Questions For Atheists From A College Student – Answer Them Yourself!

Question BoxI was contacted on Twitter by a very open-minded and accepting college student who is doing research on atheism. She herself is not an atheist, but wanted to address some questions she had before working on her project. I am going to go ahead and assume that the more people who answer these for her, the better, so please, add your answers in the comments.

These are my answers:

1. Why are you an atheist?

I’ve never had a good enough reason to believe in a god.

2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

No.

3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

No. I never believed.

4. If not, why did you stop believing?

I never believed.

5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

We decompose. Our stardust goes back to dirt in the ground, and feeds the flora which feeds the fauna, which then decomposes when it dies and the cycle continues. I believe consciousness is a direct result of our physiology and once the physical part of us is gone, much like how a cell phone will no longer light up and take calls when it’s smashed to pieces, neither will we. I’m perfectly fine with this. I don’t desire eternal life. In fact, I think it would get quite tedious pretty fast.

6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

The same place people who do believe in a higher power get their morals from: Conscience, consequences, compassion. A believer never follows their holy book to the last letter. Something inside of them allows them to pick and choose the parts of it that are relevant to their own life. That process is a result of your conscience. It’s a result of your innate compassion, your desire to avoid the here-and-now consequences instead of worry about expected eternal ones. You and I get our morals from the very same place, and the very same process. The only difference is that I give myself credit for it.

7. Where do you think the universe came from?

No idea.

8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

I love them all. While I don’t agree with everything each of them has said, they are each very important thinkers and speakers in our world today and are making (or have made) such significant changes in the world with their work, that I have no choice but to admire them. I think they are demonized and often their words are taken out of context and misunderstood, which is to be expected. Each of them are human beings and fallible and may not articulate every last thought they have as they might have wished to. There is an easy way, however, to verify that the criticism of the things these men said are true, and that is to seek out the bit of writing or speaking that the comment in question was taken from, and look at it in context of the whole piece. In other words, do your own research and go right to the source. Often, these things are blown way out of proportion.

9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

I am almost a strong atheist. The only thing that keeps me from being a strong atheist, is that I think it’s kind of arrogant to say you know for sure there either is or is not a god. While I find the entire idea of a god absurd, and I think that certain accounts of a god are not possible, I still can’t know for certain that there is no god at all, of any sort. So, I am an agnostic atheist, on the cusp of strong, but without demonstrable evidence either way, that won’t change.

10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

You can’t. However, you can’t prove God does exist, and, as Christopher Hitchens once pointed out,

That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.

If someone approached you and told you that if you didn’t go to work naked 3 times a week, your car would be whisked off to space by a flying Plutonian turtle named Click, would you believe them off the bat and go to work nude 3 times per week to avoid such an outcome? No. Can you prove there is no car-thieving turtle named Click on Pluto? No. You don’t believe in the turtle, do you? Even though you can’t prove he’s not there on Pluto plotting to take your car.

11. Do you believe in miracles?

No. I believe that people truly believe they have witnessed and experienced them, but I don’t think common lay-people are skilled enough to make the call after one occurrence that there is no other explanation for the event. Unfortunately, many of these events cannot be repeated, so they cannot be studied under the scrutinizing eye of the scientific method. In order for me to believe there is no natural explanation for something, all natural explanations would have to be systematically ruled out as a possibility in a controlled environment. Until then, I have no problem saying I don’t know and quite frankly, I find that a more honest approach, because witnesses to miracles really don’t know either.

12. Do you have a support group/system?

Yes, my family and friends and this growing heathen community on the internet. There are some very, very special people out there.

13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

No. My Twitter feed, Facebook page and blog is all for atheists. However, believers, such as yourself, often find their way there and are compelled to ask questions, like you did. A lot of times they are rude about it. Sometimes they are kind like you. Either way, I answer them as honestly as I can and I try to be nice, even when faced with someone being an asshole. Through this process, I have had 4 people tell me I played a role in them finding freedom after they left religion. This was not intended, but being as each of them was ecstatic about it, and thanked me, I am happy that it turned out that way.

14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

No. I live in Canada. No one really gives a shit which religion you are or if you lack it.

15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

Oh, yes. Every day of my life these days. Not only do I get religious trolls around all my online spaces, but I get Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door 2-3 times per week. This is why I make videos on YouTube – to respond to some of the more humorous comments and tweets I get.

I do still try to keep my cool, though, even when they are being rude. I do have my moments and I have lost my cool. Not proud of that.

16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

My immediately family are all atheists. My extended family is made up of atheists, a couple of Wiccans, disenfranchised Catholics and some people who identify as Christian but who don’t go to church or take it very seriously. They are all supportive. I have the best family, extended and otherwise, in the world.

17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

I don’t know a lot about her, other than her role in American Atheists, her murder and her activism. I have heard that she was an unpleasant person. Some of the stories I read paint her as such, and I am in no position to disagree or doubt that. The thing about atheists is, we are human, just like you. Some of us are assholes. Some of us are amazing. Some of us are just regular people trying to make the most of life. If O’Hair was an asshole, then she was an asshole. I know there are plenty more atheist assholes out there now.

However, asshole or not, her activism should not go unnoticed. If it weren’t for her, my blog likely would not be all that possible yet. I have to respect that, if nothing else.

These are my answers. I need to mention here that the asker preceded these questions with the following:

I do believe in God so I thought to do my research on atheism since atheism is stigmatized in a negative way by believers. I will not in any way judge you for not believing in what I believe in. I did some research on atheism & I just wanted to talk to an atheist so I can get more information as well.

So, if you do choose to answer these questions, I would ask that you return the consideration she gave us. Post your answers in the comments or send me the link to your answers and I’ll pass it on to her.

morality

 

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Category: About Godless Mom, Debate, Facts | Tags:
  • 1. I don’t identify as an atheist only. I self-describe as a critical thinker, that in turn has led me to an atheistic position. Why? In short, critical thinking requires analyzing, evaluating, observing, and deriving conclusions in reasonable and rational way. I have done that and concluded gods do not exist.

    2. Yes. I have held the belief in higher powers. Of course that requires definition. example: If you have any knowledge of the Alcoholics Anonymous it can be anything “greater” that self. My personal idea was the belief that all life had a connecting energy or spirit, but not an intelligent being behind it.

    3. No. In retrospect my idea of connectedness was largely the result of social pressure. I have always eschewed religion and the supernatural.

    4. What solidified my position was the return to school in pursuit of a graduate degree. Experimental methods as related to psychology opened my eyes to application of critical thought in an effective way.

    5. Life ends; there is no afterlife, no spirit that floats about; no remaining consciousness. Think about this; before you were born you were essentially dead. We have no awareness of that time, and so we will again.

    6. Speaking from behavioral psychology morality is actually easy to explain. every behavior has a consequence, and as a result the behaviors are supported or they’re extinguished. Behaviors can become innate as well. The mistake that most make is thinking morality is objective; that there is one clear line of right vs wrong that’s universal. This leads to the erroneous conclusion that morality must have a “source”. Its not, and doesn’t. If it did why would we see variations of morality all across the planet?

    7. For that answer I’d refer to physics and theories regarding the big bang, quantum physics, and/or string theory.

    8. I admire them for their willingness to advocate for reason a rational thinking. I may not be in total agreement with any of them, but that’s life. The most important thing I support is their principle efforts to promote the use of reason and evidence based practices in all matters personal and public, particularly in matters that impact public policies such as education, science, environment, etc.

    9. Strong. I conclude the probability of any supernatural being something close to zero. for all practical purposes it is zero.

    I’ll come back to answer the rest — look for my responses below>>

    • Chris Barham

      1) I’ve read the bible through as a boy, and again along with the koran as young man. I’ve also listened to most (all?) of the arguments put forward for the existence of god by faith leaders and spokesmen. As a result of this study, not one scintilla of doubt remains in my mind – there is no god.

      2) Yes, until about age 8.

      3) No

      4) I just grew up and was allowed to question.

      5) We cease. Just as it was before we were born, so it is again.

      6) We have evolved as pack animals. Cohesive, viable, groups do not consist of individuals that shit on each other. We evolved hierarchical structures and morality because it was favourable to survival to do so. As culture and language develops, so can morality. This is why present day morality is superior to the versions set down in the bible/koran. (Slavery, equal rights, garlic prawns etc.)

      7) I understand just sufficient of the gist of modern physics to accept that the big bang theory is the best guess we can make today. I understand scientific method well enough to know for a fact that as soon as a better theory or a refinement is discovered that is in greater accordance with measurable fact, it will be accepted and we will disregard the old theory.

      8) A brilliant pair of scientists/educators and a world class journalist. To define them in terms of their atheism would be to diminish them all.

      9) Strong.

      10) I don’t have to. If you postulate a wildly unlikely thing, the onus is on YOU to prove it, not on me to prove you wrong. Flying Spaghetti Monster, Russell’s teapot…you know the argument. For what it’s worth, if not destroyed first, I would wager that mankind and science will one day finally disprove the god hypothesis…and maybe within a couple of centuries, of course I won’t be around to collect.

      11) No, and any that are claimed are bullshit. Salient quotation from Anatole France (1844-1924) who, contemplating the hundreds of discarded crutches at Lourdes, murmured “Une seule jambe de bois en dirait bien davantage” (Just one wooden leg would be much more significant).

      12) Family, friends; same as you but all tangible.

      13) Not particularly, but if someone mentions religion (seldom happens, UK largely atheist) I make it a point of honour to make some thrust in favour of atheism.

      14) Not that I can recall.

      15) Seldom and with zero success.

      16) Yes.

      17) Never heard of her.

  • Part 2 – the rest

    10. My position is that it has already been proven. Societies and cultures have been claiming the existence of gods, in a multitude of forms, for thousands of years. Many, if not most, have gods that are claimed to be able to affect changes in this world.

    First, after thousands of years we have only ancient writings, and some more recent, to support the idea. They all make claims, unsubstantiated and unprovable. why, after thousands of years is no verifiable evidence available?

    Second, all the stories and writings have common themes and be traced backward through history toward some beginning. The further back you go, the more ignorant of the universe humans were. As science has advanced, new stories of gods have virtually ceased.

    Given the vast amount of time, and the absence of any evidence, the absence of the evidence becomes evidence against existence of any god. Requiring “absolute proof” is always unreasonable. For example, you can’t “absolutely prove” you’re reading this.

    11.No. Miracles, require suspension of the laws of physics. At least that’s my definition. Some people like to use the term to describe highly improbable events, but those can be explained rationally.

    12.Yes. If your asking about a “church like” group the answer is sort of.

    13. I used to, and I do try on occasion. My primary interest is encouraging people to develop critical thinking skills. Having experience in psychology and education, I am of the opinion that most people do poorly with critical thinking. Research has shown things like “gut” feelings”, memory, first impression, etc., are highly unreliable ways to make decisions, draw conclusions, or decide best courses of action. Examples of bad critical thinkers: anti-vaxxers, believers in ghosts, astrologists, conspiracy theorists. the list is endless. We would all benefit from better critical thinking skills.

    14. Not so much, but I am no longer a member of one group due to many of the members anti-atheist stance.

    15. Only on twitter 🙂

    16. Family. My younger brother and I have not spoken, but briefly, in several years because he decided to embrace Christianity. His proselytizing put me off and my being a “science guy” puts him off. No support there, but I have another brother that shares my views.

    17. Madalyn O’Hair – my only opinion is that she was incredibly brave. She advocated for atheism at a time when the cold war was ongoing and our country, and in order to distance ourselves from communism, was embracing religion with greater zeal (e.g., currency printed with “In god we trust”).

