not rip those pages out? Let's get rid of this old and primitive myth?
The most successful societies in human history had complex systems of law and government. Democracy is considered by most people to be the highest achievement in human governance. Did this concept come directly from God or even holy writ? I defy you to find one passage in any holy book, Bible or Koran that says Democracy is the 'God approved' method of governance. in fact I would argue that the greatest abomination in human history: Slavery is supported and even encouraged in the Bible!
Do we hold the son responsible for the fathers sin? Read Genesis! Original Sin makes it clear that God thinks it perfectly acceptable to do just that. Modern American jurisprudence has no such concept.
In fact if you were to read history you would find the the fall of classical civilization (Rome) coincided with the rise of Christianity. Coincidence? Maybe. What cannot be doubted is who was in charge during the Dark Ages. Do I really have to say it? During the Dark ages and the Middle Ages the powers that be were responsible acts of desperate cruelty: the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc. These acts were endorsed if not led by religious people. Did that make them moral? They felt they were doing God's work. Do we still feel that way?
How is it that we have gone beyond most of the mores of the Bible?
The answer is simple:
Morals are rules and practices that enhance and encourage our survival and allow for peaceful cooperative soceity. Our morals like humanity itself evolve over time. They need not be handed down by a God!
"What is the meaning of life?"
"We are a way for the Universe to know itself." - Carl Sagan
No quote or philosophy says it more beautifully and succinctly than Carl did in his epic television series "Cosmos"
I don't feel the need to add anymore to this!
"Is atheism a religion?"
Atheism is a philosophy. Atheists don't have a church. They don't pray to Charles Darwin or Einstein or Stephen Hawking.
Atheists generally don't like to organize.
I remember reading somewhere that organizing atheists is akin to trying to herd cats! I think it might have been Richard Dawkins who said it.
So what is a religion? This is what Miriam Webster says.
A religion is a cause, principle or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.
What the hell is ardor? What is faith? Again Miriam says this and this respectively.
So religion is a set beliefs held to with passion and zeal and without the need for proof.
Naturally, a person who subscribes to a religion is someone who believes in a set of beliefs with passion and zeal without the need for proof! As a side note: I can legitimately make the argument that theists who resort to trying prove their God by appealing to reason don't have faith in their beliefs.
Given this definition as I have fleshed it out, can atheism really be considered a religion?
Miriam says this.
To be clear Miriam's says nothing about faith. In point of fact it says almost nothing at all other than a disbelief in a deity or the doctrine that there is no deity.
My contention is that modern atheists don't presume to argue from faith. Their basis for knowledge is reason and evidence. Which is the antithesis of religion.
Modern atheists do not generally believe anything. They accept conclusions for which there is adequate evidence and reason. Consequently, I feel that the evidence for God as described in the Bible i.e. Yahweh or Jehovah is inadequate. In fact I can and do argue that the evidence shown to me in nature and reality rule out the God described by the Bible.
I don't believe in, I ACCEPT, based upon the evidence and reason, the following theories:
Einstein's Theories of Special and General Relativity
Darwin's Theory of Evolution
Now, all of these theories are in their own ways, incomplete, but they each explain aspects of the the physical world FAR better than anything previous.
If a theory comes along that better explains the observations I will then accept that new theory!
That's the beauty of my world view it allows for new paradigms!
"If you don't pray, what do you do in troubled times?"
This is a tough one.
Having been born to a Roman Catholic family and taught the Roman Catholic dogma from a very young age, it's very hard to turn your back completely on the idea of prayer. But do I really need to?
I have never ever said: "There is no GOD!" What I have said that I have sound and logical reasons for rejecting the parodies of God held to by most religions.
In essence prayer is the beseeching of the almighty to change his supposed plan for you.
At times of crisis people will like to ask for help of someone they feel is more powerful themselves to assist them in the face of a seemingly insurmountable problem. This is natural.
However, when I consider Christian prayer i see problems.
In the Christian view God has a plan does he not? Everything is unfolding as he (God) desires isn't it? So if God is going to do what he wants anyway why bother praying for anything? Just accept all that happens as the will of the Lord God almighty and suck it up!
George Carlin said "What's the use of being God if every run-down schmuck with a two-dollar prayerbook can come along and fuck up Your Plan?"
The point is this: I feel that all prayer(s) are more for the person praying than for a God. You can make the argument that prayer is a form of meditation that focuses the mind, draws oneself inward and serves to calm in times of stress or strife.
In the end we are all responsible for ourselves.
There have been scientific studies of late on the efficacy of intercessory prayer. I can't remember who authored the study but it was an organization of some merit. The results found NO benefit to patients who were the blind receivers of intercessory prayer as compared with patients who were NOT prayed for.
Am I saying people should stop praying? Of course not! If you or your loved ones think prayer is helping then it is! Simply from the happiness or calmness it brings.
Pick your prayer and pray away!
"Should atheists be trying to convince others to stop believing in God?"
I can't say this too forcefully:
I do not accept atheistic or agnostic evangelism any more than I tolerate Christian Evangelism.
Now let me qualify this statement.
I think atheists are ordinary people who have come to different conclusions about how to live their lives. So long as they follow the laws of the society in which they live they should be treated as upstanding and moral citizens.
Unfortunately, over the past 25 years a growing percentage of Christians in this country want to legislate religion back the rule of society. The current groundswell of books espousing an atheistic world view is the back lash against mixing of state and religion.
