• Ten Questions For Every Atheist

    Years ago, a Christian website posted 10 Questions for Every Atheist.

    For some bizarre reason, this page has just now made the rounds among the atheist blogosphere.

    Godless Mom did it.

    Trav Mamone did it.

    Deacon Duncan did it.

    Kaveh Mousavi did it.

    Sounds like a fun challenge; figured I’d do it too.

    For the sake of brevity and focus, I hard-limited my answers to 140 characters or less. Got a little help from the @AtheistOK folks, who were kind enough to type out these questions as tweets.

    Of all these questions, only seven and ten point to the possibility of a worthwhile research program. Most of the rest make unjustifiable implicit assumptions which may be worth teasing out. Questions four and six, for example, assume that morality and meaning can only be found in service to a higher being. Questions two and three assume that dualism is true, or at least plausible. Question five, well, it just makes me despair for humanity. Who thinks that it’s a clever trap to ask someone why they refrain from sadism? Someone with an incredibly dim view of humanity, I’d warrant.

    We need to develop better questions for atheists, questions that might actually lead to interesting answers. If you have any ideas, please leave them in the comments below.

    Category: AtheismCounter-Apologetics

    Article by: Damion Reinhardt

    Former fundie finds freethought fairly fab.
    • An Ardent Skeptic

      I’m out and about doing bird photography today. My questions for Christians are: 1) Why do you insist on pushing your Bible verse tracts on me when I’m in the middle of trying to compose a shot of one of “God’s Creations”? 2) Where’s the morality in thinking that your proselytizing is so damned important that you can push your religious beliefs on someone who is trying to concentrate on earthy matters?

    • These questions are poorly considered, struggle with coherence, and hardly seem sincere. They seem more like thinly-wrapped dogma and apologia. You should not have dignified them with any reply, nor should any atheist.

      • 140 characters isn’t all that dignified.

      • Don’t know why you think that. Message length has nothing whatever to do with anything. Everyone from Presidents to CEOs to Nobel Prize winners use twitter. But you also made this post. And really, any serious reply of any length demeans you and elevates them, a bit.

      • You’re correct, but it also seems like harmless fun. Rather, it shows the state of affairs: atheism is more or less ‘done’ on this level and overexplained. Maybe that is a reason why many moved on to more challenging subjects, which are however often not treated much differently. Perhaps there are still pastures when these questions are steelmanned and the answers go deeper, i.e. what’s the source of morality, what is meaning etcetera.

      • kraut2

        Beauty in Brevity.
        Maybe you should have answered in Haiku?

      • BertB

        I agree. I will give you one question that I was asked by a believer:
        You are sitting at home, and the doorbell rings. You open the door and Jesus is standing there. Would you then become a believer?
        My answer: First I would demand proof of his identity by asking to see his driver’s license and Social Security card. And then, I would ask him what took him so long to come back. If he really loved us, he could have saved a lot of suffering by coming back when he said he would…within the lifetime of his followers.
        My questioner was not impressed with my answer.

    • BertB

      To Question 1. How did you become an atheist?
      I didn’t become one. I was always an atheist, even before I was born.
      Seriously, I have been an atheist as long as I can remember, certainly since I was 4 or 5. I was fortunate to have parents who didn’t brainwash me as a child, although they did send me to Sunday School occasionally until I was old enough (about 5 I think) to tell them I didn’t want to go. Even at that age, I found it unbelievable.
      How long ago was that? I will be 80 this year.

    • Graham Martin-Royle

      Q5: Surely it’s the xtian religion that allows you to do anything you want & get away with it. You just have to repent & it’s all forgiven!

    • jg29a

      I hate that answer to #5. It’s pithy, but obscures a much better answer, and in doing so also makes us seem exceedingly naive.

      Sure, I’m not going to murder or rape anybody right now. And sure, the counterfactual where I’m running around murdering and raping right and left is extremely divorced from our own world. But the idea that normal humans don’t often, on some level, “want” to do these things, is pretty ridiculous, and just makes the religious look more honest about human nature.

      Rather than sit here and smugly say that I don’t want to murder or rape anyone anyway, I’d rather reflect upon all of the social, political and economic networks that do so much to keep those behaviors from arising in me. I don’t need a nonexistent deity for my morality, but I’d sure rather say a blessing that I grew up with civil society, education and diverse social networks, rather than don a halo and imply that I haven’t needed anything because “what I want” is already so good.

      • kraut2

        “social, political and economic networks that do so much to keep those behaviors from arising in me”

        And what about those networks that encourage those behaviours and where those are mandatory?

        When the only moral compass you can trust is your own?
        In the end it is always your own decision to engage or refrain from unethical behaviour, no matter what network you are in – and your compass helps you to choose which network to engage with.

      • The people who crafted question five grew up with civil society, rule of law, domestic tranquility, and all that but for some reason they assume it is normal to thirst for murder and rape. You can call this honesty about human nature if you like, but I would say they are overlaying Bronze Age notions about human nature onto the modern world.

      • jg29a

        “for some reason they assume it is normal to thirst for murder and rape”

        They said no such thing. “Are we free to murder and rape?” in no way suggests that someone would “thirst” to do it all the time, or that it would be a normal, everyday disposition, any more than the fact that I feel free to eat pistachio ice cream means that I long for it or have it all the time. (I don’t.) The question, taken as if not of straw, is asking what ultimately holds us back in whatever situations part of our minds are inclined to murder or rape. I think there are important sociological answers, which counter the supposed importance of religion in a much stronger way.

      • “The question, taken as if not of straw, is asking what ultimately holds us back in whatever situations part of our minds are inclined to murder or rape.”

        You assume here that the person being asked the question can relate to the inclination to murder or rape in the first place, even though the questioner has no specific information about those to whom they are directing their questions. In other words, the question assumes that ordinary (non-psychopathic) people can readily call upon “part of our minds are inclined to murder or rape” and ask what holds us back. This is an incredibly dim view of human nature, one which makes far more sense in a Bronze Age honor culture than in a modern dignity culture.