Tuesday, 11 November 2014

10 questions for atheists

I can play this game too.  Theists often ask questions that they think are show stoppers for atheist, or perhaps just conversation stoppers, hard to tell which, not that it matters much.  So Today Christian post 10 interrogatives, here are my answers, for what they are worth.

How Did You Become an Atheist?

1. I read about astronomy, then I read three chapters of Genesis. By then I knew cultures had many creation myths. And the first instruction the biblical god gives to Adam was justified by a lie, the serpent told the truth, and early modern English (kjv) was almost impenetrable to a 9 year old reader.

What happens when we die?

2. 130lbs of ape meat goes bad. What was it like not yet being conceived, they're a lot alike, probably.

What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!

3. Free Beer, Lectures from Carl Sagan, classes with Bertrand Russell. Speeches, essays and articles from Christopher Hitchens.
Hell is borrowed and corrupted from earlier cultures which maintained a traditional underworld concept, and of course the Greeks had Hades. In order to develop and maintain the superiority of the new religion, the under world was cast as a terrifying place, a religious libel of sorts. so early Christians could our say "religion good the old religions is bad". It was marketing really, does your old can opener drive you nuts, does opening canned spagehtti require 911 on speed dial - Try the all new automatic Can-Reaper from K-Tel - only $99.99.

Without God, where do you get your morality from?

4. From the instincts naturally selected in social species. such instincts offer advantages to the species by creating greater opportunities to receive required resources and reproduce. Otherwise they come at the suggestion of the flying Spaghetti Monster.

If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?

5. You can do what you want but some actions will reduce reputation while others enhance reputation. Some actions will lead to legal consequences. How ever there is also an instinct for altruism, so people tend to do good most of the time, an expectation of reward or punishment is not required, empathy helps a lot though. Bonus jugs at the beer volcano.

If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?

6. My life has the meaning I choose. right now that means helping people understand things, including why fascism is not good for anyone. and why living a life in a fairy tale has hugely negative consequences. But I'm repeating myself.

Where did the universe come from?

7. No one knows, therefore the Flying Spaghetti Monster did it.

What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?

8. Miracles as in rare poorly understood events, these happen from time to time, and when we do examine events and find an explanation, every time it's not magic. See also the Templeton study on heart by-pass patients . Anyone can get all hot and sweaty with a Ben Affleck or J Lo poster, just the same way that Julia Sweeney did with the Jesus portrait on her bedroom wall. The brain maintains models of people and characters, and under the right circumstance can induce perceptual experiences that feel very real. Google god helmet.

What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?

9. I don't always agree with everything they say, but they are, or were (Hitchen's is sorely missed for his way with words) great consciousness raisers. It is better to listen carefully to an opponents arguments directly rather than take second hand a few quoted words from an intermediary with little motivation for an accurate rendering of their thoughts. If you listen carefully the arguments Reza Aslan presented on behalf of Sam Harris, wasn't actually Harris' argument. such errors are common, it has much to do with the way humans unconsciously filter information in accordance with our preconceived notions.

If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

10. Not all societies are Human. It is unlikely that many of the non-human societies  have religion, Do buffalo pray? Religion is a cultural phenomenon, and not all societies have religion, the Piraha People of the Brazilian jungle have a strong sceptics culture. UK is Mostly agnostics, and mostly antitheist, even though
it is officially Anglican. However cognitive neuroscience points to a cluster of cognitive mechanisms that lend themselves to religious behaviour(disembodied cognition - thinking of how others might think, agency detection - part of threat detection and leads to false positives, Moral inferencing - how we guess at the best action, Theory of mind - how we model the thoughts of others). Each of these mechanism offer survival advantages, but can lead people away from understanding what is known. Agnosticism and atheism is growing, and it grows fastest where religious fundamentalist right is gaining or holding power. Faced with the prospect the fundamentalists could be in control people tend to find affinity for the Flying Spaghetti Monster and his free beer volcano. And since he created all the gods, they are his children, he knows how to talk to them to make them play nice, or at least he tries his best, but some of them don't take their meds.

See Also 
  Today Christian 10 Questions for Atheists.
  Today's image from Funny Atheism - Because religion is a joke

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