So, I ran across this list of actual curious, respectful questions for atheists while browsing the ‘atheist’ and ‘atheism’ tags. It reminded me of a list of questions for atheists that I’d seen a while back, actually, so I decided to try to do a web search to find that again. And, hooo boy, big mistake. That certainly found me some disrespectful questions for atheists, as well as a bunch of idiotic or just plain ignorant ones. Not all of the stuff I found was bad, though. I might blog more about that later. For now, though, I’m just going to answer the first list of questions I ran across.
1. Why are you an atheist?
I grew up in a Christian family, and at some point, I decided that “because Mommy and Daddy said so” wasn’t a good enough reason to believe this stuff. So I decided to look for my own reason to believe, fully confident that I would find something. It didn’t actually work out that way…
2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?
3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?
No. Why do people assume this?
4. If not, why did you stop believing?
I couldn’t find any good reason to believe.
5. What do you think happens to us when we die?
6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?
Basic human empathy. Also, social interaction.
7. Where do you think the universe came from?
8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?
Honestly? First thing that comes to mind, is they’re a bunch of privileged white guys. Sure, they wrote some controversial books that are actually quite good (I have read several of them, and I enjoyed them very much), but Dawkins and Harris keep spewing this racist and/or sexist word vomit everywhere, and it’s really kind of gross. I wish these guys weren’t the ones people keep looking at as representatives of atheists. They make us look bad.
9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?
I ended up looking up those terms, because I haven’t used them or even really seen them in quite some time. I don’t think they are really the most useful terms to describe my atheism, because I can identify with parts of both strong and weak atheism. So I’m just going to describe my atheism in plain English. Basically, I don’t believe in gods in a very similar manner to how I don’t believe in the Loch Ness Monster. I feel quite comfortable asserting positively that there is no Loch Ness Monster, even though I have not searched every nook and cranny of Loch Ness. There is no reputable evidence of the Loch Ness Monster, and the evidence that does exist (some grainy photographs of who-knows-what and a bunch of anecdotes that aren’t even consistent with each other) is entirely consistent with the Loch Ness Monster being a myth, especially since so many people started carrying cameras with them everywhere (cell phones). Now, this doesn’t mean that I am 100% certain that there is no Loch Ness Monster. Rather, it means I think this is, by far, the most reasonable conclusion given the information available. However, if someone snapped a good cell phone picture of Nessie tomorrow (and it didn’t prove to be a hoax), then I would have to concede that I was wrong, and there is a Loch Ness Monster. But that seems highly unlikely, given the level of interest in Nessie, and the availability of tools with which to gather evidence. That is, lots of people are looking, or have looked, for the Loch Ness Monster, and we have some really great tools to detect and record evidence of it, if found, and yet we still haven’t found it.
10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?
If you mean how can I prove absolutely, positively, 100% that no gods exist, then the answer, of course, is that I can’t. Just like no one can prove absolutely, positively, 100% that leprechauns don’t exist, and that there isn’t a celestial teapot orbiting the Sun, between here and Mars. That’s a ridiculous level of proof to ask for, and it really annoys me that so many theists get really smug because, oh no, you can’t prove there isn’t a god. I’m going to assume that isn’t what you meant, though. If you want the same level of proof we usually demand for things like leprechauns and unicorns not being real, then it’s really pretty simple. Nobody has been able to come up with any reputable evidence for the existence of any gods (if I’m wrong about that, I would love to be corrected–but if there was something like this, I’d think it would be the first thing people bring up when trying to convert atheists). And people have been on the lookout for that sort of thing for ages. Things that I would find convincing would be double blind scientific studies finding an effect of prayer on health outcomes, or reputable accounts of people rising from the dead, or amputees being miraculously healed. Instead we get things like Jesus appearing on toast.
11. Do you believe in miracles?
12. Do you have a support group/system?
Uh, yes? Why wouldn’t I?
13. Do you try to get others not to believe?
I kind of want to say yes to this, but the honest answer is, not really. If I’m having a conversation with a theist about theism/atheism, then I’m usually more concerned with simply getting them to understand where I’m coming from and what my actual stance is, rather than convincing them that they are wrong. If I end up in a situation where I can have an honest debate with a theist about the whole god(s) thing, then hey! Cool! But it’s not something I’ll go out of my way to do. The closest I probably get is when someone says something I strongly disagree with, and I speak up about why. For the most part, though, I’m happy to leave other people alone if they’re happy to leave me alone. Of course, there are lots of situations where theists aren’t happy to leave me alone, like the (often bigoted) street preachers on my college campus telling me that I’m going to burn in Hell or that abortion is Evil (with a capital ‘E’). Those guys can go fuck themselves. Or there’s conservative religious groups campaigning against trans rights. Those guys can really go fuck themselves. But those aren’t the sort of people that would listen to a damn thing I say if I tried to engage with them, and I really just don’t want to engage with people who expect me to listen and think about what they have to say, without being willing to do the same for me.
14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?
Not that I’ve noticed? A former room-mate of mine did start doing some sneaky passive aggressive stuff to try to convert me after I told her I was an atheist (e.g. blaring her Christian music, leaving me some Christian pamphlets and a book she ‘just happened’ to have extras of), which was really annoying (I prefer when people attempting to convert me are straight-forward about it, and willing to reciprocate–e.g. I’ll read your book about religion, if you read my book about atheism), but it’s not like she started thinking I was evil or something. That I noticed. Well… and my sister did kind of start worrying about me after I told her I was an atheist, because I was presumably missing out on whatever it is that having religion/spirituality is supposed to do for you, or maybe she thought I was a nihilist or something. And my agnostic friend seemed more comfortable around me after I told him I was an atheist (it’s nice to have somebody you don’t have to worry about offending when talking about anything to do with religion). So… okay, yea, I guess sometimes people do view me differently after they find out I’m an atheist.
15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?
Yes. Especially on the internet. I’m okay with that, though, as long as it’s civil, and as long as they’ll actually listen to me in return (and if it’s offline, as long as we can leave it alone sometimes and still do other stuff). Besides, I’m open to the idea that I might be wrong about some stuff, and having a good debate can help show me where I’m wrong, or help strengthen my position or clarify my thinking. I’m less okay with the various people proselytizing on my campus, especially the non-students (who are often annoying, pushy, loud, or outright bigoted), but who wants to be preached at while they’re trying to walk to class?
16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?
I haven’t told my parents, but my siblings are pretty supportive. They don’t agree with me, but that’s fine.
17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?
I don’t know much about her.