I’m going to preface this briefly before diving in. Like most such lists, these questions fall into roughly four categories: 1. we don’t know X, therefore god, 2. I don’t understand science, therefore god, 3. how is [completely unrelated thing] possible without god, and 4. since you don’t believe in god, why aren’t you a monster so I can feel good about myself.’ While theists hope these questions will be some kind of gotcha (seriously though, do they think I will fall on my knees in sudden piety at their poorly worded fallacies?), they ultimately reflect a lack of logical faculties, a poor understanding of science, and, most disturbingly, a terrifying lack of ethical self-reflection. So here we go:
1. What caused the universe to exist?
In its current state, the big bang. What caused that, we don’t know, nor do we know what came before. And that’s OK; in fact, it’s exciting! it means we have so many new horizons of knowledge to explore! We are just barely beginning to be able to formulate more hypotheses on this, but not knowing is not a reason to insert god.
2. What explains the fine-tuning of the universe?
That’s a poor question because the universe is not ‘fine-tuned by any rational definition. The earth’s orbit varies by about 4 million miles, so far we have found life (as we understand it) on only one planet in the solar system (which is actually a minuscule area), roughly two-thirds of this planet is uninhabitable for humans, and even the human body is riddled with inefficiencies and glitches. So when you say ‘fine-tuned,’ you are exhibiting a kind of confirmation bias, where you are assuming a thing to be true and asking me to refute it, when what you are claiming has in no way been demonstrated to actually be true.
3. Why is the universe rational?
In many ways, it is not, as above. But what do you mean by ‘rational?’ I suspect you are again using a presupposition that you have not, and cannot, define or support.
4. How did DNA and amino acids arise?
I am not a biochemist, so I will direct you to any number of peer-reviewed sources if you wish to understand those processes. However, as with your first question, my not knowing all the specifics, particularly when there are experts who do understand those processes, does not suggest god.
5. Where did the genetic code come from?
6. How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?
Again see above. Where did you get the idea that in order to be an atheist one must possess multiple advanced science degrees? Also, irreducible complexity has been proven to be a fallacious concept.
7. How do we account for the origin of 116 distinct language families?
In the same way that we account for French, Italian, Spanish, and Romanian all being badly pronounced Latin; movement and migration, together with the fairly limited range of sounds the human mouth can produce.
8. Why did cities suddenly appear all over the world between 3,000 and 1,000BC?
Since the first cities predate your range by quite a bit, and since we know cities developed in tandem with the development of technologies like irrigation and pottery, your question doesn’t make much sense. Also, what does that have to do with not finding a god-claim believable?
9. How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity?
Why wouldn’t it be? What do chance and necessity have to do with independent thought? Your questions are not ‘gotchas,’ they are simply very badly formulated and based on non-sequiturs.
10. How do we account for self-awareness?
Self-awareness is an outgrowth of brain development, better known as metacognition. Metacognition is observed in many species, most notable corvids (crows & ravens), cetaceans (whales & dolphins), some species of murine rodents, and more recently, cephalopods (octopi). As I am not a neurobiologist, I can’t tell you the exact mechanism, but once again, that doesn’t suggest god.
11. How is free will possible in a material universe?
Why wouldn’t it be?
12. How do we account for conscience?
If you mean consciousness, see No. 10. Consciousness is a development that goes beyond sentience that seems (from my laymen’s perspective) to proceed from meta-cognition. Conscience, if that’s actually what you mean is simply our understanding of empathy that makes us feel bad when we do things we know are shitty. Are you suggesting that without your faith, you would not possess a conscience? Ooof.
13. On what basis can we make moral judgments?
I don’t use ‘moral,’ but I make ethical judgments based on reason and empathy. It is not difficult to perceive when our actions cause harm, nor to apprehend that causing harm to others is not a desirable outcome. Honestly, the argument that atheists have nothing to keep us from raping and killing is baffling to me. It suggests that all that is keeping you from raping and killing is the threat of punishment. That doesn’t make you a good person, that makes you a psychopath on a leash. I fail to see why theists keep trying to pursue this line of reasoning; it’s not a good look for you.
14. Why does suffering matter?
Suffering matters because we know it feels bad to suffer, and since we do not want to suffer, we understand that others do not want to suffer. Do you really need there to be a god to have a reason for this? That’s an incredibly self-damning statement, if so.
15. Why do human beings matter?
See above. And I believe all sentient beings matter, and that we should always do the best we can to avoid causing suffering to any sentient being. Again, if you need some external authority to make you care about others, it says more about you than it does about atheists.
16. Why care about justice?
See above, again. In as much as justice is the endeavor to create a society that produced the greatest good and least suffering for all, it is really not mysterious. Do you really only care about justice because you think some invisible being demands that you do? That’s really sad, and frankly, terrifying.
17. How do we account for the almost universal belief in the supernatural?
The same way we account for people once believing that illness was caused by evil spirits, while we now know most illness is caused by bacteria, viruses, etc. In a very real sense, the belief in the supernatural is a very distant precursor to science, in that it seeks to find explanations for observed phenomena. As our technical skills have grown, our answers have improved, and much like you (hopefully) no longer believe there is a monster under your bed, or think that Santa is real, we know the supernatural explanations of our primitive forbearers are incorrect.
18. How do we know the supernatural does not exist?
First off, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim, not the person doubting it. So why do you think the supernatural does exist? I will say that the utter lack of proof of any supernatural claim ever, and the fact that no phenomenon has ever been proven to have a supernatural cause, make the existence of supernatural causes highly unlikely.
19. How can we know if there is conscious existence after death?
There isn’t. Consciousness resides in the brain, and brain activity ceases at death. If you wish to claim that there is something else, please present your evidence for it. However, as above, no investigation into ghosts, the afterlife, or any such residual consciousness has ever demonstrated such a thing to exist, so there is no reason to accept that assertion.
20. What accounts for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances, and growth of the church?
The same thing that accounts for the growth of all the religions you consider false, and all their miracles and stories. They are mythology and folklore. And none of those events have any reliable documentation outside of the texts written by believers, so that makes it highly biased and unreliable source material. Not one source outside the biblical texts has ever been found that refers to any of those events. The same is true of the miracles and events of those other religions.
And there you have it. If that’s the best theism has to bring to the table, it’s small wonder theism is on the decline. It’s funny how superstition and intimidation cease to work in the era of technology and education.