I argue that if this unholy marriage of theocratic leaders with American Government hadn't occurred Atheists would have remained silent.
I feel that my view of reality and the nature of the Universe is more correct than the average theist. Does that mean I wish to stamp out all traditional religion? Absolutely not. That is not my job. In my view the dominant religions of the day will die out much the same way that the mythologies of old died out.
Education, the separation of Church and State and the spread of information will spell the end of most dogmatic religions.
Vigilance on the part of free people to ensure the free exchange of ideas and information will be paramount to this process.
"Weren't some of the worst atrocities in the 20th century committed by atheists"
This statement goes to guilt by association which wrong in an of itself for reasons that should be apparent to a third grader!
Even still Hitler was NOT an atheist. Hitler was born and considered himself to be a Roman Catholic. This is documented in many places.
Stalin was in seminary until he was kicked out in his third year. Does that make him an a theist? not necessarily. Does that make him an atheist? Again not necessarily.
Even if they both these losers were atheists...does that mean that ALL atheists are megalomaniacs?
Does Hitlers Catholicism condemn all catholics?
"How could billions of people be wrong when it comes to belief in God"
A thousand years ago most people believed the Earth was flat.
A great number of adherents to any candidate supposition does not make it correct.
I have no issue with people believing in a God. My concern is the REASON for their beliefs. What is the epistemological basis for your belief in the almighty?
FAITH is perfectly acceptable to me.
However if you try to justify to me your belief in God based on the Bible while trying to use REASON, I'm sorry but that's a losing proposition and it shows your FAITH is not strong.
"Why does the Universe exist"
Why shouldn't the universe exist?
This is another tough question that goes more to philosophy than science.
My answer is simple: "I don't know!"
And you know what? I'm OK with not knowing!
Maybe the answer is as simple as "Something is better than nothing"
Is there a prime mover? Perhaps.
Is that prime mover the one described in the Bible or the Koran? I am willing to bet my soul that neither Allah nor Yahweh exist!
"How did life originate?"
Here we have to start with a definition.
What is life?
My own clinical definition of is this: life is a collection of complex molecules that has the ability to reproduce itself and pass on useful inherited traits to the next generation.
What are those molecules made of? Well as it turns out they are made up mostly of the atoms most common in nature: Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen and Oxygen. With some other trace atoms.
Scientists have found that the very basis for all life on Earth is the DNA molecule. Every living thing has a string of DNA in every cell of it's body that's essentially the blueprint for how to build that living thing.
This DNA commonality implies that all life on earth can be traced back to one ancestor in the primordial ooze.
How did that instance of life arise? Where did it come from? Did it arise here on Earth independently (abiogenesis) or was the primordial Earth seeded from beyond (panspermia).
We don't know!
Notice how I have said nothing about Evolution Theory. That's because Evolution has nothing to say about the origin of life. Evolution explains the speciation of life forms into new species. It says nothing about where or how the chemistry of life arose.
"Is all religion harmful"
Anything taken to an extreme can be harmful.
Clearly, religion is responsible for much good in this world. But it has bred extremists of many flavors who would threaten us all.
Science has given us many good things cures for diseases, global telecommunications, increased food production...many things. But it has also brought horrors that can destroy all life on Earth.
Should we rid ourselves of this method we call Science?
The tools and methods of Science can be used by those of uncompromising religious or political fervor in unspeakable ways.
Religion can give peace and purpose to an adherents life, but any religion taken too far is a danger.
"What’s so bad about religious moderates?"
I can't comment because I am still internally debating this issue...
"Is there anything redeeming about religion?"
Religion, as I have said, can be a force for good in this world, so long as it is not taken to an extreme and become a dogma that is enforced.
"What if you’re wrong about God (and He does exist)?"
I have never proclaimed that "God does not exist".
I argue that God described by the Abrahamic faiths does not exist....and I am willing to bet my soul on it.
If compelling evidence is presented to me that supports the existence of God I will accept it. Even, in the unlikely event that this happens, I doubt highly that this God will be anything like the one described in the Bible or the Koran or the Torah.
So I sleep very well!
"Shouldn’t all religious beliefs be respected?"
The question should asked: What is respect? Miriam says this.
1 a : to consider worthy of high regard b : to refrain from interfering with
So I should treat all religions with high regard, without any consideration as to whether or not a I personally agree with them and how dangerous they might be for society?
Let's get this straight... I don't have to respect your beliefs! I will tolerate them to the extent at which you tolerate mine.
If your religion insists that you try to impose it on society and legislate special treatment for it then not only will I NOT respect it I will not tolerate it either!
Keep your religion to yourself and I will do the same.
"Are atheists smarter than theists?"
This is a stupid question!
I've met many smart theists and plenty of stupid atheists!
Reasons for beliefs and knowlege are a good mark of intelligence.
People of each category can fall on either side of this question.
"How do you deal with the historical Jesus if you don’t believe in his divinity?"
If his words and teachings are honorable and beneficial to you, what difference does it make whether I believe Jesus was divine or not .
Who are you trying to convince? Me? Or you?
Jesus' divinity is not an issue for me. Because it's really not important.
"Would the world be better off without any religion?"
I think that many people, really insane people, are restrained by the idea of a vengeful God. Without that restraint who knows what state the world would be thrust into!
"What happens when we die?"
Wait for it.....
Wait for it....!
I DON'T KNOW!!!
AND I AM OK WITH THAT!!!!
I live my life as if it's the only one I get....honestly and reasonably!