Saturday, July 23, 2011

10 Questions Atheists Can't Answer Well

I found these questions at the website linked below. I am in an introspective mood, so I decided to answer them candidly and to the best of my ability and maybe start a discussion on these matters with the visitors of this and the originating website.  Please enjoy.
http://www.twoorthree.net/2005/05/10_questions_at.html
There are the basic world view questions:
1. Origins: Where did life and humanity originate?
The prevailing theory is that during a time when the earth was covered with nothing but puddles of bubbling grime, and being bombarded by solar radiation, the basic building blocks of life, amino acids, proteins, and the like, were present in mass quantities.  They mixed in every concievable configuration for a period of time that dwarfs the entire span of biological existence.  Eventually they had to mix in such a manner that they created the first single-celled organism capable of mass asexual reproduction.  Once this occured, it was another eons-long period of time before the next biological hurdle could be cleared, the mutation of a segment of these organisms into a species that could reproduce sexually.  At this point, Evolution becomes unavoidable.   In a system where limitless hordes of creatures are living, reproducing by means of genetic recombination, and dying, the environment becomes the selector which shapes the changes that are happening in populations into survival and replication machines.  We are at the tip of the very top branch of an unimaginably large family tree.
 

2. The Problem: Why is there suffering, sickness, and death?
Because there is life.  There is no problem explaining suffering in the context of atheism or evolution, the problem comes when you try to explain it in the context of a world being shaped and manipulated by the hands of a benevolent creator.  This world, full as it is of suffering, misery, and despair, is exactly what one would expect a world to look like if there was no divine intervention.  I would pose to the theist this same question.
3. The Solution: What is the cure for man's suffering, esp. his existential lonliness?
If I knew that, I'd probably have a much larger readership.  As long as humans have needs that are not being filled, desires which can never be satiated, and dreams that will never come true, there will always be unhappiness.  Existential lonliness, I find, is a concern only for those with the expectation of luminous or supernatural companionship.  I feel no sense of lonliness so long as I surround myself with good and decent people.  

