Originally written on: Apr 10, 2011
I wrote this blog to summarize my religious views. It's a convenient way to show people who are interested in what I believe (or don't believe) and why. Readers should be warned that some people are offended at the mere suggestion that their beliefs might not be correct. If you're one of these people, you might want to reconsider; but for everyone with an open mind, I'll begin with what it actually means to be an atheist.
I wrote this blog to summarize my religious views. It's a convenient way to show people who are interested in what I believe (or don't believe) and why. Readers should be warned that some people are offended at the mere suggestion that their beliefs might not be correct. If you're one of these people, you might want to reconsider; but for everyone with an open mind, I'll begin with what it actually means to be an atheist.
Introduction: What Is an Atheist?
When people find out that I'm atheist, they often ask questions such as, "Why are you atheist? Where do you think you'll go after you die? Do you believe we came from nothing and evolved from monkeys?" As a response to this and for an easy reference to avoid saying or typing everything multiple times, I created this.
First of all, it's important to define the word atheist. Some people have a skewered definition of the word. It seems as if many people are indifferent when hearing that someone doesn't believe in a god, but as soon as the word atheist comes up, they step back, almost in fear.
Some people actually think that an atheist is someone who worships the devil or something similar. Rather, an atheist is someone who does not believe in a god. Someone who believes in a personal god is a theist, and someone who believes in a non-personal god is a deist. There are other beliefs as well, such as pantheism, but for the majority of this text I will only address atheism and theism. But before moving on, it's important to discuss agnosticism.
Generally speaking, a person is either gnostic or agnostic. Gnosticism is the belief that something is absolute truth and can be proven. Agnosticism is the acceptance that something — at least in the current time due to limited technology or other reasons — cannot be proven or disproven. This terminology actually varies, and its true meaning may be up for debate. For a visual, this is how I tend to break down the gradient of where most people fall under:
Gnostic theist: A person who believes that there is undoubtedly a god and that it can be proven.
Strong agnostic theist: A person who believes that a god by definition is beyond human understanding and cannot be proven or disproven but who believes that there almost certainly is a god.
Weak agnostic theist: A person who is unsure about whether or not there is a god — it may be impossible to ever know for sure — but thinks that there probably is one.
Weak agnostic atheist: Same as above but without thinking that there is a god.
Strong agnostic atheist: A person who acknowledges that a god cannot be proven or disproven but has no reason to believe unless sufficient evidence is ever provided.
Gnostic atheist: A person who believes and makes the claim that there is no god and believes that god can be disproven.
I consider myself a strong agnostic atheist. At this point in time (I used to be a very passionate Christian, a Protestant to be precise) I do not believe in any god but am open-minded enough to consider evidence suggesting that there is; but until then I have no reason to.
My Religious Past
Knowing that I used to be so strongly into religion, it surprises many people when they find out that I no longer believe. Some people wonder, "What happened? Did something bad happen to make you lose faith? Did you get with the 'wrong crowd'?"
No, and no. No traumatic event happened to make me question the existence of a god, and most of my friends have always been Protestant. By the way, before moving on I should define the terms Christian and Protestant, since some people I know do not know the difference between the two.
Many Protestants that I have known incorrectly use the term Christian synonymously with Protestant. Since they believe that Catholics will go to hell for not accepting Jesus' crucifixion as payment for their sins, they do not consider them Christians. However, the term Christian encompasses all denominations that believe in Jesus as depicted in the bible; this includes Protestants and Catholics as well as Jehovah's Witnesses and other denominations. Protestant is a general term that includes Baptists, Methodists, and so on.
With that said, I used to be deeply religious. I believed I had a personal relationship with god, prayed every day (not just "thank you for my food, amen" but prayers with meaning and feeling behind them), read my bible almost every day (I got through most of the NT before I stopped believing), gave testimonies in person and online, tried to get my non-Christian friends to "see the truth" and accept Jesus' salvation, attended the church's bible camp, volunteered to clean at the church, and even had dreams about going to heaven.
I was deeply into it, more so than most of my family and certainly more than the friends I've had growing up. It's this fact that made my family scratch their heads in disbelief since I used to be so passionate about it. They couldn't understand how someone could be so passionately religious and then one day stop believing.
