While surfing through the internet I saw a site which claimed to have Ten “Questions Atheists Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer!” A part-time atheist like me was naturally intrigued so I clicked on the link to see what these earth- shattering questions were, and to see if I could “truly and honestly really answer” them.
Because of space limitations, I will publish 5 questions this week and the other 5 next week. Here we go:
1. How Did You Become an Atheist?
In a nutshell, by asking questions about my former belief and not getting satisfactory answers. It sounds very simple like this, but it really was a long, complicated process spanning several years that involved a lot of talking, discussing, reading, thinking, reflecting and (yes!) praying. And it’s not over yet.
So for the moment, I am technically agnostic as I do not claim to know whether or not there is a god or gods. I am practically atheist meaning I live on the assumption that there is no deity. Or that even if there were, he/she/it would pardon my lack of belief due to insufficient evidence. I do not pray to nor ask favors from any higher powers, and I take full responsibility for my life and actions.
2. What happens when we die?
I have no idea. And if you’re really, truly honest with yourself, you don’t either, and believing with all your heart, strength and mind that you do does not make it one bit true.
3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!
Actually, the teaching of hell is a serious hindrance to my believing in a gracious and loving God. I have heard countless explanations why hell is necessary. None of them make any sense to me so I’ll take my chances. If this God you claim exists is reasonable, he knows perfectly well what I’m talking about. If he is not, well, I wouldn’t want to live with a tyrant anyway.
But what about you? You seem to think that there are only two alternatives — your particular brand of religion or atheism. You seem to forget that there are so many religions. What if you’re wrong and the other guy’s religion is right and you go to their version of hell? Aren’t you scared to be in the wrong faith as well?
4. If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?
I make my own meaning based on what I find to be of value to me. I like making my family and friends happy. I enjoy teaching and inspiring others to achieve excellence in what they do. I like sharing stories and discussing ideas. I do not need an external being dictating to me what my life’s meaning should be. It is already meaningful now.
5. Without God, where do you get your morality from?
From the basic principle of empathy. We do to others what we want others to do to us. Empathy is not limited to humans. Even animals show empathy, thus showing that it is a natural, and most probably evolved trait that aids species survive better in groups or societies.
But even with God, where do you get your morality from? Does God whisper to you and tell you what is right and wrong? No, you still consult a book you call God’s Word, and you get confused with how to interpret this and that, and you ask your leaders and theologians, who don’t agree with themselves, and you get more confused.
So if even among your own faith, you have serious disagreements between what is right or wrong, how can you claim that you get your morality from God? And yes, I know the philosophical arguments for this and would even assent to their rationality. However, it does no good in practice because in actuality, you basically make moral decisions the same way I do — by being empathic, by thinking things through, by analyzing the consequences, and so on.
Whether or not there is a god who dispenses morality, it doesn’t matter on the practical level because he/she/it has not DEFINITELY told us what the moral rules are — else there would be no arguments about what is right or wrong between different sects and religions.
WIth or without god, we are pretty much in the same boat.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.
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