Over on News24, BornAgain_Believer posted a series of questions called “Investigating Atheism“.
I want to start out by noting, however, that these questions are loaded and have a lot of assumptions that are simply incorrect, at least for me. My responses will be tailored to answer those assumptions.
1. Where do you come from?
I’m assuming this is a question that assumes a soul. I do not believe in souls.
So I come from my parents, and also our evolutionary heritage.
2. What is your purpose on earth?
There is no ordained purpose to the whole of humanity. You have to decide your purpose for yourself.
As for me, I’m studying Anthropology, with emphasis on Cultural, Primatology, and Evolutionary Biology. The reason is that I want to understand fanaticism. We always try to look at it from a sociological/psychology perspective, and I think that’s wrong. I think in order to understand it, we must look at it from an evolutionary perspective.
3. Does life have a meaning?
But seriously… individual lives do if the people living those lives want their lives to have meaning. But there is no ordained-from-a-higher-power meaning.
4. What is just and fair for you?
“You have the right to do whatever you want as long as you do not violate another person’s right to do whatever they want.”
It may be confusing that I’m a feminist and Progressive and social justice advocate and ally considering I believe that, but, in fact, I believe social justice follows from that. I’ll be explaining that in my “Portrait of a Left-Winger” series, however, so I’ll leave it here on this post.
Also, murder and rape and thievery being illegal flow from that rather easily because of the “as long as you do not violate another person’s right to do whatever they want” part.
5. God forbids, if your child is murdered and the person is never caught and brought to justice, how would you handle it, seeing that life has no meaning and we are just here on earth to live and die. Where would you get justice from?
I do not have any children, so I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this question. And in this case I honestly don’t know. As I’ve not faced such an event, yet, speculation would very likely be inaccurate.
6. An intelligent, thinking child brought up by atheist parents becomes a Christian how do you respond? Oh and becomes preacher and starts a new church, would you say your child has a problem?
If I do ever have children, I intend to raise them to be critical thinkers. If they decide to become religious, good for them!
It does depend, however, on how far they go.
Science is extremely important to me. I have no problem with them becoming Jewish, or Christian, or Muslim, or any other religion, and even becoming clergy in that religion. There would certainly be a problem, though, if they suddenly became Young-Earth Creationists, Global Warming deniers, and so on.
They can be as religious as they want (believe in God, Jesus, Heaven, Hell, angels, devils, ghosts, souls, etc)… they will not be allowed to categorically reject scientifically proven reality (Evolution, Anthropogenic Climate Change, proven medicine, etc), however.
I will also not tolerate them becoming oppressive towards minorities. I expect any children I have to be compassionate people who support the rights of everyone to live equally in this world, regardless of their race, gender identity, sexuality, and so on, and to be allies towards those less fortunate who want allies.
7. What about all the injustice in the world that goes by unreported, where must everyone else get justice from?
I’ll grant that when justice is denied, it is distressing, to say the least. I find it depressing, for example, how badly rape victims, both men and women, are treated by the official system that is supposed to help them.
There are problems with the concept of Heaven and Hell, however.
Mainly, anyone can define who goes where and why. For some people, where you go depends on how you live your life. So, for them, you have to commit some serious evil (like kill 6 million Jews and 5-6 million homosexuals, atheists, people of color, political dissidents/enemies, Gypsies, trans*, protestors, Muslims, Christians, etc) in order to go to Hell.
And yet, for others, the only path to Heaven is believing in Jesus Christ. I find this particularly offensive because it means that pretty much my entire family, as well as pretty much everyone I have ever admired, loved, and/or respected, will be, or is, in Hell.
So, if evangelical/Born-Again Christians were indeed right, this is how I would handle it:
On Judgement Day, I would walk up to God, look him in his face, and judge him, harshly, by my own moral standards. When I was done, I would spit in his face, then turn around and, with my head held high, walk happily into Hell, because I would rather spend an eternity being tortured with all those I love and respect than spend one second with that megalomaniacal, tyrannical, evil bully. Heaven could never be heaven for me, because I would know that all those I love would be in Hell. And I simply refuse to accept that.
If Heaven and Hell were truly about justice:
a) How you are judged would depend solely on the life you lived, not on what you believed (so an atheist [even the Four Horsemen of Atheism] who lived a good, generally moral life, and who helped people, would be able to go to Heaven, regardless of how open they were about their atheism and how much [dis]respect they showed faith).
b) Assuming someone is guilty of committing serious crimes that went unpunished in life (rape, murder, etc), sentencing would not be eternal and torturous; it would fit the crime(s).
c) There would always be a chance at redemption.
d) Satan would not be considered evil, but instead the prosecution attorney.
e) The accussed would have a defense team.
In other words, a true afterlife justice system would work like the absolute best of our actual justice system. There would be a trial of our peers, with a jury of our peers, and the sentencing would always fit the crime.
8. How do you answer your own child that is searching for meaning and purpose in life?
Again… I would teach my children to be critical thinkers, and as such, I’d encourage them, and help them, to find their own meaning.
9. Why does research, discovery, diplomacy, art, music, sacrifice, compassion, feelings of love, or affectionate and caring relationships mean anything if it all ultimately comes to naught anyway?
Because the work you leave behind is how you will remain “immortal” after you die. Without an afterlife, all of that means more because it will be all that is left of you. What you leave behind is how you will be remembered. Thus what you leave behind is extremely important.
10. Is death the end of life?
Yes. It is not the end of what you leave behind, however.