Questions Begat Questions
I ironically started to question my religion when I was most into it. I kept wondering why anyone would actually refuse Jesus' gift of salvation or not believe in a loving god. I thought of countless children who grew up and died believing in one of many wrong religions and would therefore go to hell. How would they know they were in the wrong religion? How would I know if it was me?
I asked my pastor, and he told me something along the lines of: "Everyone has doubts, even me. But you just have to ask god to help you. Pray and read the bible." Ever since I was around the age of 5, my mom has told me that all doubts and distractions are because of Satan — or to use her exact words, they ARE the devil. (She said that The Twilight Zone and horror movies were the devil when my dad watched them because she didn't like them, but she had no apparent guilt from watching soap operas and action movies and listening to classic rock.) I was led to believe that the devil wanted me to doubt my faith and constantly tried to pull me away, and that if I gave in he would win.
Eventually I found information that contradicted what I believed and had the option to watch a video that explained why at least some people don't believe in god. I was actually scared to watch it. I felt like it was a trap by the devil himself, and that by even considering the possibility of my religion being wrong, I was committing a horrible sin. After all, Jesus said something similar to, "If a person denies my father, then he too will deny you into the kingdom of heaven." This was interpreted in church to even include a person stating that they don't believe. There were also stories in church about a person that turned away from religion and then shortly died. There was even a claim that sickness and death might be a result of OTHER people not doing what they should in terms of religion; I'm actually surprised that no one in my family has blamed me yet every time someone catches a cold.
But I swallowed the fear for the sake of curiosity and watched. The video was 10 Questions That Every Intelligent Christian Must Answer and is still very popular on Youtube. I watched it and others and was taken back because after a brief moment of actually considering the possibility of there not being a god, it all made sense. Yet, I still denied it.
I imagined the devil's euphoric grin as I doubted my faith and felt that I had betrayed god. I prayed and asked for his forgiveness and for him to help me through it. I asked for signs that he was real and to make it clear to me. Time went on.
Several weeks and long, sleep-deprived nights later, I began to accept the possibility that there might not be a god. It was still a scary thought; I thought that without god, the world would be an inherently evil place where around every corner someone could be waiting with a knife. I wondered about death and asked myself what it means if there really is no god and therefore no heaven or hell.
Eventually I accepted that realization and became what I then called an agnostic. I was in the middle, unsure of whether or not there was a god. On one hand, I had been taught all my life that there is a loving god that hears prayers and allows everything to happen including every beat of every heart. On the other hand, I knew things that contradicted my religious beliefs and knew that other things within my faith didn’t make sense.
I spent the next few months looking into religion and the history of Christianity. I remember learning how man-made the bible really was from a previous class, but I also discovered how so many aspects of it — such as the entire Jesus story — was ripped almost directly from other myths. I came to see how gods and religions are created, change over time, and die, with Christianity being no different. Mankind has used gods for a long time to explain the unknown and the uncomfortable. In this sense it provides comfort, but I'm at the point now where I have higher standards of evidence and have learned to question things; extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Which Came First, Man or God?
Now that I've established my religious history, I will move onto defending my position, beginning with the belief that there is no god.
Let's consider that after thousands of years, no can prove that a god even exists. The only so-called evidence that anyone can present is in the form of testimony, the bible, or the question, "Look around; do you really think that all of this happened by chance?" "Plus," they add, "what if you're wrong? If I'm right, I go to heaven, and if I'm wrong nothing happens. If you're right nothing happens, but if you're wrong, you'll spend eternity in hell." It turns out that it really doesn’t require a lot of thought to debunk each of these. I'll start with the latter.
Pascal's wager is flawed because it is a false dichotomy, a logical fallacy that supposes only two outcomes when there are actually more. In the case of Christianity — ironically originally used to support Catholicism — it implies that either heaven and hell exist, or there is no god. Yet, any given branch of Christianity is only one of many possible religions in the world. Religions tend to exclude each other, claiming that they are the only true religion and that everyone else will not meet the requirements for the most desirable afterlife. Even people within a religion disown each other and claim that most are not "true" members of the religion (or faith, since Protestantism insists on separating itself from other branches of Christianity by not calling itself a religion).
