Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Not gaming related, but answers to Today Christian's 10 questions they claim atheists can't answer.

Grade: Difficult to assign a single grade.
Grade for the questions as questions: D-
Grade for clickbait quality: C

Today Christian indulges in the periodic exercise that many Christian publications do of asking fake questions of atheists.  Mostly this shows that the author of the piece has never actually met or talked to an atheist, usually they have clickbait titles, like this one does, making the assertion that an honest atheist can't answer the questions.   

Their clickbait intro above the questions exposes the actual purpose: "Some Questions Atheist [sic] Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer! Which leads to some interesting conclusions…"  

I'm betting it has to do with Romans 1:18-20 and the conclusion that atheists are all secret believers in God who just want to rebel or live in sin.  That's typically where publications of this nature go when they think about atheism.

I have a few questions of my own, beginning with, how did they decide on the name "Today Christian", because that's a terrible, awkward, name.  Perhaps the founder wasn't a native English speaker?  But I'll save my questions and answer theirs.  Unsurprisingly, the answers are not difficult at all.

Link to Today Christian's list of "questions".  
1.       How Did You Become an Atheist?
 I didn't become an atheist, I started as an atheist and see no reason to change that position.  I wasn't raised religious and never had any faith in any god.  Unlike many atheists, I don't have a deconversion story.  I've always been an atheist, kind of boring I'll admit but a very easy answer.
2.       What happens when we die?
We cease to exist. Not exactly a fun or desirable prospect, but reality is what it is and wishing won't make it any different.  One day we may discover a way to do mind uploading or some other technological way to cheat death, I'm pretty sure that we will one day, but I doubt it will be in my lifetime.  My child or possibly his child may live to see immortality,  I almost certainly won't.
3.       What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!
What if you're wrong and the real god is Allah? And he's mad because you worshiped Jesus instead of him?  And he's going to throw you into HELL! 

Pascal's Wager only works if you assume there exactly two options: your specific religion and atheism.  Once you widen it to include all the other religions that actually exist then it fails.  And, really, even if it made logical sense, I don't see how it'd lead to salvation.  Surely an all knowing god would be able to differentiate between a genuine believer and someone faking it as a sort of spiritual insurance policy?

Moreover, the question is just a not so veiled threat, a Mafia protection racket on your soul.  Worship my god, you say, or he'll torture you for all eternity.  That's not one beggar telling another where to find free bread, that's a threat and a worse threat than any gangster has ever made.  A mortal gangster after all can, at worst, torture you to death once.  You claim the sadistic and cruel god you worship can torture a person for all eternity without even the hope of death as a way to escape the agony.  That's only "kind and loving" if you suffer from Stockholm Syndrome.

If I'm wrong, well, any just god wouldn't torture people forever based on a failure to worship him, and any unjust god is unworthy of worship.  

4.       Without God, where do you get your morality from?
The same place you do.  There's a bit built into our genome, and a lot from society.  I'd like to imagine that I'm some sort of paragon of virtue and that if I'd lived in the Roman Empire I'd have been an abolitionist and an advocate of women's rights, but in all honesty I'd probably have been like any other Roman citizen.  People generally conform to whatever conditions exist in their society, with a few reformers urging progressive change, and a few reactionaries fighting against progressive change.  

Christians don't get their morality from the Bible, much as they may claim to.  Note, for example, the near total absence of Christians protesting against bankers who charge interest despite the Bible being very explicit in condemning loaning money at interest, and the long history of Christians persecuting Jews who did loan money at interest.  Or the almost universal Christian acceptance of divorce, even among Catholics (though some will justify it by inventing loopholes and rule laywering to allow someone to "annul" a marriage, which totally isn't the same as divorce, because annul starts with an A and divorce starts with a D).

5.       If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?
If the only thing holding you back from murdering and raping is fear of some father figure in the sky punishing you after death, you must be a pretty awful person and I'd really rather you weren't around children.  Perhaps you should seek professional help?

Can we do what we want?  No.  We exist in a society and that society has rules.  Violate those rules and they'll be enforced by society.  And, thanks to our evolutionary path, societies tend to have very similar rules for the basics.  Murder, rape, theft, and assault are crimes in every society.  It gets less universal when you get to the details (what, exactly, differentiates murder from a justified killing?  what, specifically, makes for assault?) but the broad patterns are the same across human societies.

More important, we have an innate sense of morality due to our evolution as a social species.  That fails sometimes, sociopaths for example lack that sense of empathy and morality, and the inborn sense was evolved to be beneficial in a small tribe or pack of humans.  This means it can lead us astray in our current environment.  But that sense that it is wrong to kill or hurt other people has been demonstrated to be inborn rather than social.

Good deeds are unrewarded sometimes.  That's not nice, but it's true.  And bad things happen to good people, because the universe has a large random component.  

Most importantly, why would a god be considered objective even if there was a god?  That's not objective, that's just a god's subjective opinions coupled with a belief that might makes right.
6.       If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?
I make meaning for myself, as do you.  That's what people do, we make meaning.  
7.       Where did the universe come from?
I don't know.  Current best evidence says there was a big bang around 14 billion years ago and that started the whole thing, but what came before that (or if that question is even meaningful) I don't know.  People are working on figuring that out, and perhaps they'll have an answer before I die.  

The GodDidIt answer is just a long winded and confusing way of saying "I don't know".  The difference between us is not that you know the true origin of the universe and I don't, it's that I'm honest in admitting my ignorance and you aren't. 

Until the 1920's no one knew how the sun burned either, that didn't mean it was a miracle beyond human understanding, it just meant that humanity hadn't yet discovered the principle of atomic fusion.  
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 would say such people are either mistaken or lying.  People, it turns out, are really bad at accurately observing things.  One of the things that makes science work are the steps a process takes to minimize human error in the observations.  That's why science uses double blind tests, control groups, measurement by instrument rather than human senses, and all the other annoying, painstaking, steps it does.

Human memory is infamously malleable.  People adjust their memories all the time, and will in all honesty remember events that never happened.

Show me a testable miracle that can be empirically verified and I'll concede that it is real.  A bunch of people who imagine that once they saw an angel, I'm afraid I can't just take them at their word.  UFO believers swear they see little green men.  That doesn't mean aliens are really performing proctologies on rednecks.
9.       What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?
They have (or had, Hitchens is dead now) the occasional valuable contribution.  In addition to that Harris is a right wing lunatic who can't or won't apply even the tiniest bits of reason or self examination to his thought process.  Hitchens was a contrarian for the sake of it and took pleasure in annoying people.  Dawkins has turned into a jerk, or perhaps he always was and it just wasn't obvious, with a serious case of unexamined privilege.  

I'd also ask why you call out those three, I suspect its just laziness as it isn't as if they are the only atheists, or even the only outspoken atheists, in the world.  Asking me to justify them is no more proper or fair than me asking you to justify Timothy McVeigh simply because he happened to be Christian.
10.   If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

I'm not an anthropologist, but my layman's understanding of it is that it seems that our brains are hardwired for the pathetic fallacy, which has a survival benefit out in the wild even if it isn't true, and which will tend to develop into religion among smart people as time passes.  I will note that "religion" and "god belief" are separate things and that there are societies that have religion while technically being atheist in that they have no gods.  For example, many forms of Buddhism involve no gods.  

There you have it Today Christian, your ten "unanswerable" questions answered, completely honestly and without any real difficulty or trouble.

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