  • mike

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    Because I spent nearly 20 years trying to find answers in religion and faith. I found that, in the end, it raised many more questions than it answered.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    actually, Yes. I used that as a tool in my recovery and sobriety. But even then it was not ‘God” it was ‘well I can’t make a tree so there are forces(?) stronger than myself

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    I always wanted to believe. Human nature to want to fit in socially and religions have a way of making you feel like it’s your fault if you don’t believe. i.e. ‘you didn’t try hard enough’

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    I stopped believing when my studies lead me to what was, ultimately, a more rational and reasonable way of viewing the world.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    Our bodily functions and brain activity cease and we are done. I know that can seem morbid or nihilistic but for me it is not. It means I need to make the most of the time I have with my family and the people I care about.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    I’ll get scientific here. Morality and ethics are a product of our behavioral and biological evolution. As we, Homo (Genus) began to move in larger bands/tribes natural selection favored those who shared and fought for the survival of the tribe. A well fed, well protected tribe is a tribe that lives longer and has higher reproductive chances, thus passing on those traits to offspring. As a side note religiosity and or meta-magical thinking is also an evolutionary survival mechanism. It gave larger and larger tribes the ability to have a common cause to bond them more closely. Large societal groups need to have common goals and standards to keep them together. God’s and other types of thinking were ways to answer questions and pass along tribal knowledge.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    The Big Bang is the most widely accepted model for our universe at this time. I do not claim to be a cosmologist or and astrophysicist so I will simply let them do their work and continue on with my life. I will root for them from the sidelines as I find it fascinating but much of it beyond my comprehension.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    All I can say is I have read a quote hear and there by each of them or watched an abbreviated you tube video but I don’t own any of the books nor do I intend to. my interests lie more to the scientific works of sociobiology and evolution, both behavioral and biological.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    I am not sure what this question implies. I am well educated and continue my studies even today at 50+ yrs old. I have reasonable critical thinking and debate skills so I find many theists who wish to debate tend to shy away as I may politely, but firmly, point out the logical flaws in arguments they may bring. I am always willing to discuss faith vs atheism in an educated and civil manner.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    See above. Shifting the burden of proof is unacceptable. The claimant is always responsible for the support of their claim. It is logically impossible to support a negative or provide evidence of absence.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    No. unexplained phenomenon are just that. once they are explained they are simply phenomenon. Human beings have a deeply ingrained flaw in our brain that leads us to believe in things that we think we saw or want to see. This again is a survival mechanism and it served us well in our evolution. A skeptic in the tribe or in the jungle was likely to be eaten (let me go see if that’s actually a lion) or poisoned (they say that those berries are poisonous but I’ve never seen anyone eat them and die) I think you can see the inference I am making here.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    Nothing formal. Family and friends. I am grateful for the twitter community as I have the opportunity to express my views and hold debate with theists and atheists alike.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    That is a tough question. First off I do not know that I can get others to not believe and if they are not harming themselves or others in the process then no. But that leads us to the second part I will absolutely stand up and try to derail religious beliefs if there is harm being done, specific groups are being oppressed or other such instances. I have an 11 year old daughter and I am not telling her what she should or should not believe. I am however, arming her with critical thinking skills so she can make her own choices and those choices will be benign/safe enough that she will not have to suffer through the painful unwinding of religious indoctrination.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    Depending on the person ,yes. I have had people assume I am either a satanic worshiper which is silly, if I don’t believe in God why would I believe in the devil? Or assume I was hurt by the church or something similar and I am mad at God. Or that I must be an atheist because I have no morals. see above.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    Yes, all the time. It is definitely more online than in person though. I think the internet can be good as people feel safer and more willing to express an opinion/belief . This, of course, has a negative effect too as they feel safe to say some really awful things from the safety of a keyboard. No details needed but you would be shocked at what some loving religious people have said to me..lol

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    Other that my daughter it is not really a topic. My family has every possible range from militant atheist to militant new age mystics (sigh)

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    Again I am not a fanboy of Atheism. I think what she did needed to be done but I certainly agree with Godless mom about atheism not being a doctrine or behavioral system. there are plenty of us that I disagree wholeheartedly with on any number of social, political and cultural ideals.

    I hope these answers were helpful, enlightening or, at the very least, entertaining.
    Good luck to you
    Mike

    • You wrote:

      “What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

      I don’t own any of the books nor do I intend to. my interests lie more to the scientific works of sociobiology and evolution, both behavioral and biological.”

      Haven’t you read The Selfish Gene by Dawkins?

      • mike

        No I haven’t. I have heard it would be right up my alley. I guess I meant to say I tend to avoid straight atheism books. I forget he is a scientist first!

        • Yes, these days Dawkins is more personality than scientist. I read his evolution books – Selfish Gene, Climbing mount Improbable, Blind Watchmaker, and others long before he became who he is now. They were my introduction to details of how evolution works. I think that ‘selfish gene’ was Dawkins major contribution as it explains how evolution is really about gene survival rather than phenotype survival.

  • Bethany B

    First of all, I would like to say how wonderful I think it is that you are asking questions in a respectful way, and I hope our answers help you see that we are as varied as people of faith are. Thanks for opening a dialogue and wanting to learn about others that are different from you.

    1. Why are you an atheist?
    I can’t believe that an omnipotent god would allow children to suffer from cancer or hunger or other horrible abuses and fates. If there is a god that could stop those things and chose not to, I would never want to follow such a deity.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?
    Yes. I wasn’t raised religiously, but in my teen to mid-20s, I went to church regularly and taught sunday school with my first husband. I do enjoy the ritual and fellowship of church to a degree.

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?
    Yes. I had a terrible miscarriage… long and drawn out, and I became despondent. I had done everything “right” and felt like god was punishing me for something… that is when I started really questioning whether god was cruel or absent. My later divorce just ensured that I would keep asking questions.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?
    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?
    I like to think that our energy goes back into the world… we become the dirt and the air and the electrons that charge where we were, but truthfully, I think we are just gone. It is terrible. I understand why people like to think of their loved ones in heaven or reincarnated, but alas, our legacies are solidified during our lives, not after.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?
    I think human morals are innate. You feel what is right and fit your beliefs into that mold. Men of god will justify killing with the bible if they think it is moral, I have always known that harming others is wrong. Perhaps it is something we have evolved with in order to live in a society. Those who get along with others have a better chance of survival. But either way, it is inside all of us… although, what is inside varies.
    In fact, I have always said that it concerns me to think that the only thing keeping some people from being rapists/murderers, etc is the fear of god… that seems so external. For most of us, we already know inside that harming others is wrong.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?
    I don’t know. Even with the big bang, where did the starting matter come from? What is at the edge of the universe?? It makes my head spin to think about. (in a similar vein – if there were an infinite God – where would s/he have come from?) boggling

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?
    They are important… showing normalcy for a belief system is helpful for those who struggle with the stigma.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?
    Um. Medium? Logically, I am for sure an athiest… but I have agnostic leanings. I couldn’t rule out that there wasn’t at some point a force that created us.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?
    I can’t. I can’t prove that something with no evidence doesn’t exist. But as stated, if he exists in an omnipotent but careless fashion and is up in our personal biz, then I am not interested anyway.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?
    I believe some very very unlikely and incredible things happen in this world. Do I believe that Jesus on toast is a miracle? no. But some things are beautiful and astonishing and unlikely. If that is a miracle, then, yes.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?
    I have friends and family, like everyone else. But this is one aspect I miss about a church. I do like the community aspect.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?
    No. I always answer questions honestly. but I am respectful. I understand believers, I just don’t. My husband is a believer and we respect one another. I love that his faith comforts him and makes him a better person. He is a good example of what religion SHOULD do for people. He is kind and good, and doesn’t speak ill of anyone. How could I try to change that?

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?
    For a little while, yes. I live in Texas, so most people here at least believe, if not go to church regularly. But after a short discussion, things are back to normal. I certainly don’t bring it up if I am not asked though.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?
    Sometimes. Mostly, they just can’t comprehend how I can’t believe in God. And I say, “Well, I believe in “God” like you believe in Zeus.” And they get confused, but that’s the deal… we are all athiests, I just believe in one less god than you.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?
    Yes – my grandmother is a buddhist, and my mom is not religious. My Dad was a little confused but then we had a talk about it and he realized that we weren’t as far apart on it as he thought. My in-laws are respectful too, although I know they wish we’d gotten married in a church. I was willing but my husband didn’t want to do the leg-work, so Vegas, it was.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?
    I don’t really have any. I mean. I remember when they found her body – because it was in San Antonio, I think, but I was just a kid. I think she gave athiests kind of a bad name, but maybe her life was hard. I don’t know. I am glad we don’t have required prayer in schools now, so I appreciate her for that.

    Good luck on your project!

  • Mats B

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    Because I simply don’t believe in any deities.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    Yes. When I was young I was religious.

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    Nope, nothing traumatic.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    I went for my confirmation (at 14) and started studying the bible and my religion more seriously and individually than I did in sunday school.

    My stages to de-conversion goes as follows:

    The theodicee problem (If god is truly good and benevolent, why does he let bad things happen), simplified.

    Questioning the church organisation and their inability to follow their own teachings.

    Rejecting the bible as a holy book due to lacking information, containing blatant factual misstakes and that it is riddled with contradictions.

    My confirmation priest found me entertaining and insightful and agreed with me that I’d most likely were Agnostic, borderline Atheist.

    I still went through the confirmation due to societal pressure but it was with a wink of the eye between my priest and me.

    After that I was spiritual, believing in some kind of higher power.. but that went away as well after more studies and now I am free from superstition!

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    We are dead. Unless we’re cremated we decompose. The only “heaven” for people to hope for is to be remembered fondly by the ones we leave behind.

    That is why we should try to be good and not be total pricks when we’re alive.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    Morals are an accepted standard created by the societal rules we are expected to follow. Empathy can even overrule that if the societal concensus are harsher than we are personally.

    Otherwise following the golden rule is great. Treat others like you would like to be treated. Be empathic and try not to be a dick!

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    I am not an astrophycisist. But I find the current theory of the big bang to be plausible.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    Dawkins has some great insight when it comes to evolutionary theory, I don’t always agree with everything he says but in general a good guy.

    Harris, I don’t care for him much. It’s a personal thing. I simply don’t like him. He might be a great study of philosophy but he just gets on my nerve when he speaks.

    Hitchens, he was a great thinker and writer. Not ashamed of his opinions. He had a perfect level of snark when debating creationists and other belief structures. Sad to see him gone.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    I am a complete non believer at this point. I am not an absolute anti theist like some claim to be. I expect I could change my mind if being shown evidence for a deity, but that is very unlikely.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    Have you looked at the world recently? Not much divine intervention going on. That means he is either not benevolent, not omnicient, not omnipotent. If he is not benevolent he is not worthy of worship.

    If he’s not omnicient or omnipotent then he’s not a god.

    Besides, if he does not exist it can not be proven. One can not prove a negative.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    Nope. All recent (in modern times) miracles have been disproven scientifically either as hoaxes or badly informed reporters. Miracles reported in the bible lack proof since the bible can not be used as evidence due to having an (more likely several) unknown author/s.

    For me a miracle is something that can be addressed scientifically and thereby be explained.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    Not really. Don’t need one since where I come from we are free to express our minds.. not like in the US =)

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    Not really. I don’t care what people believe as long as they don’t try to influence the natural world with their beliefs.. I.e. instate laws based on their mythology.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    Not really, at least not where I live or were born. In the US it was a tad more different.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    Sure, but they usually keep trying with the same old debunked arguments. Some even try Pascal’s wager on me when they get desperate.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    My sister knew I was an atheist when she asked me to be the god parent of my nieces. She just asked me to not tell the priest until I’d recieved my certification >)

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    I have no clue who that is.

  • Mysid

    1) I am antheist because I am unconvinced any gods exist.
    2) I used to believe in the Christian God.
    3) No, nothing traumatic led to my change in belief.
    4) I stopped believing when I realized there was no evidence any gods exist. Christianity is just mythology like other mythologies.
    5) When we die, our brian function stops, and our bodies decay.
    6) Our morals come from our empathy and our instincts for social cooperation. We treat others as we’d want to be treated because we can imagine ourselves in another’s place, and because it’s how we hope others will treat us. This social cooperation is found in many species that live in groups.
    7) I am not an astrophysicist, so I am not an expert on the origin of the universe. I do find the discoveries being made by scients to be fascinating, and I’m glad there is still more to discover by always asking questions.
    8) I have never read anything by Dawkins, Harris, or Hitchens.
    9) I do not care for the terms “weak” and “strong” atheists. I am an agnostic atheist when it comes to an elusive, undefined deity. I am closer to a gnostic atheist when it comes to the Christian God. As he is defined, he is a self-contradictory improbability.
    10) I do not claim there is no god, so I do not have to disprove his existence. Disbelief is merely the default position when unconvinced. If you want me to believe, convince me with proof.
    11) No, I am unconvinced miracles exist.
    12) Yes, my support system includes my family, friends, and neighbors.
    13) No, I do not try to convince people to disbelieve.
    14) No, most people do not view me differently when they learn I’m an atheist.
    15) No, people do not try to convert me.
    16) My family accepts and supports my atheism although they are theists.
    17) Madalyn Murray O’Hair was before my time, I do not know much about her. I do know she was a ground-breaker and that the American people owe her a debt of gratitude for her activism on behalf of our constitutional separation of church and state.

  • Bobby

    I’ll take a shot at it.

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    I have not seen sufficient evidence to support existence of a deity.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    Yes, I was raised in a Christian home.

