Wednesday, July 15, 2020

31 Questions For Atheists

The other day, I was going through The Amazing Atheist's YouTube channel, and I have to thank him for leading me to 31 Questions For Atheists from the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM).

Here are my 31 responses to 31 questions:

1. How would you define atheism?

Not accepting the affirmative claims that supernatural entities that we call gods exist.

Some atheists also do not accept affirmative claims of the existence of the supernatural as a basis for not accepting claims that supernatural gods exist, but at its very core, atheism is not accepting the claims that gods exist.

2. Do you act according to what you believe in or what you lack belief in?

Not quite. I act according to what I believe creates good/positive/beneficial outcomes for the situation I am in that comes with as little risk as reasonable. It's not so much what I believe in, but what I believe is reasonable and does not harm.

In terms of theism, theistic and atheistic considerations do not factor in to any decision making. I don't decide "I am going to drink a dangerously large cup of coffee because God doesn't exist".

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?

Atheists/antitheists don't work against God's existence - they already don't think God (or gods) exist, and no atheist I know of can make God disappear. 

What atheists/antitheists try to do is show that belief in God/gods is not warranted because it goes against the best-available evidence, does not always lead to increased human well-being, and in some extreme cases, is used as justification for ethical abuses.

4. Why are you an atheist?

Because I can't prove God exists outside of my head.

And also, the best arguments for God/gods are philosophical, not scientific, and to me, a God who can only be justified in philosophy is no greater than whatever imaginary god I create for myself.

5. How sure are you that atheism is proper position to hold?

I'm fairly sure because atheism (not simply my atheism) is the most logically justifiable position to hold scientifically, morally and rationally, based on the evidence we have at hand.

But I am happy to declare that if the existence of gods could be proven, I would no longer be an atheist.

6. On a scale from 1 to 5, one is weak, 5 is strong, how sure are you that God does not exist?

4, or maybe 4.5. Mathematically speaking, there exists the slim (though infintesimal) possibility that God does exists, but I am yet to come across a situation where a supernatural/theistic explanation has warranted, or had enough explanatory power, to replace a naturalistic explanation for a particular observed phenomenon.

7. Why do you believe your atheism is a justifiable position to hold?

Because the Null Hypothesis is the most honest and reliable starting point when testing a positive claim. It is one of the foundational aspects of research, as well as in the judicial system. When applied theologically, the claim that God exists or that any gods exist is assumed false until it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

God has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt. Though there are refined and well-thought out proofs for a God-like being philosophically, there are none that stand up to scrutiny scientifically

Therefore, the Null Hypothesis remains intact and God is not guilty of existing.

8. Do you affirm or deny that atheism is a worldview? A Worldview is a set of unproven beliefs and/or assumptions that a person uses when interpreting the world around him.

Atheism is not a worldview, though some atheists as well as some Christians take the meaning of atheism too far to mean something that it shouldn't.

Atheism, at its most basic, is not accepting the claims that gods, plural or singular, exist, let alone have any affect in earthly matters.

9. What is your opinion of the Bible?

The Bible is made up of mythosymbolic texts for the purpose of transmitting cultural values, mixed in with liberal doses of historical fiction.

I believe there are some morally beneficial teachings in the Bible, as well as some morally reprehensible ones.

But I am not convinced that something is good or beyond criticism just because it is stated in the Bible.

10. What is your opinion of Jesus?

I'm not convinced that the Jesus of the Bible existed as the Bible portrays him, and especially not simply because the Bible tells us so.

I accept there could well have been an ordinary man around whom grew legend, and I believe it is possible that there never was an earthly Jesus at all, though the best data we have at hand is sketchy.

11. What is your opinion of the concept of the God of the Bible?

At best, inconsistent and an overly-sensitive manipulator.

At worst, a homicidal, genocidal, racist, sexist and infanticidal bigot.

12. What is your opinion of the Christian concept of hell

I'd like it if there was an actual accepted definition of hell. Some preachers say it is the fire-and-brimstone place of torture, some preachers say it is just a place of misery and separation from God. Some say it is something else altogether.

I'd like to know which Christian concept of hell you are presenting before I give an opinion of it.

But if we're referring to any form of eternal punishment for finite transgressions, that is immoral.

13. What is your opinion of Evolution?

I'm not too sure why evolution is capitalised as a proper noun here.

But the theory of evolution is one of the most scientifically accepted and documented theories of the observations we have of the natural world, especially because it explains a lot of the data we have.

14. How would you define what truth is?

A statement, judgement or proposition that is concordant with reality.

15. Do you affirm that the physical universe is all there is and that all things can be explained in terms of motion, matter, chemical reaction, etc.?

No. But the physical universe is the only thing we can verify exists, and we can only study and observe what we can study and observe.

Until someone can come up with a way to verify the supernatural - aside from the asinine definition that the supernatural is just what the natural hasn't explained yet - we should not accept supernatural explanations for material reality.

16. If you were at one time a believer in the Christian God, what caused you to deny His existence?

I wouldn't say 'deny his existence' as much as I would say 'stopped accepting the claims that he exists as an assertion that shouldn't be tested or criticised'.

And again, I stopped accepting the claims of God's existence when I could not prove God existed outside of my mind.

17. Do you believe the world would be better off without religion?

To me, it actually more depends on how we get to a world that doesn't have religion in it in the first place rather than the world not having religion per se.

If religion were banned or outlawed and religious people were thrown in jail solely on the basis of their religion, I would not accept that and would see it as a horrible thing.