To Pass or Fail a Testimony
Moving on, testimony is not a valid form of evidence for anything. While claims that are not out of the ordinary are often easily accepted — such as "I went to the store today and they were out of apples" — over the past century there have been countless claims of ghosts, alien abductions, communicating with the dead, talking to god in dreams, seeing a tunnel of light while dying, and so on. Let's consider the most obviously wrong one to most readers, alien abduction.
First of all, it just so happens that almost all of these take place at night, especially after the person has went to sleep. It should come as no surprise, then, that these claims all seem to involve a person being woken up at night by something, whether it's the sound of demons or giant alien heads standing over the person. Beside the fact that aliens and their aircraft have never been found — inb4area51conspiracy — common sense rules out the possibility of traveling from one star to another, especially as distant as many stars are to our own sun. If a star is 250 light years away, then it takes light a whole 250 years to reach us. What we see in the sky is not what the star looks like now but rather how it looked 250 years ago.
As advanced as we are, we still cannot travel at the speed of light. The fastest we have ever moved a projectile is still slower than that. But even if we could somehow match the speed of light — which according to physics is impossible — then that still means that a trip from the aforementioned star to our own would take aliens 250 years to get here. Not only would that require a life form capable of surviving for so long or a technology such as cryogenic freezing, it would also require a spacecraft with enough resources to last the trip. Furthermore, the aliens would have to specifically choose our star among hundreds of billions in our galaxy as well as our specific planet. And if they did come to earth, how would such a craft not be detected by NASA, the air force, satellites, and people that happen to be outside at the time? Why enter a random person's house just to probe them while they sleep? The more questions that are asked, the more apparent it becomes that this is ridiculous.
Then there are people that see or hear ghosts and demons, again usually at night. People wake up to sounds that are unmistakably demonic. Ghostly apparitions stand beside the bed as if waiting for the person to wake up. Others claim to talk to god or see visions while asleep. But all of these have the same explanation: if they happen at night, especially after supposedly being woken up, then it was a dream.
I've had dreams about ghosts. I've had dreams about the end of the world and even going to heaven when I used to be a Christian. In one dream, someone even said something that they happened to say something similar to a week or so later. But they were all just dreams. I didn't see ghosts; I didn't have a premonition of the end of the world; and I'm not a psychic that can predict the future.
But, you ask, what about the rare claims that happen during the day? This and the light in the tunnel phenomenon are both the result of the human mind trying to make sense of the information it is trying to process. If a person shoots someone and then tosses the gun at a random person who then catches it, everyone who looks after that point will see the gun is the innocent person's hand and assume that he or she did it. If a girl drops something and bends over to pick it up next to a guy and you turn the corner with something partially blocking the view, you might assume something different.
Here's a better example because it's something anyone can observe: look at the moon when it is low in the sky, especially when it appears close to houses or other large objects. The moon looks bigger than it does when it's high in the sky. Is the moon closer to us? Did it become bigger? No. We know that houses are big, and when we see the moon dwarf the size of houses, we place more emphasis on the moon's large size. In reality, the moon is more or less a quarter of the earth's size in diameter, and while the sun and the moon seem almost identical in size, the sun is thousands of times bigger than the earth (1.3 million earths could fit inside the sun in terms of volume). It's all based on perspective.
One possible explanation for seeing a ghost is something I don’t know the technical name of but will call vision burn here. If you stare at an object long enough and then look in a different direction, you will see the same object appear over what you are looking at. This, the moon's apparent increase in size, and other optical illusions are all possible because of how the mind works and how easily it is tricked. Magicians rely on this to distract people and to trick them into thinking that something happened that really didn't.
Another explanation is simply that people take naps during the day. Glitches and video editing allow for so-called footage of ghosts that outside of horror movies rarely looks convincing. Combined with sounds, it's easy for the mind to confuse imagination with reality.
If I Call Reality God, Does God Exist?
But I have one more criticism with testimony before moving on, and this is perhaps the most important example because it seems to be the most used and to believers the most convincing. Every time there is a coincidence, no matter what it is, people tend to assume that it's because of a god. Testimonies are filled with near-death experiences and answered prayers. "My son was really sick, and I prayed about it, and he got better." "I was driving and a truck in front of me crashed, and I almost died; I know that god was with me."