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    No.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    I wanted to become a preacher so I began to read all of the Bible instead of the “fluffy” parts focused on in church. I could not reconcile the immoral God of the Bible with the loving God I was taught about. That started me on the road to really examine my beliefs, why I believed them, and if those beliefs were justified.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    Worm food.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    The same place believers get morals. We, as a society, decide what is a moral act. Many views on how we decide that.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    No idea.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    All smart guys who happen to share a disbelief in god claims. While I agree with much that each has said, I have disagreements with each on specific subjects/views.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    Strong atheist

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    I cannot and I do not think it can be done. Specific god claims can be shown to be logically impossible.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    No

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    No

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    In a manner. I try to get people to examine their beliefs. If that leads to them no longer believing absurdities, I’m ok with it.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    Yes. Living where I do (in the Bible belt), I’m seen as evil by many that I encounter.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    All the time.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    Many in my family know me well enough to know that I am still a good person. They do not support the fact that I don’t believe and actively try to “save” me on a routine basis.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    I don’t really know much about her. From the little I’ve seen, she was a very in-your-face type of person at a time when not believing in a god was even less common.

  • Can’t reply better than ‘Godless mom’, but now that I am typing…

    Always atheist

    Because religion always seemed self evidently absurd.

    Die – our brains stop like when we fall asleep, but more so, and our body decomposes.

    Morals – some may have evolved, some are empathy – we know we dislike being done to so we know others probably also dislike it,

    Universe – I accept the scientific consensus, universe used to be tiny, but initial conditions not yet known.

    Dawkins- read his books on evolution years ago. Hitchins – Recently amused to watch his debates on youtube. Harris – find him a bit aggressive. I was an atheist long before I heard of them.

    Weak/strong atheist. Don’t know the terms.

    Can’t prove the nebulous concept of a supernatural being outside of physical reality. It is defined in a way that makes it immune from disproof.

    Miracles- not a meaningful question to me.

    Support group- just family, friends, society in general.

    Never tried to convert anyone to atheism.

    No one cares if I am an atheist or not – that’s Europe.

    Family view me? My atheism is a non issue.

    Madalyn O’Hair? Never heard of her.

  • Kristina Meek

    1. Until recently I didn’t really think of myself as an atheist, because I didn’t feel the need to label what I DON’T believe. But living in a region of the country where everyone assumes you believe in God (i.e., theirs) I started to identify with the label.
    2. Yes.
    3. No.
    4. It just faded as I gained more life experiences.
    5. I don’t think anyone knows, and anyone who says they know is lying.
    6. I don’t think we “get” them from anywhere. They’re inherent in human nature.
    7. I’m not a scientist.

  • Helen Pluckrose

    1) I see no evidence for gods.
    2) I believed in the Christian one as a child because I was told it was real at school. (UK schools are Christian.)
    3)No, Christianity itself was traumatic because of the eternal torture of non-believers and sinners but this did not stop me believing. I believed but was frightened.
    4) I read the bible and the contradictions and claims that are simply wrong made me begin doubting. When I searched for evidence my god was real, I could not find any.
    5) We cease to exist. There is much evidence that self is brain and brain dies with us. Sometimes we are gone before death if we get dementia and it advances to a stage where person no longer knows who they are or what is happening.
    6) Our morals come from our frontal lobes. We evolved guilt, compassion, empathy, justice because we are social mammals and need to co-operate. Other social mammals have them too but ours are more complex and articulated because we are most intelligent. You will notice that we no longer think the many morals of the Abrahamic god are good. Slavery, homophobia, eternal torture of people with different beliefs, the subordination of women. Even Christians rarely believe these are OK showing their morality does not come from religion either.
    7) I don’t know where the universe came from. I have no problems saying that I don’t know. Physicists understand more about this than I do but the origins of the universe are unknown.
    8) I like them without agreeing with them about everything.
    9)I don’t know that weak or strong are useful terms. I disbelieve in gods without knowing for sure. I think anyone who says they know for sure that gods don’t exist is dishonest.
    10) I cannot prove it. Gods might exist but they are no more likely than any other mythical being like mermaids and werewolves.
    11) No, there have been no confirmed miracles.
    12) I have friends and family to support me.
    13) Yes, I talk to people who are willing to talk about their religion and attempt to get them to question and doubt because I think they have a false belief which hinders them. I do not knock on doors or bother people.
    14) I live in England. I don’t know any other religious people in my general life. My church was disappointed.
    15) Yes, religious people I talk to try to convince me that I am wrong. People also knock on my door and hand me leaflets.
    16) My family are atheists.
    17) I don’t know anything about her.

  • Robert Douglas

    Thank you for taking the time to get input from atheists for your project.

    1. Why are you an atheist?
    I went to church as a kid, but my parents didn’t really indoctrinate me into religion. My mom is Episcopal and still occasionally goes to church, my Dad never really did. I started to find the doctrine to be contradictory and nonsensical around 13 years old. I also realized that my friends whom were devout, used to start all kinds of trouble.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?
    Not really, no. I guess nominally as a small child, but not beyond the age of reason.

    3. If so, did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?
    Nope.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?
    See #1

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?
    Nothing

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?
    Evolution. The biologist E.O. Wilson has proposed that humans have evolved to cooperate. This is a controversial theory and runs counter to Dawkins as per the selfish gene, but i think it has some merit, if not from a biological stand-point than certainly form a sociological one.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?
    I subscribe, nominally, to the Big-Bang theory. But, explaining the origin of the Universe is a incredibly complicated proposition and the BBT is the best explanation available.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?
    I’ve read numerous books by each. Dawkins, I have enormous respect fr as a scientist and I enjoyed the God Delusion tremendously. I disagree with Sam Harris a lot of the time, but his positions are always thoughtful and well researched. Hitchens was my favorite writer, if not my favorite human.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?
    Strong. I’ve no agnosticism, I don’t doubt God’s existence, I know no God’s exist. The inability to disprove something does not constitute proof. One cannot prove that G-minor doesn’t taste like vanilla ice cream. To instantiate the possible existence of something based solely on the inability to disprove it is patently irrational.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?
    You can’t. That’s why belief in something based on the lack of the ability to disprove it is irrational.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?
    No.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?
    Yes. My family and friends and, to a lesser extent, the larger atheist community as well.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?
    No. I try to get people to base their opinions on the facts, but I don’t disabuse them of their beliefs.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?
    I’m not sure, with the exception of my extended family. I don’t notice it with most people, but I don’t what’s in their heads, either. My Dad’s side of the family has a lot of Evangelical Christians in it. My Aunt & Uncle say that I’m dead to them and my cousin Melynda has forbade her children from having any contact with me. They did the same thing to my cousin Laura when she came out.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?
    Not most people, no. But it happens fairly often. I live in place where there are street preachers, if they try to engage with me, I’ll talk with them honestly about my position. Most of the time they tell me I’m wrong.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?
    I wouldn’t say that they’re supportive, it’s more like they leave me to mine.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?
    She was a brave woman. It took guts for her to the stand that she took in 1963. Her death was tragic and horrible.

  • Kevin L

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    I’ve been an atheist for pretty much my whole life. My parents weren’t very religious and I just kind of never really bought it. I think I put God and Santa in the same category as a kid then never came across an argument that convinced me.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    No, I don’t think so.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    I presume we just cease to exist. I imagine the world will become much like it was years before we were born as far as we’re concerned. I’m not a dogmatic atheist and I suppose there’s some (probably very low) chance that something will happen after death but I doubt it.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    I think they were ultimately selected by evolution to help allow people to thrive in scenarios with multiple people, all often holding competing values. Morals predate Abrahamic religions so they simply cannot be the source.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    There are various hypotheses but since we have very little empirical data to draw from with regard to this question, it’s probably impossible in practice right now to ascribe more than very low probability to any cosmological hypotheses. Especially ones that make many, many assumptions, like religious ones.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    I am a big fan of Harris. I think he’s probably the most simultaneously insightful, persuasive and intelligent public speaker alive right now. I do have a few small differences of opinion with him but overall I think his work is brilliant.

    I liked Hitchens very much too but I do think he argued from emotion/intuition a lot. His writing was very entertaining to read though, and many of his arguments were insightful and great in their own right.

    I like Dawkins, especially as a scientist but I haven’t read that much of his work unfortunately.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    I ascribe very low prior probability to God hypotheses (and that probability lowers as more simultaneous assumptions are made without evidence) but I don’t claim to know they’re false.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    You can’t really. You can prove that certain definitions of God are illogical, but even then, they will only be illogical according to our logic, which might not translate over into a plane where that God exists. For instance, if God exists in a plane without time, then any logic that precludes time, or an order of events, will be nonsensical in that plane. There is no telling what logical rules another world will have in common with ours (if any) so making inferences about any other worlds without empirical evidence isn’t really well advised, especially about magical and complex beings like the monotheistic God.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    Assuming you mean instances where a supernatural entity suspends the nature of reality to allow something specific to happen outside of that nature, then no. If you just mean extremely improbable events, yes. With the number of opportunities we have for extremely improbable events to happen (literally every single moment), it’d be far more surprising if extremely improbable events never happened than that they do.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    I have my wife (who’s a very moderate Buddhist), family and friends.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    Yes, you could say I do. I think dissent is extremely valuable to humans and to all conscious life in general. Innovation of all kinds literally needs dissent to function. Any innovative leap will *always* by definition entail some set of currently existing beliefs or assumptions being wrong, so when we challenge beliefs and assumptions, we are fueling innovation and innovation is the only way we can increase well-being in the world. That doesn’t mean I don’t accept that I may be wrong though. When I argue with others, one of my goals is to refine their beliefs and assumptions but I’m equally concerned about refining my own, and that latter goal is what I blame the strength of my current beliefs on: my willingness to accept that I’ve been wrong in the past.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    I live near Seattle and we’re very liberal here, plus my social circles are very liberal. People will probably be judged far more harshly in my social circles for being religious than being an atheist.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    Yeah, but most of the time I bring it upon myself. I want people to try to convince me I’m wrong. It creates an opportunity for both of us to better ourselves.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    I don’t talk to them about it much but yeah, they’ve never been non supportive of them.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    Sorry, I don’t know much about her.

  • Céline Djibaoui

    1/ I don’t see why I would be theist in the first place

    2/ No

    3/ Obviously no

    4/ Same

    5/ To our body, it’s well known. To our “mind”, well since it’s pretty much our brain and it stops working, it just isn’t there anymore. Just like before your birth.

    6/ I get my morals from my education and experience.

    7/ Even if there’s plenty things that still need to be explained with the creation of the universe, the Big Bang is still the most admitted theory by scientific, people who dedicate their lives trying to figure out as much as possible, so I’ll go with that.

    8/ Smart people.

    9/ I suppose I’m a strong atheist mostly because despite the fact that religion provide something that most of us crave for (afterlife / seeing dead people we love again etc) I’ve always been unable to believe in those things.

    10/ I can’t. I don’t see why I would have to neither. Claims don’t need to be dismissed to be wrong, they need to be proved to be true in the first place. Plus considering the amount of different gods humanity believe(d) in, it wouldn’t make any sense if they all were true.

    11/ I don’t believe in miracles. Lies / dementia / staging yes.

    12/ I live in a very secular country, I don’t feel the need to have any support group.

    13/ Yes/No. I don’t really care that people believe in god as long as they don’t bother me with it, but at the same time, when a religion spread you always end up with people doing stupid things in the name of their god (like ISIS atm), and religion start to spread their view in the society on slavery, sexuality etc, so if someone starts a discussion about their god, I’ll definitely try to make him realise this make no sense (But I won’t start the discussion, people can believe in whatever they want if they keep it to themselves).

    14/ Like I said, living in a secular society, most of our youth is atheist so it’s not a real concern.

    15/ It happends, definitely not a daily basis. None of them succeeded to make a good point though.

    16/ My whole family is atheist. They’re not really supportive because there’s nothing to be supportive about in the religion area.

    17/ I’ve never heard of her.

  • DeuS_eX_DaRe

    good answers

  • Tony Hopkinson

    1. Why are you an atheist?
    Never heard an even vaguely good reason not to be
    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?
    No.
    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?
    No. I never believed.
    4. If not, why did you stop believing?
    I never believed.
    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?
    Nothing, aside from our corpses get disposed of.
    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?
    Our? I get mine from my peers, my society, my empathy and my reason.
    7. Where do you think the universe came from?
    No idea, can’t even say it came from anywhere..
    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?
    Brave people, mostly they agree with me, sometimes not….
    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?
    Never liked that phrasing, agnostic atheist, and there’s nothing weak in that position
    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?
    Waste of time, even if we did manage it theists would pretend we hadn’t anyway.
    11. Do you believe in miracles?
    I have no reason to believe in anything supernatural, and a great many reasons not to.
    12. Do you have a support group/system?
    I have family and friends, I don’t need support for anything god based.
    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?
    Not explicitly. I’m secularist first, that agenda I do push.
    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?
    Not noticeably I’m a brit
    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?
    Of course, they are really bad at it though, so it’s not a worry
    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?
    My family care about me, not my beliefs
    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?
    I know who she was, but she never had an any impact on my thinking.

