So recently I saw this shared on Facebook:
This was the original text:
A close relative from my hometown area contacted me this morning. This person said that they have been watching my page for sometime and have recently had severe doubts about the existence of God. Below is a summary of the questions asked. I thought it would be great if my FB Atheist friends could share their opinions to show the light (so to speak).
Note that all those questions are loaded with assumptions. My friend who shared it mentioned being open to honest questions. Are those questions honest? Maybe I should give the benefit of the doubt and take them to be so, but while they may be honest, they certainly don’t make any attempt to understand what atheism is before asking. (I’m sure that sounds reasonable, until you consider that this is how people debate all the time. They ask us questions and attempt debate without knowing what atheism is. How can you debate something when you don’t have a clue what it is?)
To me, the questions don’t seem to come from someone who has doubts, which contradicts the quote that came along with the OP. My answers below are thus not directed at anyone who has serious doubts about the existence of god… They’re the sort of answers I give when debating someone who strongly believes. Maybe I’m being unfair, but the below is how I deal with people of faith.
Perhaps it is worth noting that I didn’t come to this position overnight. When I was about 16, I stopped believing in god. Letting go of a belief in a soul or afterlife took years. So don’t take this too hard if you are somewhere between belief and disbelief as I was for so long. I try, in my answers below, to address not only the questions but also the assumptions that are loaded into those questions.
As an atheist, what do you believe?
Atheism isn’t a belief system. It isn’t some polar opposite of belief in whatever god you believe in. I don’t believe in any gods, or a soul, an afterlife, or creation, because there is no evidence to support the claims that any of those things exist. Religion makes claims. Atheism simply rejects those claims. As an atheist, I’m standing over here pointing at you and saying, “Nope, that’s bullshit”.
The burden of proof lies with those making the claims. But instead of those who insist that their gods exist making any attempt to prove it (because they can’t), they ask us who don’t believe to explain ourselves. That’s backwards. It’s only this way because religion spreads by indoctrination, by brainwashing children to believe before they are old enough to think critically. So instead of intelligent debate, we get religious apologetics, which seeks to rationalize reasons for believing despite zero evidence, often by bad arguments and logical fallacies or assuming that other things are evidence for god, and we get loaded questions like these, asking those who take the rational approach to explain why they don’t believe what you assume to be true.
What happens when you die?
You no longer exist. There is no evidence for a soul, an afterlife, or a creator. Just because you assume those things to be true does not make them so. As an atheist, I not only do not believe in any of those things, but it’s also not like I connect the idea of a creator to an afterlife. Those things are assumptions you make when you buy into your specific religion.
Not only does the burden of proof mean you need to prove that the god you believe in exists, but also, you need to provide evidence that a soul exists, which means there should be some way of showing that something other than our brains are responsible for our thoughts and awareness. Then, you need to point out why your god is the right one, instead of one of thousands of other gods that were claimed to exist, and establish why worshipping your god is a prerequisite for the afterlife that you assume exists.
To quote Louis C.K.
“What happens after you die?” “Lot’s of things happen after you die – they just don’t involve you.”
Why are we here?
Why should there be a reason? This question is not honest. When faced with difficult questions such as, “Why did your god let millions of innocent people die?”, you tell me, “The lord works in mysterious ways”. So because I don’t buy that, because I don’t accept this magical placeholder for the unknown, the origin of which should not be questioned – unlike the universe – I don’t have a purpose? And you do? What is that purpose?
Just because you claim a deity created you and everything and everyone else, does not give you a purpose. There isn’t a reason and your assumption says more about you as a believer than it does about me as a nonbeliever.
Where do morals come from?
They come from laws, in societies that have evolved where breaking them is detrimental to us an a species on the whole, because upholding those laws is an advantage to our survival. But ultimately they come from us empathising for one another. Ironically, this argument from morality has been made since before man created your god, and will likely still be made at some point in future when belief in some other god is popular and your god has been relegated to myth just like Zeus or Odin.
Edit: My friend Gareth explains the empathising better than I do. He commented the following answer to this question on the original Facebook share: “Evolutionary programming. You feel protective toward babies because you are programmed, and that programming is so deep that you feel the same way toward kittens.”
No doubt believers will then credit their god as being responsible for that evolutionary programming? Go ahead and assume that, but know that you just made another claim that isn’t supported by evidence. Also, it’s the same as taking the “works of god” to be evidence that god exists… To take the things that you assume god did to be proof of god is circular reasoning, as the premise of your argument assumes the conclusion to be true.
Furthermore, if a creator was responsible for some kind of objective morality, then all religious people would have exactly the same morals. They don’t. OK, so maybe all Christians since the beginning of the religion have identical morals? Sorry, no. OK, so maybe all Christians in all parts of the world right now have identical morals? Sorry, no.
Just because you credit your god with morality doesn’t make it so. And morality existed before your god’s teachings were written. Of course, in that case you can claim that god-given morals existed before then since “god revealed himself to us”. Really? Well, in that case, we come back to all religions being equal. Why then, do Christians tell me I have to accept Jesus, and Muslims tell me I must accept Allah? If every religion is the result of god “revealing himself to us”, as some of my Christian friends tell me, then maybe they ought to stop insisting other religions are wrong. You can’t have it both ways… As it happens, when you believe in things that contradict each other, and it makes you uncomfortable enough to pretend those contradictions don’t exist, there’s a name for that: Cognitive dissonance.
Why is it that I, as an atheist, have no reason to prejudice against gay people, or transgender people, or people who practice different religions? And also, I have no reason to believe that women are inferior. Even though I’m male, I’m a feminist because there is no reason for everybody not to have equal rights. And even as a white South African, I believe that white privilege and systematic racism is wrong and must be opposed, because it is the decent thing to do. Why is it that without any god, I have better morals than so many Christians? Maybe it’s because I learned my morals from my parents, my peers, and common decency? (Just like the bigoted fucks, but my parents and peers were not assholes like theirs.) Maybe it’s because morality is subjective?
How did the universe begin?
I don’t know, but then neither do you. I don’t pretend to have an answer.
I don’t have a magical placeholder in place of “I don’t know”, call it “God”, and insist that its origin can’t be questioned. How did god begin?
If you insist that god is eternal, then all you have is magic that isn’t allowed to be questioned. It makes no logical sense. You have no more an explanation than I do, but you just don’t know it, and because of indoctrination, you think that belief in god answers everything. It doesn’t. Actually there’s a name for this kind of flawed logic: Special pleading. If everything needs to have a creator (or a cause), but god doesn’t, then your conclusion violates the premise of your argument.
If god doesn’t need a beginning, why not the universe too? It could be a loop. Big Bang. Expand. Cool down after many billions of years. Collapse. When everything in the entire universe has been swallowed by black holes that then merge, there is no longer any mass. Without mass, time no longer exists, and the size is once again minimal. Next Big Bang. The loop repeats. I’m not saying that this is the answer, but the point is, inventing a god that the origin thereof by definition may not be questioned, simply moves the unknown that the god placeholder replaces, into a dogmatic solution that doesn’t solve anything.
Aren’t you afraid of going to Hell?
No, not in the least.
Like the first question, this one is loaded with assumptions. Threatening an atheist with Hell is like telling an adult that Santa won’t give them Christmas presents, only worse. It’s beyond absurd. We see through your religions. We understand that belief in gods does not explain anything about where the universe came from, does not give you better morals, and does not give you purpose. If you believe it does, goody for you! I’m glad that your belief gives you some sort of meaning and that your false comfort makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. Just don’t project that shit on me and others like me.