In order to get a grasp on this, readers will have to see the big picture for a moment. Consider that the entire universe is filled with actions and reactions. It is how galaxies are formed, how stars are formed and die, and how species diverge. But even reduced to our own planet, it can be said that statistically people are being born and die every couple seconds. If it happens to be one person, it's not because of divine intervention. It's because of chance. If a lightning bolt strikes a tree that crashes onto a house, it's because the house was built there, not because god intentionally threw a bolt of lightning at the tree knowing exactly how it would fall as punishment or as a test of faith.
It can be said that any two events that happen in the world are coincidence. You have so many shirts, and so does your friend. Assuming that you two didn't plan to wear certain shirts or make that decision based on the other's decision, the fact that you happened to wear both shirts on the same day is a coincidence. Any other combination could have been possible, but no, you wore those shirts on the same day. Is there any significance in that? No, of course not. The chance of wearing a different set of shirts is just as likely.
Here's a more profound example: if you pick three cards from a deck, the chance of you picking those three cards in that order is less than one in a million. We're approaching lottery-level odds. But so what? You could have picked any three cards in any order. In theory, if you do this enough times with a randomized deck, you will eventually get any set of cards you want, whether it's three aces or a jack, queen, and king of diamonds. If you happen to get this in the first ten times versus the seven hundred thousandth time, it isn't miraculous. It's chance.
Now, returning to the testimonies of a mother's son getting better and a person surviving an accident, do you honestly believe that if the mother didn't pray, the son wouldn't have healed? If the person wasn't religious, do you think that he or she would have crashed? It would be stranger if every person that got sick suddenly died or if every person remotely close to every accident that ever happened died as well. Statistically, there will be some people who get better from sickness — most do — and some that don't. There will be some people that walk away from an accident without a scratch, some that are injured, and some that die. Is god with people that survive? If so, then was he looking the other way when all of the other accidents happened? Did he willingly let them die, perhaps as punishment, a test of faith, or part of his divine plan for reasons that we puny humans cannot comprehend?
Consider the following: right now by typing this I am praying to an invisible pink elephant god in my garage that you live through the day and are still alive tomorrow. By the same logic that religious people use with prayer, if you are still alive tomorrow, then my pink elephant god answered my prayer! Therefore, the pink elephant god exists. But what if you don't survive? I hope you do, but if not, then the pink elephant god is punishing you for not being faithful to it, or it is testing your faith. Or it is part of its divine plan and something that we should not question.
What's that? It's absurd? You mean I need to prove that the elephant god exists? This is exactly my point. Testimony and supposedly answered prayer that obviously wouldn't have been different if the prayer didn't take place are not evidence for anything other than BELIEF in the supernatural. Furthermore, I want to take this opportunity to counter a common response to my notion that after thousands of years, no one has been able to prove the existence of a god. People say, "Well, you can't prove that a god DOESN'T exist."
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The burden of proof lies with those that make a positive claim that something exists. If I claim that there is an invisible pink elephant god in my garage, it's not up to you to prove that it doesn't exist. For every logical assertion you make, I can claim that the elephant doesn't interact with the physical world and therefore cannot be disproven with logic. Likewise, it's not up to non-believers to prove that a god doesn't exist; it's up to believers to prove that one does. Surely, if a being as powerful and influential as god exists, then it should be more than easy to prove its existence.
Many people counter this by saying that not everything that can be proven can be sensed. Gravity, for example, is not something people can see or hear. But its effects can be observed. We know that because of the force of gravity, objects on earth fall with acceleration due to gravity at a rate of 9.8 meters per second squared at sea level disregarding wind speed and resistance. Given the mass of an object — such as another planet or a moon — we can calculate the force of gravity on it as well. Gravity is measurable and can be tested by anyone. It is a fact that gravity exists. Some people say that as with evolution and the big bang, gravity is a theory (correction: law). What does this mean?
I Have a Theory
It is important to explain the differences between the common use of the word theory and its scientific counterpart. A football fan might have a theory for why players sometimes miss an otherwise perfectly thrown ball. You might have a theory about why certain people act the way they do. In this use of the word, a theory means a hunch. It's a guess that doesn't require any evidence or research beforehand to back it up.