  • James

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    There is no meaningful objective evidence that supports the existence of God. Part of the reason for the lack of evidence is that God is never formalized well enough as a hypothesis to actually enable evidence to support or reject it. At the same time, what it does assume is incredibly complex in exchange for effectively no explanatory power often raising the same questions it sought to address.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    Yes and I began seriously questioning that probably around middle school.

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    No.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    I found I didn’t have a good reason to begin with.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    Current evidence regarding our subjective experience strongly suggests it’s caused wholly by the workings of the brain. Assuming that’s true, when we die, we cease to exist and experience, much like before we were born.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    A consequence of learned or reasoned resolutions to large scale game theoretic problems, evolution encoding values and biases that lead to a successfully interacting species in these problems, and learning and adoption of behavior from other people who have learned from these interactions.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    I don’t know. There are any number of possibilities that man has both considered and very likely hasn’t considered. Before we understand the workings of our universe, it’s difficult to speculate about the even more fundamental rules that enable it. And even if we did understand our universe, definitively answering the more fundamental question might not be possible.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    I like them. I like Harris the best. Dawkins does good science but can be abrasive. Hitchens was very entertaining, but could also be pretty abrasive. I’ve disagree with all of them in various ways, but in general, their reasoning regarding (a)theism is sound.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    Weak. It’s possible God exists, but I find the probability negligible.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    If there was a specific well defined description of God, you could test whether the facts of the universe were consistent with it. But for general vague notions of God, you can’t. The inability to analyze the idea is also partly why it’s not a reasonable belief to hold.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    No.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    Wife, family, and friends in that order.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    Yes and no. Getting others not to believe is not my goal. However, I do invest some of my time trying to get people to employ solid reasoning for any position or belief they hold. Religion is a common case where I think people employ bad reasoning. Because I do not think belief in God can be justified, a consequence of a fully successful pursuit of this goal with someone who believed would be for them to stop believing. However, engaging in these dialogs is also two way in that it I do not assume that my reasoning is always right and the dialog would be equally useful to me if I found I was the one who was wrong. That is, I include my self in the goal of getting people to employ solid reasoning. Therefore, if I happened to be wrong about God and there was a good reason to believe, then I would change my beliefs. Given the amount of thought and dialog I’ve put into the topic at this point in my life though, I find that unlikely.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    No. I work in academia where atheism and skepticism is more common so for colleagues it doesn’t matter much. My friends also tend to have similar views. But I’m sure there are places in this country and world where I would be looked at differently.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    Sure. Luckily these have usually been friendly dialogs.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    They are supportive. My mother is a theist, but is rather liberal in her views and understands why I hold my position. My father is an atheist so no problems there. Others in my family are also fine with it.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    I don’t know who that is.

  • Adam Redwine

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    Because I haven’t seen sufficiently strong evidence to support the hypothesis that any gods exist.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    Yes, I was pretty religious (protestant Christian) as a child.

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    Nothing traumatic, no.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    I eventually grew comfortable enough with asking questions that I allowed myself to do so.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    Our bodies decay as they are consumed by microbes and insects.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    We develop our moral perceptions from the society in which we are raised.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    I don’t know.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    I think they are popular communicators and I appreciate that they make being smart something that is seen as “cool.”

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    Depends on the day.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    I can’t. I posit that there is a god-eating goat. By definition, this goat eats gods so, if a god exists, the god-eating goat eats it. Therefore, there are no gods. How can you prove that this god-eating goat doesn’t exist?

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    I believe that the natural laws of the universe (limited to the four fundamental forces of physics) are universal and invariable.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    Yes, of course.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    I do if they are people that I am close to and I care a great deal about (e.g. family and close friends). Anyone else, I don’t care.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    Some do, some don’t.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    Not usually. Most people are afraid to talk about their religious views and are therefore scared to bring it up.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    Half of them won’t talk to me any more. Most of them have shamed me and told me horrible things that I’m a terrible person. My parents told me that I deserve to be tortured in hell. You know, the usual Christian kindness stuff.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    I don’t know much about her and I don’t think it would be fair for me to look it up and make a judgment just to answer this question.

  • Tyler Crye

    1. I’m an atheist Because I’ve yet to encounter any good or convincing evidence that a god or gods exist.

    2. Yes I did, up until about the age of 21.

    3. No, nothing traumatic happened.

    4. I was raised a Baptist Protestant Christian. When I got into college and became more aware of atheism, I decided to really read the bible objectively, and study the rhetoric to defend my religious beliefs, and ironically found them ultimately indefensible.

    5. I don’t know, and I honestly don’t care.

    6. I get my morals from my own empathy, and a consideration of the consequences of my actions. As a social species with the ability to communicate, we can reason that we can all benefit from each other by treating each other well, that’s demonstrable, not some nebulous philosophical assertion.

    7. Again, I don’t know, and that’s okay. I would rather admit to not knowing than resorting to baseless answers that are intuitive at best.

    8. I’ve never actually read Dawkins’ work pertaining to Atheism in particular, but his books on evolutionary biology are brilliant. Christopher Hitchens was a very talented author and debater. He didn’t utilize the strongest points in his debates, but he never needed to, he was just that good. Like Dawkins, his work beyond the realm of atheism and religious criticism is also very good. Harris is my least favorite of the three, but he too is also a great debater. I don’t always agree with the 3 of them 100%, nor do I think they speak for all atheists. I also think there are better debaters out there. Matt Dillahunty is probably my favorite.

    9. It depends on the god claim I am addressing. If a neo pagan claims that Thor is real and controls thunder and lightning, I would consider myself a strong atheist, because we know how lightning works. If I am addressing a Deist who claims that there is a god that created life the universe and everything but takes no involvement, I would concede that this is more probable than Thor, Loki, and Odin, though a non-zero possibility isn’t enough to sell me on the notion.

    10. Of course not I can’t. I can’t disprove the existence of many things. Yes, depending on the god, there is a non-zero possibility that said god exists. But possibility is not in question, probability is. And as of yet, every god claim I have heard falls in the realm of highly improbable.

    11. No I do not. Miracles are defined as a suspension of the natural order, the notion of which is simply nonsense to me. In addition, most miracle claims can and have been investigated in recent years and either turned out to be perfectly natural phenomenon, or a hoax.

    12. I have my wife, my friends, and my family, as well as a licensed therapist.

    13. No, I try not to press the matter unless I’m asked, and even then I tread lightly. It just feels impolite to do otherwise. I don’t appreciate people who are pushy with their beliefs, so why would they appreciate it coming from me?

    14. I’m sure some have, but no one has been bold enough to say it to my face if they do. Like me, I assume few people care to press the matter. But I’m also careful about who I tell.

    15. Only very few, one was my friend and former room mate who is a fundamentalist evangelical christian, and the other was some weirdo baptist youth minister who came to our college apartment.

    16. My parents obviously don’t agree, but the conclusion they ultimately reached was that it was my life and I needed to walk my own path. Beyond that we don’t really talk about it, and my relationship with them is more or less normal. I’m a skeptic of unconditional love, but that skepticism was shaken when I learned that religion, something very important to both of my parents, would not come between us.

    17. She was a bold woman who did said and did things that needed to be said and did. She not only stood up for the rights of atheists, but for all americans, particularly the minorities. She’s known erroneously as the woman who removed prayer from schools. What she actually did was push for the prohibition of compulsory faculty led prayers, which could stand to marginalize minority students, whether its an atheist student in a protestant dominant school, or a protestant student in a mormon dominant school.

  • RJ

    The only question I would/could answer differently is #6. Humans have been on this planet for hundreds of thousands of years. Survival, and life in general, was very hard. Our human ancestors pair-bonded, had children, created families and tribes, and without a doubt worked together to insure survival. This required the necessary “morals” that we still have today… empathy, helpfulness, working for the good of the family, love, compassion, being trustworthy, etc, etc, etc… Humans were exhibiting some of the best (and worst) in human character, long before modern religion was invented.

  • JamieCoville

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    When god was first explained to me, I just didn’t believe it was real. It was too fantastical. I can suspend my disbelief for a entertaining story, but I can’t do it for my whole life and life by a set of rules because of one.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    No. I did go a catholic elementary school so I was taught about god, but I was too young to really understand it. At the age of 10 when the teacher sat us all down to explain what God actually was, I decided I did not believe in him/it.

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    No.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    I never believed.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    I do not know. Our bodies die, that much we know. Regarding our conscious, we don’t know what happens and I don’t believe there is any solid evidence that indicates something supernatural happens after it goes. I suspect it’s just wishful thinking.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    Empathy, experience and a wish to live in a safe society. There is plenty of evidence that humans developed morals long before a belief in a monolithic god.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    The Big Bang theory is what makes most sense so far. What caused the big bang we do not know.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    I enjoy listening to them all. I don’t agree with everything they say but I am glad they are (or were in Hitchens case) out there fighting for rational thinking.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    Strong Atheist. I can’t say I *know* god doesn’t exist, but I can say I won’t believe that god exists until there is proof – and I doubt we will ever have that proof.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    You can’t. Anymore than you can prove Zeus doesn’t exist or any other god. I could spend all day coming up with fanciful things (leprechauns, unicorns, the flying spaghetti monster, bigfoot, the loch ness monster, lizard people that live under the earth, etc..) and demanding that people prove they don’t exist or otherwise they are real. The onus of proof is on those making the claim.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    No. I think there are coincidences and random chance. Just because somebody experienced a positive outcome that was against the odds, doesn’t mean it was caused by a higher power.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    My family and friends.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    No. I’ve had people try to convert me to Christianity while I was in school and I understand how annoying that can be, so I don’t do it to others. But when religious people ascribe beliefs to atheists that I do not believe are true for the majority I will speak up about it, usually in an educational non combative way.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    No. I’ve mentioned it online but I’ve not yet had any negative reaction from it in real life. I live in Canada and we tend to not talk about religion very much, it’s almost seen as impolite unless you are at a religious gathering of some sort.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    Not directly.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    Yes, expect for my mother, all of my family are atheists. We don’t normally talk about it.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    I saw her once on The Donahue Show (an old talk show) and she came off as a crass, unpleasant person to be honest. I could see why people didn’t like her. That said, she was deemed “the most hated woman in America” and experienced horrid behaviour from religious people for a large chunk of her life time. She took a very difficult stand and made some very important improvements for atheists in the United States.

  • Dustin L. Tabor

    I think she’s pretty well covered it.

  • Ben Fox

    1. I came to a realization a long time ago that there was no god. Also I put in a great many hours looking through a few western religious texts to see that there was also no real merit in religious teaching beyond a mild set of value and that we have been a horrendous species to ourselves up to this point for even believing in them.
    2. I was raised in a Christian household, so I was raised that way. As such, I did eventually get a chance to make my own mind on the subject.
    3. Yes and no. In my early teenage years, I had the framework layed out of the indoctrination I was forced through that I was realizing was wrong, but a car accident put it all into full perspective.
    5.Well, thats a matter of a number of things, but long story short, you are recycled through the environment.
    6. Morals and values come from our society. Basically put, its a way of telling us to be good to society.
    7.Jury is still out on that, and quite frankly, unless we invent some way of seeing the start of the universe, there is no way of knowing.
    8. I like to listen to their ideas, and they sure do have a lot of them.

    9. I have never really considered that point, and I’m not really sure how to answer it. I don’t think there is any use in using either term correctly describes anyone in the Atheist community.
    10. I can’t, but if there is one, he is the most despicable creature ever.

    11. Nope.

    12. I know there are people I can reach out to If i need anything, but never really needed to.
    13. No, I don’t try to force my views on anyone. I do however let others hear my ideas and let them decide on how they want to interpret them.
    14. I have gotten a few scorns, but mostly no.
    15. I have gotten a few comments, but nothing that had any true merit.

    16. My family is still highly religious, and that is where some of that scorn come from. Please note that I am the son of a Roman Catholic deacon, and his views are probably the worst towards me as far as my views go.

    17. Not going to lie, I had to google her name as I am not familiar with her. Now that I have heard of her though, it looks like I some ideas to research and see how I feel about them.

  • Mark Moore

    1. I found Christianity vastly immoral as a child. I was about 10 – 12 when I discovered Jesus was going to torture little children in native costumes I was fond of looking at in National Geographic. That was the start of questioning that slowly took me out of the church.

    2. Yes when I was very young because I was told there was one. I was done with higher powers about 12.

    3. No nothing traumatic.

    4. I was told in Sunday School that those that did not believe in Jesus were going to hell. I immediately thought of the children I mentioned above in National Geographic in all their cute costumes. I began to view Jesus as cruel. Then I felt that he must know my thoughts and that I was going to hell for them. Then over the next year I thought about it from time to time and the whole thing looked less and less likely. Now it is like believing in the Greek gods as real or something equally inane.

