And a few more questions that have never stumped atheists…

They never seem to stop trying, do they? OK, I’ll play along.

1. Do you really believe that science is the only answer to all of life’s questions? 

No, and I don’t think anyone ever said it could, or should. Science is the best tool we have for understanding the world around us, including how life came to be as it is, the origin of the earth, and why things work or happen as they do. Science can’t tell us why we love chocolate more than vanilla, why we love the weird way our best friend laughs, or why we always wanted to be an artist or a doctor or a fireman. It can’t tell us what to do in our daily lives (though it can tell us what is safe, healthy, etc.). And reason can tell us what is ethical or beneficial and what is harmful.

2. Why do atheists care if people worship god? 

We don’t, as far as it goes. What we do care about a great deal is when religion spreads ignorance, intolerance, and judgment, and when it harms others or the world around us. Since many religions consider themselves to be correct and, by implication, all others to be wrong, that means harm is inevitable. We don’t think religion has any place in public policy or decisions that affect people of all (or no) religions. Atheists tend to be some of the staunchest supporters of religious freedom, provided that also includes freedom FROM religion. In other words, believe whatever you like, but don’t expect anyone else to live according to those beliefs.

3. Can nothing create something? 

No, and no one said it could. I am guessing you are referring to the cosmological argument, which says that all things must have a cause, but eventually, if you go back far enough, you must have an ‘uncaused cause,’ or in other words, something must have existed before the universe. It is true that we are not sure what came ‘before’ the universe as we know it, but we are also not sure that’s even a rational question, since we know time is not exactly linear. But ultimately, whatever we do or don’t know about the origins of the universe, we have found nothing to suggest that ‘god did it’ is a valid answer.

4. How do you know that god doesn’t exist?

I don’t ‘know’ no god exists, just like you don’t ‘know’ no leprechauns exist. You may say you do know that, but how? Have you looked in every nook and cranny of the entire planet, all at once, to be sure? What if they can be invisible? Or teleport away the second you look at them? So on a practical level, you know they do not exist, even though you could not ‘prove’ they do not exist. You would think anyone who demanded that proof was a bit barmy, and likely respond by saying, “Well, why don’t YOU prove they DO exist!” That is exactly how atheists feel about god. Since there is no evidence to suggest that any god or gods do exist, and plenty of things that cast doubt on such a proposition, there is no reason to believe a god or gods exist. So I would say I ‘know’ no god exists in terms of practical certainty, if not pure statistical certainty.

5. What is the origin of life? 

We are not sure, but we are getting close. We know that some complex proteins and similar molecules can self-replicate in ways that look a lot like ‘life.’ However, we are not even entirely sure where ‘complex self-replicating molecule’ ends and ‘life’ begins. Isn’t it exciting to know we have so much more to learn?

6. Where does our morality come from? 

It comes from reason and empathy. I have discussed this at length elsewhere, but in short, it’s the golden rule. I know it’s awful to be hurt, so I do my best not to hurt others. I know that cooperation is more beneficial to everyone than scrambling only for myself. It’s so alarming that theists imply that without their god they’d be rampaging monsters. Isn’t that sort of self-daming?

7. If you had evidence of god, would you become a Christian?

Likely not. That’s not to say that I would not revise my stance on whether god exists. If I had evidence of the existence of a god, then I would accept the existence of that god. Were that god to be the god of the Christian faith, I would find myself angry, repulsed, and disgusted by the actions of that god, so I cannot easily imagine myself falling down in adoring worship. The guy’s kind of a dick.

8. If evolution is real, why are there no transitional forms in the present?

There are? Seriously, it seems you don’t understand how evolution works. But further, evolution is not the same as atheism. There are theists who fully accept that evolution is true, and I imagine there are atheists who ascribe some other explanation for the development of life as we know it. Also, I don;t know why theists seem to think that to be an atheist one must have a post-doc understanding of all sciences. We just don’t find god claims credible. That has nothing to do with evolution.

9. Do you live according to what you believe or do you live according to what you lack in belief? 

How does one live by ‘lack of belief’ to begin with? I live by what I believe, of course. I believe in empathy, reason, integrity, honoring consent, seeking the truest and most accurate information about the world, and treating other sentient beings (including non-humans) with respect and compassion.