A scientific theory is the complete opposite in terms of validity. For anyone that doesn't know what a scientific theory is, I highly recommend looking it up and also learning the scientific method. It doesn't take faith to accept a scientific theory with evidence to back it up in the same way that it takes blind faith to accept religious claims with absolutely no evidence to back them up.
The only measurable effect of any god is that of its followers. Some people point to the simple fact that there are so many believers as evidence for the existence of a god, while others look at all of the good works that are done in the name of god. Because of religion, people sometimes have newly-found confidence, drop old habits such as drinking, and are more willing to help others. I'm tempted to also mention the negative effects of religion but will save this for later.
But my response to this is that it is not the existence of a god that is proven by this but rather the belief in a god. If person A stops drinking through religion, then it is not because of a god that the person stopped drinking. A god didn't violate free will or change the firing of synapses in his or her brain to cause this. The person stopped drinking because of a belief that a god is helping and that there is punishment for drinking.
A Heavy Decision
If this is hard to grasp, consider people that believe in different gods than you do. What about their testimonies and how their religions have shaped them? Surely if there was one true god, only the "correct" religion would experience the direct effects of divine intervention as a result of prayer. How is it possible that other people in the world believe just as strongly in their religion as you do if not more so? I've heard many Protestants claim that no other religion offers the same thing that Christianity does. The comfort of "knowing" that they will go to heaven, the personal relationship with god, etc.
Well, of course every religion is different, so no two will be exactly the same. Catholics, for example, always seem to be worried with what I call the Catholic guilt. They don't believe that people get an automatic ticket to heaven for just accepting Jesus' salvation, so it's natural that they don't feel the same comfort that Protestants do. It would be ignorant to assume that only one religion offers comfort and has passionate followers. In fact, the sheer number of religions and divisions within each religion are part of what made me question my own beliefs years ago. There are over 4,200 religious views in the world; don't forget that even if a god did exist, it would be impossible to know which religion is the correct one.
For example, the bible is interpreted so differently among various groups that everything from the creation story to the existence of hell itself cannot even be agreed upon. Some believe that the creation story was a literal six days; some say that a day in god's eyes is 1,000 years. Some say that the earth is 6,000 years old; some say that the universe is really old but it's humanity that is 6,000 years old; and others still say that these are merely assumptions not based on the bible. Protestants believe that there are heaven and hell; Catholics also believe in purgatory; Jehova's Witnesses don't believe in hell at all; and those that do believe in hell define it differently. As far as getting into heaven, protestants believe that the one and only way is by accepting Jesus' payments for their sins, while Catholics believe that's absurd and that it's more based on acts and genuinely wanting to be forgiven for individual transgressions, and that people can't truly know their or anyone else's place with god.
The fact that people cannot agree even on the fundamentals of what is supposedly the living word of god — despite those being saved being said to have the holy spirit as well as people praying to god asking for his guidance — means that even if the bible is the one holy book of a god (if there is one), it's still uncertain which interpretation of it is the right one. Since even Christian denominations tend to assume that other denominations won't go to heaven, then this is an important point, because no matter what, the majority of people in the world believe what they do and possibly live passionately religious lives in vain; even the bible predicts that only a small minority will go to heaven.
A Moral Dilemma
But what about life on earth? Many religious people wonder how a person can have morals without religion, particularly their own religion. First of all, the bible requires an excessive amount of cherry-picking to find the few good versus among all the bloodshed, prostitution, slavery, discrimination, vengeance, jealousy, and a divine childlike temper; but secondly, it takes little more than a sane mind to realize that killing is wrong. Even logic can be used, since if a person harms another, chances are there will be retaliation. In fact, multiple studies actually link religiosity with higher imprisonment, higher rates of STDs, lower intelligence, higher discrimination, higher rates of abortion, and higher divorce rates; and these studies don't compare numbers directly since there are more religious people in the world than non-religious people, but rather they compare percentages in each group.