    5. Just what you see when anything dies. There is no mystery here. Death is all around us all the time. What you see is what you get. When I left Christianity I had to face my fear of death as part of the package. That was a hard one but in the end it was an obvious process. I grew up on a farm so there was plenty of death to study. If humans could face their fear of death there would not be much need for religion.

    6. Our morals are built in by evolution. We evolved them by group living. Religion seems to dampen the empathy for members of out groups. Religious people can be astonishingly hard hearted toward people they perceive as not us or not prospects to be us. You see it with gays, blacks when they were slaves, native americans that were wiped out by the millions by Christians who were praying as they killed them and Christians killing different brands of Christians. It is interesting to note that the clergy is one of the most psychopathic professions – religion is an excellent tool to screw with people in terrible ways.

    7. Don’t know but we have some strong hints from cosmology that are being worked on. There is a new telescope going up that will tell us more. Tracking down the origin of the universe is an awesome adventure that I have loved being a part of.

    8. Dawkins is the only one I know. He is a nice guy. I have seen people run up to him and embrace him, kiss him, shake his hand with extreme exuberance and he takes it in stride with a little sheepishness or reserved embarrassment. Once I saw an elderly lady exclaim, “Oh my god!” and he said, “Not exactly,” as she threw her arms around him and embraced him. Harris – I admire his thought processes. Hitchens is interesting. He made me think in different ways which I like.

    9. Gosh, I really don’t know the difference. I just looked it up and it doesn’t resonate with me. I can say with as much certainty as I can muster that you can’t have an all powerful, all knowing, all merciful god and starving children in the same universe. No amount of working in mysterious ways or any other apologetics fixes that one. As for gods of other descriptions, it seems more likely your mother is on Saturn right now playing poker with her friends. But can I say they aren’t there? – about as much as I can say your mother isn’t on Saturn playing poker with her friends right now.

    10. Proof is in the eye of the beholder. No one will ever prove anything to you. They can offer a proof but it is you that accepts or rejects it. I can offer lots of proofs like the one in 9 above but it is you that will accept or reject it.

    11. No. If there were miracles or if prayer worked, mental powers etc. it is unlikely we would be able to do the experiments we do. We perform billions of experiments every year. Each one tests not only the object of the test like say a property of light or gravity but also tests the uniformity of the laws of physics. With all this testing we have never found a single example of any effect that was a result of woo. There have been lots of spiritual effects that turned out to have physical origins however. Earthquakes, diseases, rain, pregnancy – there is a very long list of effects long thought of spiritual origin that turned out to be physical and the list grows every year. If you have a miracle that can be proven there is a million dollar prize for you. It has been hanging out there for about fifty years.

    12. I am a support system for my wife who has some mental ailment she denies and at the same time tries to cure with naturopathy and Christian prayer and my son who has Aspergers. Like many autistics he is an atheist too. They support me a little but mostly they have their hands full dealing with their lives. My extended family stays in touch and I send them money sometimes and help them fix things when I go to visit. My support mostly comes from the structure of the society which gives me a means to meet my obligations, has public lands for a retreat from time to time, supplies me with learning opportunities that I really enjoy. I rarely talk over personal problems with friends because the situation I live in is usually inconceivable to most people. The internet has been a huge support with all sorts of work arounds to problems I encounter day to day. At times this situation has been very bleak but I find joy in all sorts of little places along the way day to day. This is a sudden thought, but I may get support from the act of supporting others. I teach a kids performing arts program, help Sunday Assembly with their charitable projects. It is a great life but it doesn’t sound like it on paper – or pixels.

    13. Yes. I think the world be a much better place without the Abrahamic religions. How can a person pray to a savior that plans to torture billions of people and be a better person for it? Likewise how can you pray to a god that admits to multiple genocides with no regret (psychopathic) and become a better person? We have seen how it plays out with slavery in the very religious south, millions of native Americans murdered in North and South America by various brands of Christians, millions of Christians killed by other Christians, whole cultures wiped out of existence by Christians (from the religion of love) and Muslims (from the religion of peace) praying through all the murderous rampages. With the recent research that the clergy is high on the psychopathic list of professions it makes a lot more sense.

    If you believe in some sort of woo, I would ask you to take a quiet time and think it through. Also read your bible completely as written i.e. without apologetics.

    14. Oh my god! I was raised in Texas. When I let it out that I didn’t believe I had death threats, could not date any girls in my home town, friends couldn’t play with me. I had people proselytizing to me every day I was at school. My mother broke down in tears and sobbed. There was never anyone that ever intimated that they were an atheist or that there was a shred of validity to what I said. Geez as I fill this in, I am so glad I got out of religion and that religious setting. The bible as written is a terribly evil document about a genocidal pitiless god that changes into a loving savior that is the greatest torturer ever envisioned in all the literature of mankind. And people pray to that jerk thinking they will become better people – how bizarre is that?

    15. Sure but for every verse about love there are many verses about a perverted god that whacks off the end of little boys’ penises to make a covenant, verses telling women to be silent in the presence of men, verses telling God’s armies to murder everyone in the town and make sex slaves of the girl children, God committing terrorist acts against children, God condoning slavery and it goes on and on and on and on. You might take a gander at the Chart of Biblical Contradictions sometime. You can look it up on the net.

    16. Now my mom admits that she only wanted there to be a god and there really isn’t one. She has never used the word atheist in regards to herself. My sister is an Episcopalian that hasn’t been to church in at least a decade. She has helped me with promotional work that I do with atheist groups.

    17. She looks autistic to me but I could be wrong. I admired some things about her but other things not so much. She spoke her mind and pretty much nailed the religion situation as it was – that was good. I thank her for getting prayers out of schools. But she also manipulated and used her kids in her struggle in ways she should not have done. She was supportive of communism which has turned out to be one of the worst experiments humans have embarked on in a while. I would not have wanted to be her child or her husband even though I am an atheist. I think that would have been a very rough life.

    Good luck with your survey. From a survey I did for an atheist group, we found that people become atheists after a significant life change like going off to college, getting a divorce, someone close dying, moving to a new city etc. Usually they change slowly unlike most Christian conversions. They read a little about it and think for a while then read more then think, then one day they realize with some surprise that they are atheists. The conversion usually takes at least months and sometimes years. I think the internet is speeding up the process considerably. We also found that people convert into atheists at all ages from late teens to seventies pretty much equally though I think that has changed too with the internet from recent polls.

  • SchrodingersTherapist

    1: I am atheist about the Christian god for the same reason you are atheist about Thor, Zeus etc. I see no good reason to believe any god is anything more than myth and legend.

    2: Yes, because I was brought up in a very religious family.

    3/4: In my particular case, I had a traumatic childhood as I was abused (not sexually but physically, emotionally and psychologically). However, it wasn’t the trauma itself that made me stop believing. I realized that some adults were perfectly willing to lie to and harm a child, so I started to question everything, including the religion that was shoved down my throat.

    However, I’m annoyed by the Christian assumption that everyone who is an atheist must necessarily have suffered some childhood trauma. There are plenty of atheists who had normal loving parents who were religious, and still became atheists for various reasons. I will say though that it’s probably much easier to believe in a loving god if you had loving parents. As a baby, you were totally dependent on a being that loved you and seemed to be be all-powerful and to know your every thought and need. That being was your mother. It seems to me a lot of people, as they grow older, don’t want to lose this feeling, so they project it into the sky and call it God. I never had this feeling in the first place, but again I want to stress that my case is not typical. Many atheists probably had that feeling as children but simply matured and outgrew it.

    5: We cease to exist. Nothing happens to us after we die because there is no “us” for it to happen to, just like there was no “us” before we were born. To me, wishing to live forever makes no more sense than wishing we had existed forever before we were born. Also I don’t get the mentality that our life is meaningless unless it never ends. You might as well say that a Bach symphony is worthless because it doesn’t go on forever, or a Van Gogh is worthless because it doesn’t cover an infinite area.

    6: Morality is not “out there” in some Platonic sense. Morality is simply a convention in a society about how members of that society will get along. Our morality stresses cooperation and empathy for one another because we have evolved to be social animals, and also because we can reason and see that some versions of morality lead to greater overall happiness and prosperity, while other versions are stifling and cause unnecessary suffering. Religion-based morality tends to be of the latter sort because it tries to freeze morality at the time the “holy book” was written, and doesn’t recognize that morality needs to evolve as society evolves.

    7: This is an open question in cosmology and some of the finest minds in the human race are working on it. I think it’s vastly more likely that they will come up with the answer, rather than that some uneducated goat-herders thousands of years stumbled on all the answers.

    8: They are not atheist “popes” and their views are not binding on anyone. However, they are very smart and articulate people raising important issues which society as a whole urgently needs to discuss. Humanity’s technological power has increased exponentially in recent decades to the point where we could destroy the world, but our rationality has not kept up, mainly due to religion holding us back.

    9: There is no point debating whether God exists unless you and whoever you’re debating with have at least a rough working definition of what the word “god” means. Clearly, the old-school idea of God as an old man with a beard in the clouds is quite simply false, but modern “sophisticated” theological descriptions of God are vague to the point of being vacuous and incoherent – they’re what a scientist would call “not even wrong”. I wouldn’t state as a fact that there is no god but I think the idea of an infinitely powerful god that has no beginning and has always existed is extremely unlikely, and I’m entitled to live my life on the working assumption that there is no such god.

    10: I don’t have to. How can you prove that Zeus, Odin etc. don’t exist? The burden of proof is on the person who makes the positive claim.

    11: I assume by a miracle, you mean God interfering in human affairs by temporarily suspending the laws of science. Believers tend to misunderstand scientific laws, thinking they are analogous to human laws. A human law might say that you can’t go faster than 55mph or you will get a ticket. A scientific law might say that you can’t go faster than the speed of light. That doesn’t mean God will give you a speeding ticket (or send you to hell) if you do, it means that it’s NOT POSSIBLE to faster than light. A scientific law not a command, but a DESCRIPTION of how the universe works. Therefore by definition, nobody can suspend the laws of science and miracles are not possible.

    12: Yes, my friends online and in real life.

    13: No. I find it obnoxious when religious people try to convert others to their beliefs, especially when green young kids travel halfway round the world, barge into a society they know nothing about, and tell people: “You most deeply cherished beliefs are false, you must reject them and embrace ours.” So it would be hypocritical of me to try and convert others to atheism. Instead, I try to show by example that an atheist can be an ordinary, decent, moral person who lives a fulfilling life, and I try to be a resource for anyone who has started questioning their religious beliefs or who perhaps is a closet atheist but needs support before they feel safe coming out.

    14-16: Yes, many do. My mother was very upset, and spent a lot of time and effort trying to change my mind and guilt-trip me. My father and siblings were more live-and-let-live about it, and my older sister has since become an agnostic. Today I live in a very conservative city, and casual acquaintances are sometimes shocked if they discover I’m an atheist, but that doesn’t bother me. The people I care about accept my atheism, and that’s all that matters.

    17: From what I’ve heard, she was a very unpleasant person, and the sordid story of her murder and the embezzling that went on in the early years of American Atheists casts a pall over the history of the organization. However, she deserves credit for her role in getting compulsory Christian prayer out of public schools. Anyway, she wasn’t the “prophet” of atheism but a flawed human being, and American Atheists is not the church of atheism, it’s just one of many organizations representing atheists. Not all atheists belong to it, and there are many atheists like myself who are not a member of any atheist organization – we tend not to be joiners.

  • Tony

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    Because there’s no logical explanation for any kind of deity existing in our universe. And also because I’ve never seen, heard, felt, or otherwise experienced anything even remotely suggesting the existence of anything supernatural.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    No.

    3. If so, did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    N/A

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    N/A

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    Our bodies stop working and we cease to be aware of the world. I imagine it’s a lot like when we’re sleeping and completely unaware of the fact that we even exist. Except that there won’t be an alarm clock to wake to.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    Morals are a communal, societal construct. They are the rules we all agree to live by, implicitly or explicitly. They don’t have to “come from” anywhere. Some things feel naturally moral, such as not killing, raping, or otherwise committing wanton acts of violence. Some things are learned by watching those around us as we grow older & wiser, such as not stealing, intentionally hurting, or otherwise treating people in a mean or evil way.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    It came from “nothing”, which isn’t actually “nothing”. I’d suggest Lawrence Krauss’ “A Universe from Nothing”. It’ll blow your mind (in good ways).

