This is where these questions are posted – so this isn’t me stabbing at some straw-man. After a little searching I found the original source of these questions here – another word press blog! And as where the original post has great answers I thought I would offer my hand at answering them anyway. There may be some overlap in ideas.
1. How Did You Become an Atheist?
I was not raised with a strict belief but a concept of a God loosely based on the Christian God. Then I found Jesus one summer at camp – I was born again and it took a few weeks of being at home again and going to a new church to start to wake up. the wake up process began when I read the Bible and simply found it untenable and continued when I started to read philosophy. It was at this point that I began to openly question and those questions had no satisfactory answers within the realm of religion – it seemed man made to me and still does.
Then I died for several minutes after a particularly bad motocross accident. I had an experience and one that I struggle to put into words but it told me then that there was no supreme being that would be aware of our existence. No Heaven. No Hell.
In a search for answers I next turned to Buddhism and found the concept of a “no creator” belief was more suited to me and I pursued this for a long time thinking it was an atheistic belief system. It sorta is. The deeper you go into it the more you find the BS and at this point my BS detector was turned all the way up. I started to see it for what it was – man made full of spirits and devils and such – Since I was thinking like an atheist that whole time I just decided to go full bore and become an outspoken atheist. So, I don’t really know how long I’ve been an atheist but I’ve been rejecting gods and other mumbo-jumbo since I was 14ish/15ish with a side trip into Buddhism for quite awhile.
Strictly speaking I am agnostic – only because I make no absolute pronouncements – I say things like “god probably doesn’t exist” Really strictly speaking I guess I am classified as an Agnostic Atheist – but since all that is a mouthful I just go with atheist which is a BS term anyway made up by believers to classify – I prefer to think of myself as Jhon. I also don’t like football and most certainly don’t play it – am I an Afootballist? I don’t believe in elves or unicorns and I don’t have to bother with being called or calling myself an aelvist or an aunicornist.
Funny aside – the Romans called the Christians Atheists because they only believed in the one god and rejected so many others.
2. What happens when we die?
There are two answers here: One if you are meaning the concept of an immortal soul and two if you mean what happens to our energy and mass.
The first part is easier because I don’t believe in an immortal soul – possibly a mortal one and I imagine the same thing that was happening before we were born will happen after we die. nothing. Only our memory lives on if we are lucky enough to have people to remember us – and hopefully those are positive memories and luckier still if we impacted positively the lives of others and are remembered for longer than normal.
The second takes more explanation but I want to make it short. We are constructed out of starstuff – bits of matter and energy that existed long before there were any thoughts of “Jhon” – as a matter of fact there is a good likely hood that water inside my body was once drunk by a dinosaur and that the atoms that make up my body once passed through a long dead star. Cool shit right there. – so this is what happens when we perish – we decay and go out into everything, become a part of something more than ourselves – other selves! maybe even grass and trees or raccoons and birds! Energy and mass cannot be created or destroyed so in this way we live and have lived forever – but the “me” we think of is only here a brief time and that is going to have to be good enough for everybody.
3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!
Well, that is an easy question to ask anyone because not everyone can be right. What if your wrong about your god and it is Zeus that rules on high? or you are catholic and the Jews were right all along? What if the Hindus has it right? What about the JUJU at the bottom of sea? There are thousands of gods and hundreds of creation stories – only one can be right if any of them are right – how do you know you happened to be born into the right belief? I would rather be wrong, if I am, in the way that I am instead of wrong by worshiping and devoting my life to the wrong god or gods – the believer is really taking an awful lot of risk themselves if you think about it.
This is classic Pascal’s wager stuff right here. Say I choose to believe only because the small chance that I am wrong about your particular god/creation myth – I wager that it is a safer bet to believe and be wrong than to not believe and be wrong – will your god not see through this ruse? besides if I continue on the path I am – Is your god so unjust as to punish me simply for not believing even though I’ve lived my life with moral rectitude? If so then it is not a god that I would worship in the first place nor one I would want to spend an eternity worshiping and singing the praises of. If I am right – so what, I’ll be dead and won’t know any better so there will be no chance to gloat. If I am wrong and god is just then again – so what? I’ll end up in paradise anyway, if god is just – if god is not just then it is simply not worthy of the worship.
