Christian apologist Matt Slick has put up several questions about atheism on CARM (carm.org), soliciting responses from atheists. These questions have circulated and been answered recently by several atheist YouTubers, and I would also like to address the questions.
From the website:
These questions are not meant to be show stoppers. They are only for research purposes so that I might better understand atheism and its adherents. Some questions are similar to others while some questions are designed to elicit more thoughtful responses. I’ll be adding to the list periodically. If you are an atheist and would like to respond, please copy them to an email and send to firstname.lastname@example.org whichever ones you want to respond to. Thank you.
Some of the wording of the questions come across as snarky, but I will try to answer the questions in a straightforward manner.
1. How would you define atheism?
The definition of atheism is a lack of belief in any deities. It is not a belief that no gods exist. Atheism is a response to god claims, namely that one is unconvinced that a god exists, due to the lack of evidence.
2. Do you act according to what you believe (there is no God) in or what you don’t believe in (lack belief in God)?
As stated, atheism has nothing to do with a belief that deities do not exist; rather it is a lack of belief in them. Accordingly, it’s strange to say that one acts in keeping with non-belief in something, like, say, the Easter bunny. The idea of the existence of the Easter bunny is irrelevant to how I live my life; it has no bearing on my actions. The same is true with deities. The notion of whether or not any deities exist has nothing to do with how I go about my daily life and activities.
Furthermore, even if a god existed it still wouldn’t impact my life in the slightest in regard to my actions. The Christian bible is eager to dish out guilt for our fundamental human nature and acting according to our carnal desires. I reject the idea that we are damaged from the ground up—that we’ve inherited a “sinful” nature, and that we live in a fallen world. Sin isn’t a meaningful concept outside of religion, and it hasn’t even been demonstrated to be a real phenomenon. So, any attempts at guilting me for being who I am will fall on deaf ears—I have no guilt to act out of.
3. Do you think it is inconsistent for someone who “lacks belief” in God to work against God’s existence by attempting to show that God doesn’t exist?
This question seems to be off-base. First, it isn’t up to me to prove that god doesn’t exist. The burden of proof rests on the one doing the claiming, and theists are the ones asserting that a god exists. It is up to theists to demonstrate their claim that a god exists. Second, how could one work against god’s existence when that god’s existence hasn’t been demonstrated to be true? Third, no, it isn’t inconsistent. Would it be inconsistent for one who didn’t believe in Zeus to speak out against those who believed in him, who formulated a hateful, bigoted, anti-science ideology around the deity? No, it wouldn’t be inconsistent. The same applies to Christianity. The lot of Christians cling to a bigoted and pseudo-scientific worldview that claims homosexuals (and generally anyone who isn’t a part of Christian ideology) are subhumans and that scientific facts that conflict with their beliefs are wrong. On the contrary, it isn’t inconsistent to speak out against ignorance and hate speech. Moreover, the lot of religious people confuse criticism with oppression. Don’t confuse critique with bigotry.
4. How sure are you that your atheism properly represents reality?
This seems like a leading question. Atheism is not an assertion about reality. It is only a response to the question of god belief, namely that no belief is present. In this way, it isn’t a “representation” of reality. It’s a lack of conviction that a god exists, and this is entirely all it pertains to.
5. How sure are you that your atheism is correct?
In regard to the non-existence of any deities, there hasn’t been any confirming evidence of their existence. As such, there are no good reasons to believe the claim that gods exist is true. The absence of evidence is evidence of absence in this case…that is until their existence becomes demonstrated. As an atheist, I remain open to the idea of gods existing, however, until such time that they have been demonstrated to exist, I have no good, solid reasons to believe they exist.
Although, I must say, as stated before, even if a god was confirmed it would have no impact on my daily life, save that a god existed after all. I still would not worship it. I would show no admiration or awe toward it. If it was the god of the bible that turned out to exist, I would have nothing but indignation and violence toward it. The god of the bible is a murderous, monstrous, bigoted, sexist being that I have no consideration for.
6. How would you define what truth is?
In a Heideggerian perspective, truth is aletheia—disclosedness or unconcealment. In Being and Time we find out that truth has nothing to do with the correlation between propositions and their correctness. Truth is disclosure of Being and beings.