10. If god exists, will you not lose your soul when you die? 

What soul? Atheists typically do not accept the existence of the soul (as anything but a metaphor) for the same reasons we don’t accept the claims of the existence of god. For me, there is nothing to lose (or to gain) after I die. I will just be gone. All the more reason to treat this life, and all the other lives around me, with the utmost respect.

And from another list, some bonus questions:

1. Why Do You Hate God? (Or ‘Aren’t You Just Angry at God?’)

Why would I be angry at something I don’t believe in? It’s like my asking you if you reject the existence of Zeus because you are angry at him for causing thinderstorms. It’s nonsensical. Many atheists are angry at religion in general, or at religious institutions that have caused great harm, particularly those that have escaped abusive situations where religion played a role (and that happens so very often). But you can’t be angry at something you don’t think is real. Questions that also fall under this heading: “Did something terrible happen to you to turn you away from religion?” (Sometimes, but that is not what accounts for not believing; we may begin to question our beliefs under such circumstances, but in the end, it is the untenability of the claims of religion that make atheists reject those claims). “Are you just doing this to rebel?” (Against what? A god we don’t believe exists? Some may end up coming to atheism after breaking free of oppressive religious communities, but that does not account for rejecting religious claims.) “Are you just doing this so you don’t have to obey God’s rules?” (see above….)

2. How Do You Have Any Meaning in Your Life?

I make meaning. I try to find joy and beauty and wonder in the world around me, I do my best to leave the world a bit better place for my having been here. The meaning in my life is what I make it.

3. Doesn’t It Take Just as Much Faith to Be an Atheist as It Does to Be a Believer?

Doesn’t it take as much faith to NOT believe in leprechauns as it would to believe in them? In short, no. I don’t need ‘faith’ to navigate my journey through the world, I have evidence and reason.

4. Isn’t Atheism Just a Religion?

Not by any meaningful definition of religion, no. There is no positive claim or creed or proscription in atheism. It’s just not believing a god or gods exist. That’s it. Atheists find or make their own guiding principles for life, and some may even borrow from religions (like Buddhism, for example). If they do, one *might* be able to call that a religion, but that is not atheism. Atheism is as much a religion as you being not-Hindu, or not-Jewish.

5. But Have You [Read the Bible or Some Other Holy Book, Heard About Some Supposed Miracle, Etc.]?

Yes, we have. Overall, atheists tend to be better informed and more conversant not just in the doctrines of the religion they have left, but about religion in general. In many cases, that deep dive into the texts or narratives of a given faith is what led us to reject the claims of that faith.

6. What if You’re Wrong?

What if you are? If you expect this to be intimidating, it’s not. If you are referring to Pascal’s wager (you lose nothing by believing and being wrong, but everything by not believing so the ‘safe bet’ is to believe), I hate to tell you this, but belief doesn’t work that way. Once you find out Santa isn’t real, you can’t ever make yourself believe it again. You could go through the motions (and I suspect many older siblings do just that for the sake of their younger ones who still believe), but you cannot manufacture belief. And quite frankly, a god who was fooled by such a gambit would be most unimpressive, and one who was placated by it, knowing the belief to be false and self-serving would be distastefully self-aggrandizing.

9. Why Are You Atheists So Angry?

How long do you have? There are whole books on the subject (I recommend THIS ONE). Or you could consult this image (you will need to zoom and scroll; also, this image is roughly a decade old – so much more could be added). However, I will try to toss out a short list to give you an idea. Buckle up.

  • Overturn of Roe v. Wade
  • Children dying because parents take them to priests instead of doctors
  • Abstinence-only education
  • Promotion of magical, anti-critical thinking
  • Climate change denial
  • That gay conversion ‘therapy’ even exists
  • Burkhas and niqabs exist
  • Cartoons causing bombings
  • Witches are still being burned alive by Christians in Africa
  • Uganda’s ‘kill the gays’ bill was encouraged by American evangelicals
  • Women’s clinic bombings
  • Anti-science
  • Female genital mutilation (and male)
  • Gay kids being taken to exorcists
  • Honor killings
  • Pedo-priests (and pasters)
  • Holocaust denial
  • Quiverfull/male ‘headship’
  • Censorship of art
  • Destruction of historic sites (i.e. Myanmar’s buddhas)
  • Eradication of native cultures
  • Stonings, beatings, beheadings