I've been an atheist since sophomore year in college, and anyone that knows me well knows that I am always helping other people and in fact have done so more in the past couple years than I ever have. I constantly drive friends to places; I help family whenever they ask me to do something; and I have volunteered at a Latino center and plan to continue volunteering at a similar place that I found recently. I've never taken non-prescription drugs unless you count alcohol. I've never been in a fight. I did steal a piece of candy and some money from my dad when I was a young kid, but both were given back, and I haven't stolen since. My point is that most mentally healthy people don't need to feel constantly watched by an invisible force in order to avoid going around killing and raping everything that moves. People are not as inherently evil as religion would like you to believe.
While we're on the topic of morals it is the Christian god — Yahweh, the god of war — whose morality worries me. It is insane to accept that a loving and just god would base a person's eternal fate on a single factor, the acceptance of Jesus as savior. It is absurd that a mass murderer, child rapist, and human trafficker could accept Jesus and be forgiven while a humble, caring person that devotes his or her entire life to helping others by feeding the poor and giving of himself but be tortured for eternity — whether or not he believes in a god — because he didn't believe that Jesus was the son of god, didn't believe that his crucifixion was payment for his sins, or didn't know who Jesus was. It is asinine for a loving, all-powerful, all-knowing god to create eternal punishment as the only alternative to not accepting one detail when other alternatives could have been arranged such as permanent death or eternal wandering, or at least as a real loving father would do, a second chance. Eternal punishment for temporary transgressions is unjust, especially considering that people are cursed at birth; imperfect beings created as such are held to standards of perfection that human nature makes impossible to achieve. Additionally, the illusion of free will has a submit or die mentality comparable to a thug holding a gun to someone's head and saying, "Give me your money or die." Sure, this person has the choice to refuse, but the flaws with this created scenario are obvious.
If god is ultimately just and the source of morality, then placing such emphasis on accepting a specific act to mean a specific thing, as placement for one's own punishment for something beyond their control, is either a false interpretation of god, or god is immoral. I cannot see how any sane person could see this perceived reality as the best possible scenario, especially by an all-knowing being that supposedly loves people more than people could ever love one another.
As low as my human standards of morality are, living in a "world of sin," when I have children, it would be seen as barbaric and inhuman if I were to, as punishment for a single lie, lock them in a basement and torture them every day until they die. I would never do this, even for a limited period of time. If I loved them — and even if I didn't — I would give them a second chance and accept their apology. But god, who as defined loves us more than parents love their children, does not accept our apology, or rather doesn't allow us to save ourselves in the same way. We need to accept someone else's act on our behalf. Plus there are no second chances, which would also be cruel from a parent's perspective. Would a sane parent punish a child for his/her entire life for a single act performed in early childhood? Even if it's not torture, this is not the image of a loving parent. (To avoid confusion, the child's life is analogous to eternity after death, and the single lie is the one and only sin needed during life to make one unworthy of heaven and deserving of eternal torment.)
Conclusion: Is Religion Bad?
At this point, some readers may have the impression that I am hostile toward everything supernatural. I want to assure you that I have nothing against people that are religious. Many people have no say in religion growing up; and I used to be deeply religious myself, so I know what it's like, and I still have many friends that are religious. I used to go to church three times a week, pray several times a day — and much more than "thank you for my food, amen" — talk to other people about god's gift of salvation, volunteer to clean the church by myself, attend bible camp, and so on. I felt that I had a true personal relationship with god and that he was always with me, protecting and guiding me through life. I understand that most religious people also feel strongly about what they believe and couldn't imagine a life without it.
I am not attacking religious people. I do not intend to insult anyone's intelligence or sanity for believing in a god. If anything, I am attacking organized religion and society that ostracizes/outcasts anyone that doesn't follow the status quo. The purpose of this post/blog isn't to say that religion is inherently evil and must be eradicated from the earth; instead, this is a response to people who ask why I am atheist and want to understand how someone could go from being a passionate believer to an atheist without a traumatic event or something comparatively drastic taking place. It is also to show that people do not need religion to have morals, be happy, and experience love. Religion certainly can provide comfort in and reduce fear of death, but suggesting that it be mandatory in schools, the judicial system, politics, and pretty much every other aspect of life is infringing upon the rights of those who aren't of the majority religion, and this includes not only atheists but also those of minority religions in an area.