Questions of Meaning and Value:
4. How does an atheist assign meaning to human activity? Is all meaning subjective, or do some activities have self-evident and objective worth and meaning. If so, what are these activities, and how to you arrive at their value?
I don't know if our calling is necessarily objective, but I wouldn't exactly call it subjective, because there is a sense of common interest among all humans that binds us on a subconscious level.  The need for belonging, the need for the common good, the advancment of the human condition, for shared knowlege and experience.  Humans need eachother on a deep and visceral level to care for and protect one another.  This is evident also in our closest animal relatives, the great apes, who have a sense of community, the ability to show altruism and love for one another, and even great sadness and compassion at the misfortune of another. It is worth noting, by the way, that these impulses are to be expected for a species evolved to coexist tribally as we were.
5. Are humans of more intrinsic value than animals? Why or why not?
Humans are of greater intrinsic value to one another than animals are to us, just as animals are of greater intrinsic value to eachother than we are to them.  It is a concept known as tribe selection, in which the tribe looks out for their own, to advance the common goal of survival.  That having been said, every person has their own feelings toward animals, I happen to have an unnaturally strong attachment to dogs.  If my dog were in danger from a particularly nasty person, I would consider that person to be a danger to my family and I would take whatever steps necessary to neutralize them as a threat.  However, if my son were in danger from my dog, my own kin naturally wins out.  This is not an atheism thing so much as a person-to-person subjective opinion.
6. How does an atheist determine what is moral or immoral, right or wrong. Is there any objective standard or principles?
An atheist determines what is moral in the exact same way that a theist decides what is moral.  He makes up his own mind based on what feels right to him.  This is why there are no Christians stoning disobedient children or burning witches.  Christians claim they derive their morality from God or the Bible, but seem to skip over the parts of the bible that obviate its bronze-age cave-man origins.  No Christian in his right mind today would pass the test put to Isaac and Abraham.  If a parent chooses to murder his own child to prove his love for God, he is not fit to be a parent.  Most Christians would agree with me on this, and for that I am relieved.   The closest thing that could be called an objective standard of moral principles is the set of instinctual taboos that we all share (most chimps too).  We feel deeply sick when we see other people suffering, most of us cannot stomach the thought of murdering a fellow human being, if you enjoy it, you are by definition a psychopath, and if forced to do it, you very often never fully recover.  Rape is deeply disgusting to those of us who are not mentally ill as well.  We all have a sense of injustice when one of us doesn't get a fair shake.  We universally despise those who would victimize children.  There is evolutionary support for every one of these principles, it seems to be hard-coded into our DNA, as you would expect it to be in a species that evolved to coexist tribally. There is, of course, a dark side to tribalism, in that it is very easy for charismatic leaders to de-humanize one group to another.  This is how men can create genocide with a big grin on their faces.  This is something we should all be watchful for.
Questions of Worldview:
7. What type of government does atheistic philosophy translate into? How does it understand the relationship between man and government? What type of government structures flow from an atheistic world view? Does it merely rely on someone else's system of thought, like the assumptions of naturalistic science
Atheism is not a worldview, it is not a philosophy, it is not a moral code.  Atheism is simply the lack of a positive belief in a supernatural god, nothing more.  Atheists can be Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, Liberals, Libertarians, Socialists, Communists, Anarchists, and every other form of mainstream and esoteric political and philosophical viewpoint you can name.  That having been said, the majority of atheists seem to embrace a humanist-naturalist worldview, although I've never met an atheist who wouldn't object to any label you tried to apply to them.   We largely seem to be against pigeonholing us into groups and demographics.  One author described attempting to organize atheists as being akin to trying to herd cats.
8. How does atheism view religions and religious faith? What about metaphysics? Is atheism purely materialistic and naturalistic?
As I said, the only thing the term 'atheist' implies about its descriptor is that they don't accept the claim that a god exists.  Most reject all supernatural claims pending sufficient evidence, most are skeptical about metaphysics as well.  A minority have respect for the luminous experiences of which the human psyche is evidently capable, although they tend to ascribe these to natural states of mind, unusual brain activity, and most reject any supernatural implications of human epiphany. Personally I see all major religions as demonstrably and obviously false, I think they are extremely pervasive and brainwash people into rejecting anything that doesn't fit with their pre-cocieved notions.  It has been observed that it is hard to reason people out of beliefs they didn't reason themselves into.  I don't consider faith to be a virtue.  To me, faith is simply stubborn belief despite evidence to the contrary.  I don't see any belief as reasonable without some sort of evidence to support it.
9. Who are the authoritative writers/books of atheism? What are the central tenets of atheism, and if they have a "greatest commandment," what is it? For example, arguably, Christianity's is "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself."
We don't, as a rule, embrace any writers as authoritative, bound by the tenets of atheism, as I said, there are no tenets of atheism, no codes of conduct, no theot to which all atheists are bound to abide.  The most popular books on the subject of atheism seem to be Richard Dawkins' 'The God Delusion', Christopher Hitchens' 'God is not Great', Sam Harris' 'The End of Faith' and 'Letter to a Christian Nation' (which is written for the benefit of Christians, not atheists, so you might give it a read if you're curious)   We do not have any commandments, and there is no real ideal which is universally hold dearest (in other words, I can't even give you a guess on this one, it's different for each of us)  Many consider murder to be the worst act a human can perform, others rape, many say it's forsaking one's intellectual integrity, some say slavery, it really depends on who you ask.  I personaly deplore willful ignorance and cowardice the most. 
Questions of Revelation:
10. What happens after we die?
The same thing that happened before you were born.  Your every thought will end, you will slumber endlessly in dreamless sleep.  You will not know you are dead, you will not know you ever lived.  Life will go on without you.  If you are very very lucky, and good to people, people will remember you fondly until they themselves die.  If you are exceptionally good or bright or talented or infamous, people will remember you a bit longer.

5 comments:

  1. 1. Where did the bubbling grime and solar radiation come from?

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  2. There are very long books on this subject, but the short version is, rapid expansion caused by a singularity or collision of supermassive objects, in the beginning, there was hydrogen, which coalesced into large masses and reacted to ignite and created stars, which coalesced into clusters and galaxies. Stars are huge, natural fusion reactors, which combine elements to make compound molecules and make advanced chemistry possible. This matter is ejected into space as stardust, collects in orbit, and coalesces to form planetary bodies made of "Bubbling grime". Early versions of the atmosphere didn't thoroughly block out the solar radiation from our star. That's one of the many reasons life was able to evolve here, and probably elsewhere as well.

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  3. Where did the singularity or super-massive objects come from?

    Eventually you are going to have to come up with an uncaused cause that prevents an infinite regress. Material explanations all run into the problem of an infinite regress.

    From the christian perspective, god is the uncaused cause, who exists necessarily and, until the point of creation, existed timelessly. Atheists are left hanging, either believing a logical absurdity, that an infinite regress is possible, or believing in magic, that something can come from nothing with no cause.

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  4. If God can exist without cause, than why can't the universe? The problem with the infinite regression argument is that noone can provide a satisfactory answer for why God is the terminator for it. If God created the universe, he must necessarily be at least as complex as the universe, thus by asserting him as the uncaused cause, you're creating a bigger problem than you're solving. All we have yet to explain is the existence of a rapid expansion of the simplest possible matter, you have to explain the existence of a timeless, infinitely complex, infinitely wise entity.

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  5. You'll find much at the Warning, but not now. You're too full of yourself. My suggestion for resurrection? Be humble, listen to the Wholly Spirit, and repent. If not, if you think I'm a joke, groovy. You'll find-out soon enough...

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