However, if we came to a world without religion because science education became so ingrained in our cultural psyche that supernatural explanations of reality were no longer accepted due to the sheer ridiculousness of them, I would embrace that.

18. Do you believe the world would be better off without Christianity?

This, I don't know and don't have a simple yes-or-no answer to. Christianity has both helped and harmed society throughout history, and some of my best friends are theists.

19. If you oppose Christianity, which of the following options best fits your reason: Christianity is morally wrong, dangerous, oppressive, or I don't oppose Christianity

I don't oppose Christianity per se, it is more that I oppose the bad reasoning that Biblical Literalism espouses. And the biggest reason for me that I oppose this ultra-conservative Christianity is because it is oppressive, especially in terms of science education and mental health care.

Numerous Christians, under the umbrella of Creationism, are actively teaching unscientific notions of biology, cosmology and geology. I also know of some Creationists who are lobbying to get the theory of evolution removed from school textbooks. This, to me, is abjectly wrong. We should be teaching more science, not less science.

Regarding mental health issues, they were (and still are by some Fundamentalists) considered to be the result of supernatural causation whose treatment of such also lies in the supernatural. This leads to both delayed diagnosis and ineffective treatment (as my own personal struggles will testify), increasing or prolonging the suffering.

So I don't oppose Christianity - I oppose those who take their religion too seriously.

20. Do you believe that faith in a God or gods is a mental disorder?

No, especially because some of the most intelligent and revolutionary people have been people who believe in God.

The closest I will say that I do believe that a large number of people are much more prone to phenomena like hallucination, cognitive dissonance and agency overdetection when they embrace and immerse themselves in the concept of immaterial beings affecting material reality.

21. Must we be able to demonstrate God’s existence through the scientific method?

Only if we are comfortable with being treated for sickness and diseases, driving cars, flying in planes or walking in to buildings that were done people who haven't studied or understood the results of the scientific method.

What I am trying to say is that we use the scientific method to benefit so many areas of our lives (cars, healthcare, transport, engineering, manufacturing, etc.), yet for the most important question we could possibly ask - does God exist - for some reason we have to put the number one tool we have for filtering data aside and instead rely on vague feelings, logical fallacies and ancient texts?

22. Is it a category mistake to require material evidence via the scientific method for an immaterial God?

I think you've defeated your own argument in that one sentence - if God is immaterial, then God is not material.

To counter some theistic arguments for why we don't detect God, if God supposedly exists outside of time and space, then that means he does not exist inside time and space, and if something does not exist in time and space, it simply does not exist.

Besides, if God does materially affect our reality, then there should be some way of determining when and how God does that. When and how that is determined, then I will look at theistic claims seriously.

23. Where does morality come from?

Morality comes from both the surrounding culture, as well as our understanding of how our decisions affect both ourselves and those around us.

24. Are there moral absolutes?

If we take absolute morality to mean moral principles that are applicable in every possible situation, regardless of who, what, when, where or why, then no, there are no moral absolutes - morality is subjective. But I do believe that there are universal moral values.

Moral values such as prohibitions against murder, against theft and against deception are universal to most if not all cultures, but there can be cases made where murder, theft and deception can be morally justified (murder in self-defence, stealing a gun from a bank robber to disarm them, or lying to get someone the help they need when ordinary channels have failed, are all justified instances of murder, theft and deception). In a morality system that had firm and cast-iron absolutes, this should not be, thus lending weight to my notion of universal - but not absolute - morality.

25. Is the following statement true or false? “It is always wrong for everyone to torture babies to death merely for one’s personal pleasure.”

True. This is because we know torture is harmful, and that the pleasure gained by the torture is temporary compared to the damage the baby is likely to suffer both physically and psychologically.

This makes torture morally wrong.

26. Should morality be based on reducing unnecessary harm?

Morality should be focused on both reducing unneccessary harm as well as increasing well-being.

27. What would it take for you to believe in God?

A video or photo of God would be a great start - in this time where our recording equipment is the most advanced it has ever been, where we have been able to video a single electron, yet we can't record, let alone interview, God?

Also, an argument that is based on empirical data and not philosophy would go a long way to convincing me God exists.

28. Do you think that a society that is run by Christians or atheists would be safer? Why?

An atheistic society is more likely to be safer. Various statistical analysis of various societies shows that demographics with high religious affiliation (Christianity included) have lower Human Development Index scores.

Further to this, the top 5 countries with the highest intentional homicide rates are all countries that have over 70% combined Catholic/Protestant affiliation.

29. Do you believe in free will? (free will being the ability to make choices without coercion).

I believe that while free will may neurologically be an illusion, our brains and thinking processes simulate it pretty well.

Let's just say that no-one has been acquitted of a crime because they successfully argued that no-one has free will.

30. 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?

I don't see a problem. Our brains are the hardware that runs the free will software.

Yes, our brains are limited, but not useless. 

31. If you affirm evolution and that the universe will continue to expand forever, then that would require an infinite number of evolutionary possibilities. In an infinite number of such possibilities, do you affirm that life forms would then 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?

I don't affirm the universe will expand forever. It is possible, but not something I necessarily accept without studying it further. The universe is expanding, but it may not do so forever.

Evolution and cosmology have nothing to do with each other, so this question is malformed.

Furthermore, in evolution, nothing can outgrow its phylogeny. If something could, this would actually be a proof against evolution.

                                -----


There you have it. 31 questions answered.

CARM then put two further questions, one of which seems to be an ad hominem against Matt Dillahunty, and the other asks for personal opinions on Matt Slick himself.

These, I am not interested in.

                                ---

Stay safe, warm, and coronavirus-free!

-Damien

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