Brett Keane recently posted an Atheist Challenge video, and invited video responses from other atheists. As I don’t do vlogs, and trust me you don’t want to watch my ugly mug, I’ll put my responses in writing.
1. Where do you get your morality from, and please explain your morality?
I get my morality from the society I grew up in, and from my interactions with the people around me. As I have covered in previous posts, morality is simply little more than the set of rules that a societal group creates in order to function properly.
2. Why do you accept evolution, and explain how you came to your conclusion?
I accept evolution because of the overwhelming body of evidence that supports it. It is now 150 years since Darwin put forth his theory (although a lot of the groundwork had been around long before that), and there have been many, many advances in the field of evolutionary biology. Not one discovery yet has managed to make evolution look even shaky. Add to that the fact that work in other sciences has also done nothing but support evolution and you really do have to work hard to not believe in it.
3. What is the meaning and purpose of your life?
My life has no pre-defined meaning or purpose, and that isn’t a problem to me. I can give my life meaning, and I can define a purpose for myself just fine. For instance, right now the purpose of my life is to raise my daughter to be a happy, well rounded human being, and to give her a reasonable chance at living a life of her own definition. In addition to that, I try to be nice to those around me, and to treat others in a way that I hope others will treat me. Ultimately I guess, I hope to leave this world a slightly (even if only microscopically) better place than it was when I arrived.
4. What is the greatest thing you have ever done for others?
That’s very hard to define. There are things I have done that in my eyes where pretty great, but may have been nothing to the receiver. Equally, I may have done something for someone that I didn’t even notice, but could have made the difference between life and death to them. I’ll probably never know what the greatest thing I ever did was.
5. Would you kill for atheism?
That’s almost a pointless question. Given that ‘atheism’ is just a non belief in a god or go, the question makes as much sense as ‘Would you kill for a-Bigfoot-ism’.
6. Why are you an atheist and consider your position valid?
I am an atheist because to my mind it’s the only position that makes sense. Even if our tiny, insignificant, little planet really was the reason for the existence of the entire universe, there are so many competing and mutually exclusive theistic doctrines that even if a God did exist, he’s obviously humongously incompetent as he can’t even get a simple message across to us. Until someone can provide solid, reliable, concrete proof of the existence of a divine deity, then they’re superfluous.
7. If you died and discovered that a god existed, what would you say to he/she/it?
Assuming that the being I find myself with really was the divine being, then I’d have to ask why I was created with a mind that required evidence before I was able to accept something, and then not provided with the evidence that my mind required. Why in fact all the evidence I was able to find pointed in the opposite direction.
8. What religion in your eyes is most dangerous today, and in the past?
Today, probably Muslim. In the past, probably Christianity.
9. Name three peaceful religions you have no issue with.
I don’t know that there are any. Certainly there are religions that I find less objectionable than others, but they all have fundamental tenants that a just plain kooky.
10. What would it take to believe in a god?
Absolute, undeniable, unequivocal proof. As I’ve discussed in a previous post that proof would have some very high standards that need to be satisfied before I will be swayed.
11. Would the world be a better place without religion?
My initial response is yes, yes, a thousand times yes. However, there is a problem here. Religion seems to fulfill a need in human societies, and if we removed religion it’d most likely get replaced by something else. That something else could be much worse. Better the devil you know and all that. So, I’ll have to temper my initial enthusiasm to a guarded yes.
12. How do you feel about government an politics?
My feelings on government and politics are that they seem to be a necessary evil. To quote Douglas Adams:
Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.
13. If you could go back in time and kill Hitler/Stalin as babies so they would never kill the millions in the future would you do it if time travel was possible?
Probably not. There is no denying that the outcome of the existence of Stalin and Hitler where two of the most brutal and evil regimes that represent low points in the history of human society, there is no way to know if preventing them would bring real benefits, or if things would end up worse.
14. Why is stem cell research so important?
Because it has the potential to save millions and millions of lives.
15. Is abortion evil?
I don’t think that the use of the term ‘evil’ is appropriate. However, I am not against abortion.
16. What would the circumstances need to be for you to approve of torture as an individual?
I don’t think there are any.
17. Should we try and save animals from going extinct?
A simple question on the surface, but not if you dig a little deeper. Given that in excess of 99.99% of all species that have ever existed are extinct, it would seem that the natural destiny of all species is to end up that way. Indeed, the natural consequence of evolution is that over time species of animals will disappear. If I could slightly modify the question to ‘Should we try and save animals from going extinct due to the overt actions of humans?’, then yes we should.
18. Do you approve of capital punishment, explain?
19. Do you believe in aliens, ghosts, spirits, souls, any supernatural forces?
I don’t think it’s appropriate to lump aliens in with the likes of ghosts, spirits, and supernatural forces. I am 99.9999% certain that aliens exist. Somewhere. That doesn’t mean I believe in little green men in flying saucers creating circles in fields of corn however. The known universe is so mind-bogglingly vast that there has to be life on another planet somewhere. What form that life takes, I have no idea. Will well ever find it, probably, but not in my lifetime (unfortunately).
As to ghosts, spirits, and supernatural forces. No, not even slightly.
The soul, well, define the soul. If it’s simple the amalgam of my conscious thoughts, feelings, desires etc then yes. As a separate ‘energy’ that can exist apart from my body, then no.
20. Would you sacrifice yourself for a loved one with the chance you would end up in hell for being an atheist?
Given that I don’t accept the possibility of the existance of hell the question is pointless. But I would sacrifice my life so that my daughter could go on living yes.
21. Explain in detail the process of death.
I can’t explain it in detail, I’m not a doctor. But as I understand it once the brain becomes damaged enough that it is no longer capable of independantly controlling the body then you’re dead. After which, to quote Kryten in Red Dwarf, you could maybe continue to function as a disc jockey.
22. Have you ever been dead?
That’s a toughie.
If by dead you mean not alive then yes. I was dead before I was born. Additionally there is also the question of what it is it that makes ‘me’. The physical molecules that make my body are constantly being replaced. Thus if you where to gather up all the little bits that made me, say, 20 years ago, you’d probably just have a pile of dust a gunk, which couldn’t be considered alive in any meaningful way. However, as a conscious, sentient being, no, I haven’t been dead.