Questions from a high schooler

On the topix atheist forum, one of the atheist posters started a thread about being contacted by a high schooler wanting to understand atheism. So he shared his answers to her and I thought, those are interesting questions; and I provide my response here:

1. Why don’t atheists believe in a god ?

Because we live in a natural universe with natural causes and nothing that we have observed through the study of nature – which is what science is – would lead to a conclusion of a supernatural agent who leaves no traces or detectable evidence and what we have learned so far, the universe conforms to consistent rules that vary depending on the scale and scope being examined.

2. How do you think the earth came into being?

A collection of space debris that formed a mass, cleared it’s orbit and remained intact as a planetary body; cooling over time to develop an atmosphere and oceans- and eventually, us.

3. What made you decide to be an atheist?

I didn’t decide, all humans are information sponges who don’t want to work too hard, so religion is where most people settle as it provides comfortable, easy answers that you dont have to think too much about or develop any real or meaningful understanding of the world or people.

I realized that religions made no sense and did not provide a means to a better world with dynamic social progress – religion is about the past and maintaining the status quo despite what we humans have collectively learned.

In particular, that there’s less than 1 percent genetic difference between any two people anywhere. So, being that we are the same, why should we uphold beliefs that say others are less than for not adhering to a belief that is entirely culturally dependent – there are many ways that humans express culture and we need to not pretend that they are all good or equally valid, because they are not.

But one of the first things we need to do is to be able to deal with facts on the ground – humans are highly adaptable and creative creatures – religion would force conformity and that is not the strength of people, it is in fact, against our nature to conform more than what we need to for cooperative and harmonious living.
People need to understand that what’s normal for them isn’t normal for everyone and that range is what creates the natural variation within our species.
Religion inhibits human development with the contempt for humanity that religion would have us beleive.

Anything that tells you that sex that makes you feel good is bad – especially if it’s masturbation the safest possible sex, isn’t anything you should be giving any consideration to.

4. Do you believe in an afterlife?

No. We know we have a life and we need to live our lives for the living existence, not on spec or as a dress rehearsal for after death.

If there is something, then it’s part of the natural universe and no adhering to any religion of the day is going to make a difference.

5. Do you have any leaders (via atheism)?

No. Atheism does not require joining or following.

But there are people in public positions who are atheists who have the ability to promote atheism and a naturalist worldview who are often looked to as leaders.
But they are individuals who represent themselves and similar minded people are heartened by their public efforts.

6. How do you feel about other religions?

Atheism isn’t a religion, so the question is poorly worded.

Religions are a cultural affectation and should be maintained in private by those who wish to and the public sphere needs to deal in naturalism and not coddle religious sensibilities.

But it is the nature of Abrahamic religions to spread by the word or the sword and this must be resisted strenuously to remove it from government policy and lawmaking.

7. Do you think your own children should have a say in whether they are atheists or not?

Yes, children are their own people and at age appropriate intervals, they should learn about religion, but not be taught any religion, so they can made their own choices to explore a religion that is attractive to them or not partake in any, in accordance with their individual interest and nature.

8. Do you believe atheism is ‘accurate’ because it’s based on science? Please explain .

Atheism is merely the rejection of religion without replacement. So it is not science, it is simply logic.

Atheism doesn’t explain anything, doesn’t provide a guide for behaviour and has no rituals, customs or meetings.

Atheism isn’t accurate because it doesn’t claim anything.

Naturalism is scientific, because science is the study of nature.

Atheism is just rejecting religion to the degree that it doesn’t limit your thinking.
So it may be thought of as a pre-indicator, or necessary state to carry out scientific study of nature.

9. Do you think atheists could believe in a god?

No, because belief in a god is faith absent of evidence.

If something can be proven to exist, then belief is not necessary – it exists.

10. What’s the difference between an implicit atheist and an explicit atheist?

These are not meaningful terms, but attempts to characterize atheists in religious terms. Atheism is the rejection of religion.

Whether a person keeps this view to themselves or blogs and debates is down to the person and not any characteristic of atheism.

There are not fundamentalist or moderate rejection of religion.

There is simply the rejection of religion as a basis to understand the world.
Anything other than rejection, is then down to the individual and is largely based on their experience with religion – people who have experienced abuse at the hands of priest or anyone sensitive enough to be appalled by centuries of religious driven conflict – that’s down to how religion is and religion has provided many historical and current events reasons why it needs to be educated out of the human species.
We need to stop seeing our differences and see our commonality and we need to choose to co-exist and religion is the greatest impediment to coexistance.

11. In the Buddhist religion, there is no ‘God’. Would that be considered atheism?

No, because buddhism is still a religion – and it is not the only religion that doesn’t posit a god. Shinto, Taoism, Confucianism – these are all religions and philosophies that encompass supernatural agents at work in the universe, they just aren’t personified or representative deities.

However, these religions do not interfere with social progress or scientific advances – and generally are not as divisive as god centered religions are.
In these godless religions, it’s more about how you are as a person in the world – and this aligns with naturalist thinking of being in and of the world.

12. Was atheism initially your choice?

We all start off without beliefs, so in that sense no, it’s not a choice, it’s the default setting.

I chose to expose myself to religion and while I had a positive experience, religion was ultimately not compatible with a naturalist world view.

13. Are there different sects of atheism?

No. There is only one rejection of religion and how you live and act and are in the world, is down to the individual, not their lack of belief in religion.

However, religious people often cannot grasp individualism and individual behaviors and since we are pattern seekers, we tend to round up everyone with shared characteristics and view them as a group.

So saying there’s fundie or moderate atheists is just trying to talk about an individual’s behaviors in the context of group behaviours that are understandable to religious thinkers, who do understand that as a believer in a given religion that they are a certain way compared to other believers in the apparent same religion.
but that is not a meaningful way to think within atheism.

To us, it’s an on or off switch, with no further consideration, because our personalities and ideas about the world don’t come from atheism, there cannot be kinds of atheism. Our understanding of ourselves and the world comes from the study of people – anthropology and psychology.

Saying I am a fundie atheist is sort of true within the religious mindset because I am forthcoming in my lack of belief and able to provide many reasons and examples why religion is a force of evil. That would seem to be fundamentalist to a religious person.

But it’s not correct to say that there’s kinds of atheism that athiests would really understand and getting sucked into that kind of debate should be avoided and believers need to be brought into naturalist discussions – not discussion within their religious mindset and give it validity.

14. Do atheism have a community center?

The internet. it’s where individual atheists can connect to each other.

Before then, there were a handful of organizations, but participation is not a requirement. Getting atheists together as a group is like trying to heard cats.

15. Is the ‘ask an atheist day’ considered a holiday?

Maybe it should be.

But in terms of what should or shouldn’t be a holiday – religious special days should not be secular statuatory holidays. Because secular government are to ensure equal access and treatment under the law – and separation of church and state means that.

The State should not be favoring any religion’s special days over any other religion’s special days. People are free to use their paid vacation for religious observance – statuatory holidays should be limited to civic matters, such as:

Memorial/Remembrance Day

Labour Day

New Years

and whatever independence day, presidents day, family day and whatever other notable days – such as Queen Victoria/May Day.

Honestly, I think Elvis Presley day is long overdue – although I can see the problem being which day – the January 8 birthday or the August 16 death day.