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    Great thinkers, teachers, scientists, orators. I think they have great ideas and things to say, even if the veneer isn’t as soft or politically correct as people might prefer. I’d rather they speak their minds without filters than to have to sit around trying to dress it up so they don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. They own up to mistakes they make and they are first & most interested in educating people, not converting or subverting anyone or anything along the way.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    Mostly strong. I don’t proclaim to have absolute knowledge of anything. What I would say that I think it’s highly unlikely there’s anything supernatural about our universe as we currently know it.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    It’s not my job to prove that something DOESN’T exist. It is a theist’s job to prove their claims are true. And not through feelings or visions, but through some kind of verifiable process in our real, physical world. I might ask you: how can you prove that leprechauns or unicorns don’t exist? You’d encounter exactly the same problem.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    Absolutely not. I usually point to Bigfoot, Loch Ness, or UFOs as an analogy: how come there are only ever grainy, non-digital photos? How come no one has ever been able to capture one? Because they are simply eye-witness mistakes, just like every “miracle” ever witnessed. Just because someone can’t immediately explain in full detail what they think they saw doesn’t mean we should jump to “it was a miracle!” Most things have perfectly normal scientific explanations, and if they don’t, it just means we haven’t figured it out yet. I’d rather keep searching than to throw my hands up and say “nope, we’re done, it was a miracle”.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    Family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, acquaintences. Basically anyone in my life that is willing to put as much time, energy, or effort into me as I am into them.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    No. I don’t give religion much thought on a daily basis. It only ever comes up when I’m online talking to other atheists or if someone knocks on my door trying to impose THEIR beliefs on me. “Non belief” is a fairly passive state of being.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    Some have, and they have been 100% religious. I’ve lost some friends and family relationships over the years when they decided that my non-belief meant something negative. They projected things onto me that have nothing to do with non-belief, such as calling me a “devil worshiper”. Nope, sorry, I don’t believe in the devil either.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    Only religious people. The thing I find fascinating is that one of the most basic tenets of most religions is “love thy neighbor as thyself”, but very few practicing religious people actually follow it. They seem to be incapable of loving someone that doesn’t follow their belief system exactly the same way they do. Which seems rather hypocritical, doesn’t it?

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    My wife & kids are also atheists and we’re very supportive of one another. My family of origin doesn’t really give it a lot of thought, though I’m pretty sure they are all believers and are at least disappointed I don’t think like they do. My extended family, as far as I know, are at least passive theists of one kind or another; we don’t talk much so support or not isn’t really an issue. My wife’s family are very devout Church of Christ followers; they definitely don’t support anything about being non-believers.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    I don’t really know much about her other than what I’ve read over the years in various biographical articles. She wasn’t someone I was aware of while I was growing up.

    Question for you: why is Ms. O’Hair someone you’d specifically ask about here? The question feels a little out of place, especially after 16 personal questions that elicited fairly personal answers. I might be making an assumption, but it feels a little like there’s an agenda to throwing this question in at the end. It’s fine if you legitimately wanted to know more about her or what atheists think of her, but if that’s the case, just present that question at the beginning.

  • EstebanGraincruncher

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    The world has yet to give me evidence or reason to not be.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    When I was a very young child I suppose I did, in the sense of just accepting what I was told about the world by those around me. I certainly didn’t have faith, but concepts like ‘god’ and ‘heaven’ were talked about similarly to concepts like ‘grandpa’ and ‘France’. I therefore assumed they had the same kind of existence.

    3. If so, did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    Nope. Very happy childhood, almost suspiciously devoid of traumatic events.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    For the same reasons as I stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy or Father Christmas – I realised they weren’t concepts with the same kind of existential foundation as ‘grandpa’ or ‘France’. Most of all, I noticed people didn’t really seem very sure what they meant by them or would use them in ways that didn’t make sense. One early example was at school, when we were being taught how Jesus died for our sins so god could forgive us. I sat there thinking “but if it has to be paid for, it isn’t forgiveness?” A similar situation arose around a loving god & hell. I think by about age 8 this had happened enough that my original credulous ambivalence gave way to simple disbelief. This was probably helped along by the fact that I’d become very interested in science, which did a far better job of explaining things and came
    with added evidence.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    I have no idea. The only reasonable assumption is that we just die. I hope it’s a bit more interesting than that, but I’ve no evidence to indicate it will be.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    Same place as everyone does, until someone comes along and tells them they’re doing it wrong. My morals are broadly the same as most people’s, regardless of religious affiliation. The three exceptions seem to be fundamentalists, bigots and psychopaths.

    To be more exact, I think there’s actually a necessary set of objective moral truths that emerge from the concept & context of ‘morality’ in general. If we consider morality to be the rules governing interactions between individuals, there must be certain ‘givens’ that go with this. It’s a matter of semantic necessity, in other words: if ‘moral behaviour’ means anything, then we must also accept certain other propositions
    along with it.

    It all gets a bit technical and esoteric from there, but that’s the general idea. I think that human beings, as
    language-using problem-solvers, we have a profound – I shy away from ‘innate’ – awareness of and need to maintain the coherence of our worldview. If we hold that ‘morality’ means something, it therefore doesn’t fit with us to see an individual being denied certain rights and freedoms because those things are
    fundamentally linked to the concept of ‘morality’ having meaning.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    No idea. Maybe it’s a brute fact and it came from nowhere. Maybe the question only makes sense to us because we’re used to the rules that exist within the context of the universe and applying it outside
    of that context is meaningless. Maybe it’s turtles all the way down.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    Dawkins can be entertaining and informative, but I think also counterproductive. Harris I know very little
    about but have never seen anything that has made me want to find out more. Hitchens was a fantastic orator and wordsmith, but very much a polemicist rather than profound thinker.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    Weak, but turned up to 10. Anybody who claims to know 100% (which I believe is the meaning of ‘strong atheist’) is full of crap. However, I’ve never, ever met an atheist who claims that, so feel
    it’s a bit of a false distinction.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    Since the entire concept seems inherently situated beyond the remit within which ‘proof’ (or ‘evidence’, for that matter) has meaning, I couldn’t. I can show that certain conceptions of god are logically inconsistent or semantically empty, but all that would show is we can’t meaningfully talk about them. What lays beyond the rules that govern the universe also lays beyond our ability to comprehend, discuss, prove or disprove.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    No.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    I’m not sure what that means, it sounds a bit like a 12-step program for alcoholics. On that basis, no and I can’t imagine why I’d need one. More loosely, I am very fortunate to have wonderful friends & family who are there for the hard times in life.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    In god? Not really, no. In certain religious doctrines? Damned right I do, if it has a chance of changing their
    mind on child marriage, homophobia or some other aggressively harmful delusion. But people believing in god is fine by me and I’d have far less interesting debates if no-one did.

    That said, I do think that ideas (abstractly) exist in a concept-space that is similar to that of an evolutionary ecosystem, where they compete for survival and ‘resources’. It’s an environment that is constantly changing, so adaptive ideas are better equipped to survive than static, inflexible ones. I’d be a liar – and moral nihilist – if I said I don’t think it important that ‘better’ ideas out-compete ‘worse’ ones.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    Only those who have hardline religious views, which over here (UK) is thankfully a tiny minority.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    Thanks to the internet: yes, on a daily basis. Often very angrily and almost without exception from a position of relative ignorance.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    They don’t care. I’m not sure ‘supportive’ makes a lot of sense, as there’s nothing to support; I just don’t believe there’s reason to take the statement “there is a god” to be true. They respect that, although are mostly entirely indifferent. Even my grandparents (who were very religious) had no problem with it and respected the fact I have my views because I’ve given things a great deal of thought and put in a fairly
    significant amount of studying.

    Mostly, though, I think that the fact my family love me means they’d never be anything other than accepting and respectful of such. Because that’s what being loving means.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    I have never heard the name before, so pretty limited.

  • Rick Stegman

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    I reached a point where I decided to stop lying to everyone (including myself).

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    Yes. But never an anthropomorphic, Judeau-Christian god.

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    No. Not personally. But I did grow up in religion and was poisoned with the brainwashing that entails. I have worked (am working) to undo such things as religious based guilt and shame, distorted views of sex and sexuality, etc. that my childhood religion left me with.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    Belief requires compartmentalizing one’s mind so that one can behave rationally in most things, but still have that area that believes in supernatural magic. I reached a point where I could no longer compartmentalize.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    Our life ends. We cease to be.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    The same place believers get their morals. Most believers I know would not kill their children, even if they heard a voice in their head (god) telling them to do so. Their morals come from outside their religion too.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    The Big Bang started our whole Universe. Where that came from is not scientifically answerable.

    Many believers say, the Universe *needs* a creator. You can’t have something without a creator. If that were true, then who created god? If god can “just be” then so can the primary singularity that exploded to become our universe.

    Advanced astrophysics hypothesizes that ours may be only one of multiple universes. And that, whole universes begin, expand, collapse, and then end. Being trapped inside of one makes this idea impossible to test. So it remains just an idea.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    They’re all brilliant!

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    I have no idea what this question even means. I can lift 300 pounds. Does that make me weak or strong? 😉

    If this question is asking how I feel about religion, and would I ever go back… Then the answer is I strongly hold to the position that all religions are bullshit. The only difference between Christianity today, or for example, the ancient Norse religion that worshiped Odin, Freya, Thor, etc. is that Christianity hasn’t yet sufficiently died out. Its all mythology.

    Religion does far more psychological and societal harm than good. The Wizard of Oz is just a con-man hiding behind a curtain. The leaders of all world religions are the same.

    If that is what you are getting at, then I am a strong atheist.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    You can’t. One cannot “prove” a negative. But that is irrelevant. Religion makes the claim that god *does* exist. The burden of proof lies on them. To date, no one has ever proved that there is a god / are gods.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    No. Everything has an underlying cause. Even if one cannot see (or yet understand) what that underlying cause is.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    Yes – family, friends, communities of interest, work colleagues, etc.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    No. But I do get others to try and think for themselves. (Rather than just parrot the brainwashing they received in childhood.)

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    Sometimes. That is usually a pretty good litmus test on whether or not I should bother having that person in my life.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    Generally no, not face to face in my personal life. But religious trolls exist everywhere in society at large.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    Most of my family wistfully wishes I were still a believer. But they support and are proud of the person I am.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    Never heard of her.

  • The Gaming Skeptic

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    To answer this exhaustively I would likely end up writing a book. Short version is that I find no reason to believe, no evidence I am aware of supports belief in supernatural entities, let alone a god. Beyond that I am not aware of any rock-solid logical argument for a deity. The best arguments I have seen easily fall apart under scrutiny and do not stand up to rigorous testing.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    Oh yes, I was a strong christian. Missionary kid, later I worked in missions myself and I started university for two reasons: 1: Learn more about who god really is, letting creation speak to the question of who God is as there is much disagreement within the church, let alone if you include other beliefs in the equation. And 2: Evangelise. The end result? I found no evidence a deity exists at all, no solid logical argument for the god-hypothesis either. Indeed I cannot even make a plausible argument for the god hypothesis [the idea that a god exists].

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    No. But leaving faith once I stopped believing was… Not comfortable. Friends left, family altered their behavior towards me and so on. Not a comfortable experience, but it was quite revealing about my past circle of friends, my family and their beliefs.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    As stated, I find no reason to believe. No evidence in favor of religious belief, no sound logical argument in favor of it either.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    It would appear we die. Cease to be people and begin decomposing.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    May I reverse the question? Do you (hypothetical you), as a believer, behave morally simply because you are commanded to by a deity? If so, is your behavior truly moral, or are you acting out of fear or some desire to please the higher power you believe in?

    If we consider the question a teensy bit more scientifically do you even begin to address the question by saying a higher power is the source of human morality? No, not only does that mean you need to ask questions about other animals’ moral sense but it also fails to describe the phenomenon. It simply stops the discussion and does not have a descriptive or explanatory power. Hence I would say the idea that morality is from a higher power fails on two fronts: One, it appears it would remove morality from the person and supplant it with obedience born out of fear or desire to please said higher power and two: It does not explain anything. It is useless because it has no predictive capability.