We’re always already within a world of equipment and others, and we encounter beings in our circumspect usage of equipment. When using a hammer we encounter the hammer as a hammer. This discovering of the hammer is made possible by a prior disclosure of our world of equipment and others—what Heidegger calls primordial truth. This has to do with our background familiarity of social practices. The truth discloses world as world. Dasein (human beings; “being there” in the German) is in the truth when it’s authentically existing as its there—its open space—its clearing—in which beings are manifested; it lets beings be as they are in its projects, it is resolute upon its groundlessness, it anticipates its death as a lifestyle—it lives with the possibility of the vulnerability of world collapse, and it acts uniquely as its ownmost self out of what Heidegger calls the they—the public interpretation of the world and ourselves—inauthenticity.
Truth is the unconcealment of Being.
7. Why do you believe your atheism is a justifiable position to hold?
Atheism, that is, the lack of belief in deities, is justifiable because there are virtually no good reasons to believe any gods exist. Belief in them would be unwarranted. We don’t go around believing in things because they haven’t been demonstrated to exist; on the contrary. And if they are true—they exist, then we don’t need belief in them; we merely accept them. It’s reasonable to not believe that gods exist because they haven’t been demonstrated to exist. We don’t believe in the existence of Sasquatch, or Loch Ness for the same reason.
8. Are you a materialist or a physicalist or what?
Personally, I hold to methodological naturalism—the scientific position that mechanisms of supernatural causation aren’t known, and therefore the supernatural is undetectable; so, we’re cut off from the supernatural. It doesn’t say that the natural world is all that exists; rather, we’re cut off from knowing whether or not the supernatural exists—it’s unfalsifiable, and so we’re only going to work with the natural world. Having said that, I am skeptical of the supernatural and the paranormal. This shouldn’t be mistaken with cynicism. If there is evidence for it then I am open to it.
9. Do you affirm or deny that atheism is a worldview? Why or why not?
As stated above, atheism only pertains to god belief. It has nothing to do with worldviews.
10. Not all atheists are antagonistic to Christianity but for those of you who are, why the antagonism?
I’m antagonistic to Christianity, and to theism in general, because the ideology inherent in theism is bigoted and pseudo-scientific; not to mention that theism in general is irrational. Specifically Christianity and Islam are damaging religions. They claim that we’re flawed from the outset and we are worthless without their particular brand of savior. This is damaging, repressive, and patently wrong. Not to mention that both the bible and Quran have been falsified. We know that a world flood never happened. Furthermore, both the bible and Quran claim that we were created as-is by a creator, but this false. We evolved via natural selection to the point at which we now are.
11. If you were at one time a believer in the Christian God, what caused you to deny His existence?
Personally, I started to investigate what the bible actually said. The bible flat out got scientific claims wrong. For example, the Tower the Babel as an explanation for how language is diversified. Or using magical rituals involving the killing of a bird to cure leprosy.
12. Do you believe the world would be better off without religion?
Yes. What good that religion does we could do without it. It’s superfluous, unnecessary. Besides that, look at all the acts of terror and killing in the name of religion. We have all these different sects and in-groups claiming to have the ultimate truth and the ultimate way of life, and there are those who become radicalized and try to enforce their bullshit onto everyone else. Can we ever have a peaceful pluralistic society as long as religion exists, with its bigotry and hate speech?
13. Do you believe the world would be better off without Christianity?
Yes. Absolutely. Wholeheartedly.
“[The Church] takes everything autocratic, masculine, triumphant, tyrannical, all the instincts that belong to the highest and best-formed species of “human”, and twists them into doubt, pangs of conscience, self-destruction . . .” –Friedrich Nietzsche
14. Do you believe that faith in a God or gods is a mental disorder?
No, having faith that a god exists isn’t a mental disorder. However, when shown how unreasonable it is to place belief in a god, and when shown the falsification of certain biblical claims, some will still defend their faith in the absence of all reason and against all reason—and this is delusion. Some just need belief in a god; they have an emotional investment in it.
15. Must God be known through the scientific method?
Due to the law of excluded middle, either god exists or he doesn’t exist; if god exists then either he manifests in the physical universe or he doesn’t; if god manifests in the physical universe then we should be able to detect artifacts of his existence. The most reliable method so far for prediction, falsification, replication, and validation is the scientific method. If god exists and manifests in the world then we should be able to use the scientific method to confirm his existence.
16. If you answered yes to the previous question, then how do you avoid a category mistake by requiring material evidence for an immaterial God?