4. Without God, where do you get your morality from?
The same place you get yours from, friends, family, society – that feeling inside that lets you know when you’ve done good or fucked up. You most certainly don’t get your morals or ethics from religion – have you read the bible? the Pentateuch? the Koran? I have and I can assure you that your morals do not line up with them unless you go around stoning people, killing generations of other tribes and societies for not worshiping the same god, beating your slaves, wives, children, – et cetera – The only real moral teaching in the bible is from part of the Decalogue. The “thou shalt nots” which are good ideas and ones that predated the bible by a magnitude. Society would not have made it very far without some ground rules – which may be where religion started in the first place that and it represents our first best attempts at answering the big questions – they were not good answers and we now have better ones.
5. If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?
I currently murder and rape the amount that I want – and that amount is zero. Is all that stops you from murder and rape a flimsy belief in divine punishment and reward? If so, you are not welcome at my table – you are a scary motherfucker. Being good is done for its own sake – really. If you are good for a reward – then you weren’t really all that good to begin with – This suggests that you would also be bad for a reward. Like say – if you fly a large plane into a large set of buildings then you get to go to heaven and have 70 virgins – that is that kind of thinking.
6. If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?
I was unaware that the only possible meaning one could have in ones life was god. What about family, friends, talents, hobbies, interests, making others lives better, creating a better world for our children or the neighbors kids, et cetera -
7. Where did the universe come from?
Good question – I don’t know but let us not stop looking and experimenting because “god did it” is an available answer. “god did it” is appealing if you don’t want to think about it but on the whole it is a conversation stopper – “I don’t know, let’s find out!” is a conversation stater. It is dangerous to think you have all the answers and most would agree but this is the very thing that theists think – the answer to everything is the simple “god did it.”
The easiest answer to this question is the retort “where did your god come from?” which the answer usually is “god is eternal” – well if you can believe that then why can you not believe that the universe is eternal? – insofar, in all of our equations about how the universe works “god” had not been required for explanation – why is he/she/it needed now? Let’s keep looking for the answer – we can even do it together.
And in the end, as of right now – we don’t know and I don’t know is a perfectly good answer.
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?
I really don’t want to insult anyone here but you may feel insulted and I cannot help that if you really want this answered. At worst I think that people who claim to have witnessed miracles or seen saints or angels are lying or at best deluded. Much like the convenience of being born into the “right” religion – it is very telling that the only people who hear this sermon are the converted and faithful. People are easily convinced when it is something they are primed to believe in the first place. Take the appearance of saints – they only appear to the catholic and it was way more common before the invention of the camera. Or Vishnu only appears to the Hindu and Buddha to the Buddhist. Never has a miracle appeared in front of an educated, well read person. Never has a saint appeared to an atheist or an agnostic. Aliens only appear to the backwoods simpleton and we quickly dismiss them don’t we? as we routinely commit people who talk with god. We simply choose to believe what confirms our ingrained belief and ask for no further review unless it goes against said belief.
9. What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?
I like them – but they don’t speak for me. And you forgot Dennet. Actually you forgot a lot of people (Greta Christina comes to mind) and I like a great deal of them but none of them speak for me.
10. If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?
Well, if there was a god wouldn’t all the religions worship the same god? Wouldn’t revealed truth be the same revealed truth no matter where you found yourself? Either China or the Middle East? The differences of each tradition and how well suited to the time when they were created speaks to them having been man made. Why would people, specifically men, make up such deceit? Control pops to mind – other things that come to mind are: Religion is our first attempt to explain the world and the observable universe, we have since gotten better explanations. Religion could be our early attempts at government as well – a setting up of rules. Children’s stories designed to comfort evolved into common practices that we recognize as religion today.
To follow mythology back is interesting – the further back you go the simpler and more similar it gets. Early religion and idol worship is very different from what is done today but the groundwork was laid long ago with early humans and has continued to evolve from there.