I hope that eventually people are not discriminated against because of their religious beliefs. To this day Muslims, Jews, and atheists are looked down upon the United States. Christians are being killed in several countries in the Middle East. It can be said that most wars are at least in part because of religion; and due to the recently increasing hostility between Christians and Muslims, I hope there won't be yet another bloodbath because of two groups of people that believe in the same god and pray to the same god for success in defeating the other group. I don't go knocking on doors asking if people have freed their minds yet; I won't prevent my children from playing with children that have different beliefs; and I don't think people should be killed for it either. Hopefully one day all forms of discrimination will be a thing of past, where people are no longer automatically looked down upon based on national background, gender, religious views, sexuality, social class, disabilities, hair color, skin color, political party, and favorite sports teams.
I will conclude this with a series of common questions or claims that were not already addressed.
1. So, you think that everything came from nothing? What happened before the big bang? What caused the first life?
I find it ironic that theists often ask this because the bible teaches that life and the universe came from nothing; god willed them into existence. Some people believe that space, time, energy, and matter began with the big bang, but this isn't definite. I believe that everything that currently exists may have always existed in some form. The idea is that all energy and matter were compressed. How it got that way and what it was like before that, we don't know.
But religion doesn't have the answer for that either. I could just as easily ask, "Who or what created god?" The response is always, "No one and nothing; he has no beginning and no end; he has always existed and will always be." To this I ask, "What did he do for the infinite amount of time before creation? Why wait so long to create our universe instead of creating it a quadrillion years sooner?" The answer is the same for both sides: we simply don't know.
As for life, I know that amino acids are the building blocks of life. If I understand correctly, scientists have produced life from non-life in labs; different methods are known, but we simply don't know which method was used on our own planet. But the fact that it's possible shows that intelligent design isn't the only possible answer.
In fact, there are many signs that this was not the case. Vestigial organs and illogical arrangement of body parts have flaws even from a human standpoint; this is not the work of a perfect being with infinite knowledge.
Science doesn't claim to have all the answers, and new discoveries are constantly being found. We are just now getting information on extrasolar planets. But the fact that science can't explain one detail here and other detail there doesn't mean that god is the answer by default.
I should also point out that evolution does not cover the beginning of life; that's abiogenesis. Evolution started with self-replicating life forms and genetic variation. For those that want to learn more about evolution, I highly recommend The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins or even a modern college-level biology textbook. An introductory astronomy class is all one needs to learn about how planets, moons, stars, and galaxies are formed. For online sources, click here and here for evolution, and here and here for astronomy.
2. Without god there would be no morals. Label it whatever you want, but morals are only possible because god gave them to us. Also, god is love, and since love exists, god also exists.
This makes the assumption that god exists, but what about people that aren't religious? I've already addressed this at length, also indicating that religious people are statistically more likely to commit crimes and go to jail. What about when an atheist loves someone? Or an animal?
Creationists label everything god and use it as proof for god's existence. The supposed effect of a cause cannot be used as evidence for the cause, especially when there are no logical links between them, especially any that suggest that the presented cause is the only possible cause. Furthermore, we live on a planet in which billions of people interact on a daily basis, affecting one another intentionally and unintentionally. It is inevitable that accidents and natural disasters happen, and in a given accident there are usually one of three outcomes: a person dies, a person is unjured but lives, or a person lives unscratched.
Creationists label all three of these as god and label the first two a miracle. If a miracle is simply something that it unlikely, any roll of a 100-sided die that lands on a specified number is a miracle, but it would require intervention only to avoid rolling that number. If the person lives unscratched, god supposedly intervened. If the person was injured, god prevented death, even if others died in the same incident. If the person died, it was part of god's divine plan, that person's time to go. Or god is testing the faith of loved ones. Or punishing that person's lifestyle or that of someone close.
The excuses on god's behalf are endless, especially when god is used as the cause for everything while god himself is never proven to exist. Again, a cause needs to exist and/or have undisputable links to an effect to even be considered as a valid cause. Here's an analogy: there is an invisible dragon in my garage that causes bad dreams. I occasionally have bad dreams, therefore the dragon exists. If you ask me to prove that there is a dragon, I point to my bad dreams and say that you can't prove it DOESN'T exist. But fine, let's do an experiment. You grab a bag of flour and try to throw some over the dragon to form a silouhette. I claim that the dragon moves so that it isn't touched by the flour. So then you somehow spread it all over the garage at once. I claim that the dragon either left before all doors were closed or doesn't interact with the physical world. But I know it exists because I believe in it and feel its effects. Replace the dragon with god and you'll see what it looks like.