I can turn that question back around. The burden of proof is on the one doing the claiming. Theists claim that a god exists, so they have a burden of proof they need to demonstrate. But how does one claim knowledge of the existence of a god at the outset if that god is undetectable (immaterial)? How could one have knowledge of the immaterial? But remember, faith can’t be invoked to answer that question because faith isn’t a reliable method to investigate whether or not things are true, since virtually anything could be justified by faith, which makes it dishonest.
17. Do we have any purpose as human beings?
This question gets at the heart of how and why theology is kindergarten at best. God plays the role of a panacea, and without it, presumably, as hinted at in the above question, there just couldn’t possibly be any purpose to anything, and that of course is preposterous. Nietzsche criticized this mentality inherent within Christianity. For Christians, without a god then there could necessarily be no meaning in our lives; without a god then nihilism prevails. Nietzsche identified Christians as the true nihilists. This is utter weakness. Are you really so weak as to not even be able to forge your own meaning and purpose in your life? Pathetic.
18. If we do have purpose, can you as an atheist please explain how that purpose is determined?
I know the answer to that question, but I think it best for you to think and dwell on it yourself. It certainly shouldn’t be very hard to answer, even if it forces you to think outside of the god box.
19. Where does morality come from?
Human beings, obviously. Moral codes are man made.
20. Are there moral absolutes?
I would say probably not. Morality is situational.
21. If there are moral absolutes, could you list a few of them?
As stated, morality is situational, and so absolutes probably don’t exist.
22. Do you believe there is such a thing as evil? If so, what is it?
Evil seems like a flimsy concept. For example, everything that brings physical and emotional gratification, everything that challenges the status quo and promotes skepticism and iconoclasm has been called “evil”, and this is the foundation for Satanism. Satanism embraces everything worldly, carnal, allegedly “sinful”—everything that promotes life instincts, and has no problem using the ultimate symbol of “evil”—Satan, as an archetype. But in terms of morality it seems like an empty term due its usage being tossed around, as in the above example. Just as in “spirituality”, these terms are so broad and vague and nebulous as become entirely useless in any meaningful way.
23. If you believe that the God of the Old Testament is morally bad, by what standard do you judge that He is bad?
By my own standard of rationally evaluating the god of the old testament’s actions. Allow me to invert the question: would you not agree that genocide is immoral? Or slavery? If so, then how and why do you justify the so-called flood in the bible, or biblical slavery? Either those things are immoral because they cause needless suffering—irrespective of whether or not a god exists, or they aren’t. Think for a while before responding.
24. What would it take for you to believe in God?
Cold, hard evidence and data that clearly demonstrates this god’s existence.
25. What would constitute sufficient evidence for God’s existence?
Observational, replicable, physical evidence—the same evidence we use for everything else when falsifying something.
26. Must this evidence be rationally based, archaeological, testable in a lab, etc., or what?
Observational, testable, repeatable, physical evidence. Give me cold, hard fact. If you can’t show it then you don’t know it.
27. Do you think that a society that is run by Christians or atheists would be safer? Why?
A society that places reason, rationality, and education above superstition and wishful thinking could be demonstrated to be a safer society—and these types of people are predominantly atheist. Theists use their ideology as an excuse to carry out heinous acts of terrorism all the time. Just look at the recent attacks in Paris and the murders involving Planned Parenthood. Theist ideology has been demonstrated to be dangerous. And this is why atheists and skeptics are speaking out against it.
28. Do you believe in free will? (free will being the ability to make choices without coersion [sic]).
There has been debate over free will, and I admittedly haven’t bothered to research this topic out of disinterest. For all practical reasons it seems as if free will exists; but, as I am not familiar with this topic I shall refrain from speaking about it.
29. If you believe in free will, do you see any problem with defending the idea that the physical brain, which is limited and subject to the neuro-chemical laws of the brain, can still produce free will choices?
30. If you affirm evolution and that the universe will continue to expand forever, then do you think it is probable that given enough time, brains would evolve to the point of exceeding mere physical limitations and become free of the physical and temporal, and thereby become “deity” and not be restricted by space and time? If not, why not?
How does the physical, which is dependent on the physical, exceed its very physical limitations? Also, I fail to see, even if for the sake of argument that brains could exceed the physical and temporal, how this brain would become a deity. What if I already see myself as my own highest value in life, and thereby see myself as my own savior—my own god? Does “god” or “deity” even have any meaning anymore?
31. If you answered the previous question in the affirmative, then aren’t you saying that it is probable that some sort of God exists?
So far I remain unconvinced that a god does exist, and there are virtually no good reasons to think one exists. Therefore, I don’t believe a god exists.