    To address the question of what precise mechanism yields morals and what morality really is a bit more directly: I would say they are both complex and very far from my own field of research. I do not think I can pin down any one source, and I would not pretend to be able to do so. That would be far too arrogant I would think. A qualitative and simple outline on my own under-qualified thoughts on the matter would be that morality is a social and neurological phenomenon that is a byproduct of our evolution as a species on one hand and the evolution of our cultures and civilizations on another. For the individual I would suppose compassion is key. But to point to compassion and conscience only shifts the question one step further as we then need to answer where those come from.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    Beyond whatever triggered the big bang, or are you asking about what triggered the big bang? In either case: I haven’t got a clue.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    I like them a lot. I do not always see eye to eye with them on all issues, and sometimes disagree with the rhetoric employed but I do like them and what they stand for.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    Are you talking about gnosis? I would not ever say I am 100% sure a god or a pantheon does not exist, such would be intellectually dishonest – it would be impossible to prove such a proposition.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    I cannot. Just like I cannot prove that the philosopher’s stone does not exist. Or unicorns on Venus for that matter. I would point out that the person who makes a claim needs to provide evidence. As no evidence has been provided for a god’s existence we can simply dismiss it without evidence as well. Just like we can dismiss claims about Venusian unicorns.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    As in supernatural events? No. When I was a christian I thought I witnessed several, but with a bit of thought after the fact using my eventual scientific knowledge I can see how they were all perfectly natural, if sometimes slightly surprising perhaps, events.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    That depends on what you mean by it. Do I have a surrogate church? No. But I have [new] friends, my spouse, etcetera.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    I am very glad to be free from faith myself. I would not wish for others to lose years to faith as I did, I think abandonment of faith is better for all concerned. Especially the believer her/himself. That said I do not proselytize, but I do respond when believers try to convert me or others. Consider my approach in-line with Newton’s third law: It states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this case that would mean that if you try to convert me to christianity I will counter your attempt and try to de-convert you. If you try to corner someone on the street, I will try to intervene politely to save that other person some time and perhaps have a nice and pleasant conversation with you myself instead. I do stop at profanities and anger though. Sometimes some christians have gotten angry over this and quite unpleasant. That is something I will strive to not repay in kind.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    Most people, no. But I live in Norway. I have family in the deep south of the US, and there I do not speak of it given what I have heard them say about atheists. Scary stuff!

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    All the time. I am cool with that, in fact I enjoy it! But I do expect a certain level of intellectual integrity, intellectual honesty and sound logic from the other person. I will address it if that is not present.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    My Norwegian family, yes. My US based family does not, and I am quite literally afraid of what they will do to me and my spouse if they find out.

    Yes, some might get violent judging by previous experience.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    I do not know who that is.

  • 1.
    Why are you an atheist?

    I’m an atheist because I don’t believe that
    any gods exist. I don’t believe any gods exist because there is no objective
    empirical evidence to substantiate such a claim. In addition, we know that
    humans have invented gods numerous times, so it’s not unlikely that every god
    that people believe in is fictitious.

    2.
    Have you ever believed in a higher power?

    Yes. I was raised Catholic and remained so
    until about age 17. I lost faith for a brief time, and then decided to look
    into other Christian sects and churches. I remained Christian until about age
    30.

    3.
    If so, did something traumatic happen to make
    you stop believing.

    No. My rejection of religion was not the
    result of any traumatic experience. It was solely the result of evidence and
    logical argument.

    4.
    If not, why did you stop believing?

    I stopped believing in Christianity because
    after much time spent debating religion with atheists online and being exposed
    to other information in books or YouTube videos, for example, I simply
    understood why the claims of the Bible are irreconcilable with the evidence
    from science and history. I understood where the Abrahamic religions originated
    from and also that things like evolution and genetics and cosmology do not
    comport with the claims of these religions.

    5.
    What do you think happens to us when we die?

    Death is when your brain ceases to live and
    function. At this point, your consciousness ceases to exist. We have never
    observed consciousness existing outside of a sufficiently advanced physical
    brain. Your body decomposes, and you’re just as unaware of things as you were
    before you were born.

    6.
    Without believing in a higher power, where do
    you think we get our morals from?

    Morals are always subjective, even when
    rooted in religious beliefs. Morals are social constructs, and represent the
    views of a given culture. Many morals are nearly universal, because they derive
    from the sense of empathy that most humans possess. However, some actions which
    are considered immoral in one culture are perfectly acceptable in another. It
    is important to note that morals can be the product of evolution. For example,
    humans have evolved to be altruistic, because working together and a bit of
    selflessness can improve the chances of survival vs. the prospect of going it
    alone or treating others poorly.

    7.
    Where do you think the universe came from?

    If I’m being honest, I don’t know. But,
    since this is asking my opinion, I think the universe could be eternal. We
    certainly have evidence which demonstrates that the universe is billions of
    years old and is expanding and cooling. But there are also things which the Big
    Bang model can’t account for. New models
    are being proposed regularly. The important thing to keep in mind here is that
    using a god-of-the-gaps argument or appeal to ignorance fallacy to claim that a
    god must exist because we can’t explain something isn’t logical, and has been
    wrong numerous times before. It’s also important to note that if you’re going
    to claim that a god can exist without a cause, but do not extend this
    possibility to the universe itself, you are invoking a special pleading logical
    fallacy. Occam’s Razor can be used to determine that the most likely or
    parsimonious explanation is usually the correct one.

    8.
    What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and
    Hitchens?

    As a group, I think that these prominent
    atheists have played a huge role in the education of people regarding religion,
    and in the rise of atheism.

    Richard Dawkins is a brilliant biologist
    and has done great work in bringing evolutionary concepts to the masses. I did
    read “The God Delusion” while I was still a Christian, and I distinctly
    remember laughing and shaking my head at his arguments as I tried to stave off
    the cognitive dissonance they were bringing on.

    Sam Harris makes fantastic arguments
    against religion and often does so quite eloquently. I was unfamiliar with
    Harris before becoming an atheist. I have not read any of his books, but have
    read some of his essays and seen him comment and debate people in videos.

    Christopher Hitchens was great because he
    would just bluntly tell it like it is and demonstrate the sheer absurdity of
    what religious people claim to be true. I have not yet read any of his books,
    but again, have seen him debate. I do recall hearing about his death, and still
    being Christian at the time, sort of being happy about it. I know, that’s
    terrible. But that’s what religion can do to people. I don’t celebrate when
    apologists die now. I just try to defeat their arguments before they do.

    Now, it would be remiss of me to not
    address some of the controversial political views that have been expressed by
    these men at various times. For example, Dawkins has made comments at time
    which have been called misogynistic or insensitive or Islamophobic. To me,
    these are largely overstated and come as a result of him trying to express his
    thoughts using Twitter, which obviously limits how things can be phrased and
    can lead to misunderstanding. It’s also easy to take individual tweets out of
    context and see how they look bad.

    Harris has been accused of supporting
    torture and of being Islamophobic, but again, these accusations largely stem
    from misunderstanding, and Harris has gone to great lengths to clarify his
    positions on such topics. Harris frequently uses thought experiments to make
    points, and they get taken out of context. He also is a stickler for semantics,
    so when he uses the word “spirituality” to describe physiological experiences,
    he isn’t invoking supernatural causes; however, many atheists or even theists
    take his use of the term to mean that he is somehow religious or believes in
    gods or ghosts or spirits.

    Since Hitchens has been gone for almost 4
    years, he doesn’t get brought up very much. The main criticism I hear about him
    is that he supported the invasion of Iraq and that he was also Islamophobic,
    similar to what critics say of Dawkins and Harris. However, I’ve seen video of
    Hitchens undergoing waterboarding not once, but twice, and he only lasted a couple
    seconds before condemning it as barbaric.

    I think the most important thing to take
    away here is that atheism is literally one thing – a lack of belief in gods.
    Anything outside of that – politics included – is nothing more than a correlation.
    While I do think many of the criticisms of these three men are unwarranted,
    atheists can definitely be irrational or bigoted or just wrong when it comes to
    other opinions. It’s understandable that theists are constantly monitoring the
    comments of these prominent atheist activists to catch them up in some
    controversy that they can use to denigrate all atheists. However, there are
    even other atheists, like CJ Werleman, who go out of their way to create straw
    man arguments and take comments from these men out of context to advance a
    narrative about “New Atheism” being a cult led by such men, a cult which
    demands acceptance of their every opinion and wants religion eradicated by
    force. This I do not understand at all. Of course prominent members of any
    group or movement should be held to high standards and be accountable for their
    opinions, and I’ve done so on several occasions with Harris and Dawkins.
    However, most of the mudslinging is not based on facts.

    9.
    Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a
    strong atheist?

    I am a weak atheist, which is synonymous in
    my mind with “agnostic atheist”, meaning I don’t claim that no gods exist, but
    I do not believe that any gods exist. I do know that specific god claims can be
    dismissed based on the evidence or logic involved. My preferred designation is “de
    facto” atheist, using the Dawkins scale.

    10.
    How can you prove that God doesn’t exist.

    Well, for starters, the burden of proof
    rests with the person making the claim that a god does exist. Therefore, it’s
    not my job to disprove a god. Simply rejecting a claim based on a lack of
    evidence is justified.

    That being said, we can definitely look at
    the claims made about the nature of certain gods and test them. For example, we
    know that lightning is a natural electrical phenomenon and doesn’t originate
    from Zeus or Thor. Similarly, we know from genetics that Adam and Eve never
    existed, and thus, the entire foundation for the Abrahamic religions is
    destroyed (there’s also a lot of other information we can incorporate to
    conclude that Yahweh/Jesus Christ don’t exist, but this is just one example).

    Personally, I have no issue with deism, the
    belief that a god or creator exists and made the universe. That’s nothing more
    than a matter of personal incredulity. I take issue when people claim to know
    that a god exists, and especially when they start making claims about the
    nature, will, or desires of a creator which they cannot substantiate.

    11.
    Do you believe in miracles?

    No. A miracle, to me, would be a divine act
    involving a deity, and since I don’t believe in gods, I don’t believe in
    miracles by necessity. Again, just because something seems unlikely or cannot
    be readily explained, that doesn’t mean it was an act of a god. Many purported “miracles”
    in the past have been explained naturally. Mundane events like the birth of a
    child are in no way “miraculous”, although they may be awe-inspiring.

    12.
    Do you have a support group/system?

    I’d say so, although I don’t really require
    one. I’m a married adult, my family is not overly religious or hostile to
    atheism, and I don’t reside in an area of the country which is dominated by
    religion. I have, however, become very involved with online atheist communities
    via social media, and I like to help other atheists who do need support.

    13.
    Do you try to get others not to believe?

    Absolutely, but there’s a caveat: I do not
    broach the topic first. I rarely discuss religion in a personal setting
    (face-to-face), simply because it doesn’t often get raised by others or because
    I don’t want to cause dischord with extended family members. However, I am very
    active online with my efforts to educate people as to why their religious
    beliefs are wrong. If people bring up religion on a public forum like Facebook
    or Twitter, I will respond. After all, I largely owe my own atheism to
    interactions online with other atheists who demonstrated my logical fallacies
    and gave me great evidence. To me, the internet has been integral to the rapid
    increase in atheism, especially in the younger generations. People are no
    longer stuck in their bubbles of their towns, church, and family. You used to
    have to seek out information if you were questioning your religious beliefs;
    now it is freely available and can be presented by anyone you interact with
    online, even if you aren’t looking for it. I’m an anti-theist (meaning that I
    consider religion to be harmful), and I certainly will try to change minds.

    14.
    Do others tend to view you differently when they
    discover you’re an atheist?

    Definitely, at least at first, if they are
    a religious person themselves. Obviously other atheists don’t view me negatively
    or differently. Not every religious person views me differently, especially close
    family or friends, but as far as the general public, no doubt. There are tons
    of misconceptions and stigmas about atheists that persist in our society. My
    job is to combat those misconceptions and turn “atheist” into a neutral word.
    The more atheists who speak up and defy those stereotypes, the better. I think
    that atheists need to address this in the same way that LGBT folks did with
    perception of their community.

    15.
    Do people tend to try to convince you that your
    views are wrong?

    Of course. Again, this isn’t something that
    happens with friends or family, or typically even people seeking me out on
    line. But once I get involved in a discussion online, others definitely will
    try to defend their beliefs, and in turn, try to convince me that I’m wrong. I
    used to do the same thing as a Christian.

    16.
    How does your family view your beliefs? Are they
    supportive?

    I didn’t become an atheist until my wife
    and I were married for over 7 years, so the initial shock was quite jarring for
    her. The fortunate part is that we did not attend church regularly, and our
    children were still quite young, so this didn’t really impact our lives that
    much in the long run. We never prayed at dinner or did Bible studies or
    anything like that. Our religious beliefs were more private and reserved. My
    wife came to accept my atheism, although she was also not a huge fan of my
    activism when it first started. She has become much more accepting of all of this
    over time. We don’t really discuss religion between ourselves, and I let her
    teach the kids about Jesus or God, although it isn’t something she does very
    often. She knows that when they are older, I will get to discuss other options
    with them.

    As far as the rest of my family, it’s not a
    huge deal. My parents both believe in God, and my mom is probably still
    Christian-ish. They both were a bit incredulous that I don’t believe in a god
    at first, but since all 3 of my other siblings are also now atheists, they just
    accept it.

    17.
    What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    Well, I know that she was the founder of
    American Atheists, and I know that she ended up being murdered. I’ve seen a
    couple quotes from her on occasion that I agreed with, and I find American
    Atheists to be an important advocacy group.