3. It requires just as much faith to believe in science as it does to believe in god. Atheism is a religion!
Does it take more faith to believe in something with no evidence or something with evidence? By definition faith is believing in something without evidence, at least blind faith. The difference is that science has evidence to back it up. Science is open to peer review and has the potential to be debunked. People used to think that the earth was flat and that we lived in a geocentric universe; both have been proven not to be the case. Even Darwin's theory of evolution was modified as new data was found. Continental drift became plate tectonics, and so on.
People tend to believe in religion and refuse to question it, making up excuses on god's behalf to justify any inconsistencies or conflicts with what they believe. In contrast, science is held to be the current best explanation until proven otherwise. Pluto is no longer considered a planet; we aren't in the center of the universe or even our own galaxy; and other revelations are possible because science is about learning more with evidence rather than defending old beliefs.
4. Do you believe that people have souls? Do you think we're just animals like everything else?
No, I don't believe in souls, gods, devils, angels, demons, spirits, fairies, Santa Claus, witches, magic(k), alien abductions, or the Easter bunny. Yes, we are part of the animal kingdom. We are mammals, primates, and of the species homo sapiens.
There is a great documentary that opens and closes with the line, "What makes us human really isn't so human after all." Many people claim that humans are unlike all other life forms because we pass on knowledge, use tools, build things such as houses, have a social structure, and are self-aware. Yet, each and every one of these is found in the wild.
Ants, birds, bees, and other fauna use materials to build things, and some are rather complex. Primates and even bacteria if I remember correctly have a social structure; baboons have an alpha male that others look up to, and wolves hunt in packs with a leader. Many animals react to and understand death.
5. Most people in the world believe in something. Atheists are in the minority that believes in nothing. Therefore atheists are statistically wrong.
Most people do believe in some kind of spirituality, but saying that atheists don't believe in anything is a bit extreme. I believe in equality, peace, friendship, technological advancement, life, freedom, and the pursuits of knowledge of happiness. The only difference is that I don't believe in the supernatural.
And if the majority is always right, then slavery would have been right in the civil war, and women's rights would have never been considered. Furthermore, if you're Protestant, then you're outnumbered by Hindus, who are outnumbered by Catholics, who are outnumbered by seculars (atheists and agnostics), who are numbered by Muslims. Assuming that most readers are probably of a Christian denomination, if you think that more people believing in something makes it right, then I recommend reading a Qur'an. From what I know about it, Islam is in fact a beautiful religion, disregarding the radicals just as most people disregard the Catholic child rapists from being considered the norm.
6. Do you want religion out of everything? Should people be forced to become atheist?
I do want religion out of public places and politics. I don't want god on my money or in courthouses. But I do firmly believe in freedom of religion. People should have the right to follow whatever religion they choose if any, and no one should ever be forced to take part in any religion or religious ceremony. Remember, freedom OF religion also means freedom FROM religion. Religion is fine as long as other people aren't affected.
I would love to see a decline of religion across the globe. I feel that while it does offer comfort and help people who aren't very mentally strong, it also causes a lot of suffering. Families disown people who change religions; children are told they're unworthy and deserve eternal punishment; some people can never shake the irrational fear of hell; people are killed who question or disbelieve a religion; and people kill in the name of religion. When people are killing each other for believing in different fairy tales, it's gotten out of hand. But, as I've said, I don't believe in forcing religion away. I'm hoping that as our knowledge improves and our species completely moves out of intellectual caves, religion and all its prehistoric false promises and superstitious qualities will be nothing more than a bad memory or the subject of comedy.
7. Do you celebrate Christmas? If so, why?
I do, mostly for tradition. I celebrate it as a time to give, be with family, and be happy. I don't celebrate it as Jesus' birthday, which it wasn't. Christmas is really a pagan holiday with Jesus slapped on top; when people say, "Put the CHRIST back in Christmas," they probably don't realize that historians place his birthday several months away from December. Click here for more info about the origin of Christmas and why it's incorrectly celebrated as Jesus' birthday today.