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  • Margaret Tombs

    1. I’m an atheist because after many years of thinking it through the idea that a God exists in the way most people in organised religions think of it just doesn’t make sense. In fact the idea that the universe has an intelligence behind it at all doesn’t make sense, unless it is in the very unlikely scenario that we are part of some massive computer game being played by a celestial computer gamer. In which case they have a very warped sense of humor.

    2. I was brought up within the Church of England which is not a very fundamentalist church, and is more of a social convention really. But I did believe until my early teens that a God in the rough form of the Christian God existed.

    3. Nothing traumatic happened to me and I’ve had a relatively drama free life so far.

    I’m curious about this question, is it connected with the ‘Angry at God’ rationalization that theists have to explain why people become atheists? If so it makes no sense. How can someone be angry at someone they don’t believe exists? If you are angry at someone and therefore deliberately ignoring them that does not make you an atheist, it means you still believe they exist.

    4. It was a gradual realization that religion as a whole didn’t make sense, and had no foundation in reality.

    5. Our bodies die and so does our consciousness, we cease to exist. Our bodies decompose and become part of the Earth the same as any other living thing and the chemicals are recycled to make plants and may be eaten by animals to sustain them. This is why I want to be buried under a tree.
    However our legacy lives on in the memories of those who knew us and in any children we had while we were here, and our influence however small on the world around us. Which is why it’s crucial to make sure we leave good memories and the best legacy we can.
    The loss of consciousness may seem scary to someone brought up on the idea of going to Heaven after they die, but to me not nearly as scary as the prospect of burning for eternity in Hell.

    6. It is difficult to know where morality comes from, but I think it’s clear that ‘Holy Books’ are not the answer. They are very contradictory and most contain rules and guidance that no modern right minded person would follow. I think that humans are born with an innate sense of empathy which is the ultimate guide to how to treat other people. Those who are not born with this we now call psychopaths, and other deficiencies in moral and social reasoning also have labels in mental health. And these people can occur in religious community’s as much if not more so than in non religious ones, as religion can often override someones natural moral instincts.
    The reason people have this innate moral and social sensibility is down to evolution, it makes sense to live in groups, especially family groups, for mutual support and survival, and those who function well within the group have a better chance of survival and producing offspring.
    I see evidence of this every day as I work with people with learning difficulties, and I would say that their greatest handicap isn’t lack of intelligence, but the inability to function socially in normal society.
    If someone functions well socially, but needs help with daily activities, people are much more likely to be willing to help them with those activities because they are well liked.

    In addition to that we now have the ability to conduct social studies into for example parenting, gender stereotypes etc. which we can use to confirm or deny the usefulness of certain behaviors, and use these to guide our future behavior and lawmaking.

    7. The issue of where the universe came from is one which is being worked on right now by many many scientists in the world of physics and I wouldn’t claim to understand even a fraction of it. But I do understand enough of it to be absolutely certain that it was not as described in the book of Genesis, or in any of the other hundreds of creation legends that have been proposed over the last few millenia.

    8. Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens are/were three great intelligent men with some brilliant ideas, I know more about Dawkins than the other two because he’s been on UK TV more than the other two. I don’t always agree with them, but I think Dawkins in particular has been demonized and misrepresented by theist media particularly with regards to his supposed ‘Islamophobia’ He simply states verifiable facts about Islam and this somehow makes him racist, Islam is a religion, not a race, and therefore should be open to scrutiny.
    There are however many other great writers and thinkers in atheism besides these three. Stephen Fry, for example, Douglas Adams, John Cleese, Brian Cox, Sandi Toksvig to name a few.

  • Margaret Tombs

    Sorry this is part 2 🙂

    9. If you are using ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ as a degree of certainty then I would say that I’m a very ‘strong’ atheist at this point in time. This was not always so. In my young teens I had begun to doubt that God was real but it took a crucial revolution in my thinking about what sort of people went to hell to free me from that fear of committing to the idea that there was probably no God. The fear of everlasting torment is a powerful one and if simply not believing in God or believing in the wrong one is enough to get you damned how do you decide?

    The answer came from what seems to me to be an ironic place. I was a big fan of the CS Lewis Narnia books at the time and in The Last Battle, the last of the series, has a scene where they are all in the Narnian Afterlife. Among the ‘Saved’ there is a Calormene soldier who has been following Tash all his life. (ie. The ‘Wrong’ God) But is ‘saved’ because he lived a good moral life nevertheless.

    Looking back there are several problems with this idea which I won’t go into now. But it was a turning point for me because it freed me from the fear of Hell and gave me the leeway I needed to think things through for myself, throw out the proscribed rule book and rewrite it into something that seemed more like a blueprint for a ‘Good Moral Life’ It took me many more years of exploring various religions and superstitions to finally ditch them all and settle for a worldview based in reality and evidence, but I got here in the end.

    10. If you’re talking about scientific proof then you can’t absolutely prove anything doesn’t exist somewhere in the Universe, science doesn’t work by proving negatives, it works by attempting to prove positives. You make a proposal, eg horses are related to zebras for instance then you try to prove it to the satisfaction of your peers, if you manage that it becomes accepted knowledge. But you also have to be able to define the thing you are trying to prove exists, eg Horse, Zebra, Related. But no one has a definite definition of God, so proving it’s existence or not is a total non starter.

    Here is an extract from the brilliant Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy which demonstrates that the question of proving Gods existence or not is a nonsensical exercise anyway.

    “The Babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe. It feeds on brain wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain, the practical upshot of which is that if you stick one in your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language: the speech you hear decodes the brain wave matrix.”[7]

    It is a universal translator that neatly crosses the language divide between any species. The book points out that the Babel fish could not possibly have developed naturally, and therefore it both proves and disproves the existence of God:

    Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindbogglingly useful could evolve purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God. The argument goes something like this:

    “I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.””But,” says Man, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.””Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.”

    11. I don’t believe in miracles because there has never been a reported miracle that hasn’t had a perfectly reasonable explanation.

    12. I am something of a loner anyway but I do have my family and a group of work colleagues and friends who have come through for me in the past, and I try to do the same for them. I’m a very self supporting kind of person so it isn’t an issue.

    13. I don’t as a general rule try to dissuade people I know from believing as it is generally considered bad manners here in the UK to do this kind of thing, but if someone has a particularly destructive behavior associated with religion I will try to reason with them as close to their level as possible. Online is slightly different and if someone wants a debate I’m up for it.

    I’LL HAVE TO COME BACK FOR PART 4.

  • Margaret Tombs

    Sorry about the caps lock on part 2, Daughter entered the room and was immediately annoying.
    This is part 3.

    14. I happen to live in Scotland on the Isle of Lewis which is one of the few places in the UK where your religion does matter, as the local culture is very much based around your Church, but I’ve had very little problem with being open about being Atheist, people are curious and ask questions, but as they usually know me well before the subject comes up, and as an outsider from England don’t expect me to entirely fit in and we can continue to be friends and colleagues without problems.

    15. People do sometimes try to draw me into their Church, but that is rare, I get the usual door to door types like everyone else, it’s sad to see their disappointed faces though when I tell them no thanks. Online again is a different place, people have anonymity and it makes them bolder, but I can give as good as I get.

    16. I don’t really discuss religion or politics with my family, we all have different beliefs and it’s not worth wasting the time we have together arguing. We have plenty of other things to talk about.

    17. I have no idea who the lady is.

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  • Jane Ravenswood

    There is little reason to think this is an honest research request. I would guess that this Christian is simply looking to confirm her false assumptions and will run away when they are shown to be wrong. But, in the hope that this is an honest request:
    1. Why are you an atheist?
    There is no evidence for any god. There is no evidence of the claims from the various holy books. There is plenty of evidence other things happened instead.
    2. . Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?
    Yes. I was a Presbyterian.
    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?
    No. That is a tedious false assumption made by many theists who can’t bear believing that anyone can come to the conclusion of atheism by evidence. Its part of the fantasy that theists have that everyone but them is somehow miserable.
    4. If not, why did you stop believing?
    Again, no evidence at all.
    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?
    When we die? Our biological functions end. After we die? Nothing. Theists can’t agree, not even members of the same religion and again, no evidence.
    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?
    Our intellect, empathy and compassion. It’s easy to point out that theists, including Christians, don’t agree on what morals their god wants.
    7. Where do you think the universe came from?
    Not sure. Let me ask you, why not believe that the laws of physics have always been around and the universe is the result?
    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?
    They are atheists. I sometimes agree with them and sometimes don’t. Alas for many Christians lies, they are not “worshipped” by atheists.
    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?
    I’m an atheist, e.g. I do not believe that there are gods.
    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?
    I can show evidence that all gods claimed by humans don’t exist since those gods are claimed to have certain attributes. This is why many theists make their gods vaguer and vaguer to avoid this problem.
    11. Do you believe in miracles?
    Nope. But define miracle, if you would. Theists, including Christians, don’t agree if miracles happen or not. So, do *you* believe in miracle? Have you considered how the possible occurrence of them interacts with other Christian claims, like free will?
    12. Do you have a support group/system?
    Yep, family and friends, just like you. A lot of your questions certainly aren’t new, and show that you have many many wrong assumptions about atheists.
    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?
    Yep, because the belief in the imaginary can and does cause much harm. The false claims by theists should always be questioned. It should always be pointed out that not even followers of the same religion agree on what they claims as “truth”.
    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?
    Occasionally. They make the very same assumptions you appear to be making.
    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?
    Yep. In that I live in the US, it’s Chrisitans though I’ve had invitations to go the local mosque. I also have a blog and Christians appear there trying their best to claim I’m wrong and I’ll be tortured for eternity. When they realize that their claims are easily rebutted, they often run away leaving Parthian shots of claims of praying for me and bible verses. They invariably avoid answering my questions.
    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?
    My parents, brother and his family are Christians. Brother and family try to ignore that I’m an atheist. Parents ask me questions about their religion because I know far more about it and the bible than they do.
    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?
    Again, it seems that you are a Christian desperate to confirm you incorrect assumptions. Some things I agree with O’Hair with, some things I don’t.

  • solong

    Why
    are you an atheist?

    I am from a country where less than 5 % of the population goes
    to church every Sunday. My parents are atheists and so is my entire family. Oddly, I
    grew up in a town known in Denmark for being extraordinarily religious compared
    to other towns, so some of my best friends were Christian or brought up as
    Lutheran Christians. So I wanted to be like my friends of course. I went to
    Sunday school, was a girl scout for 8 years in a Christian organization and
    when I came to be the age of about 16, here’s what I realized and what those
    years had taught me: That the Christians were just as good and bad as my other
    friends and family members were. Sometimes I would say they were worse. I
    learned that their parents were usually quite rigid, conservative, and
    restrictive as well as superstitious and as a consequence Christian kids lied to their parents quite
    often, hiding stuff from them, like stealing (I stole once – it was a miniature
    knickknack and I was so burdened with guilt (because it’s illegal and unfair to
    the shop owner!) that I immediately went home and told my understanding and
    forgiving parents) anyway, hide stuff like stealing and drinking (in Denmark you can buy beer at the age of 16
    but most get wasted earlier than that, sorry, but that’s the way it is in the cold dark
    North) kissing boys or girls, or having sex with them, dancing, playing
    cards(!), smoking, etc. Me, I never had to hide a single thing and as a consequence
    I was much more mellow and less rebellious than most of my friends. Ended up marrying my one and
    only ever partner at the age of 24. Yes, we’re still going strong 21 years
    later. And I felt and feel that there are so many double standards and so much
    deceit within Christian circles that it choked me (and those friends brought up
    in that environment, too.) And then of course there was the whole faith deal.
    Never once did I believe in god. I read the entire bible, the old and the new
    testament and quite frankly and very early on, concluded, that this god described in these texts was
    vindictive, irrational, incohesive and clearly made up by men. Also it galled
    me that the letters of a terrible narrowminded man named Paul was referred to
    constantly. As if he knew anything. To me it’s clear that present day “God” is just a real as Zeus,
    Hera, Ra, you name it. It’s a man made creation made by leaders, wise men or
    women thousands of years ago (or just 2 hundred years ago (Mormoms) trying to
    understand the universe as well as set out rules or make explanations for
    inexplicable things like mental diseases, untimely deaths, Death itself, hallucinations,
    murders, incest, etc. It took decades, centuries, millennia but it was a slow
    cooking stew without any conscious thought to how or by whom it was stirred as old
    leaders died and new came to but sub religion after sub religion got thrown
    into the pot to appease and include more people (as a way to rationalize the
    odd things of Life, and to control and secure order and stability) Today we
    call it Christianity, Islam, Judism, Buddhism, etc. Earlier on we called it
    something else.To me a modern person of faith is quite frankly and no offense
    meant, but that is how I feel, ridiculous. I live in a country who is among the
    happiest, and safest in the world, with no corruption, no violence of
    importance, low murder rates, etc. We are safe and put trust in the authorities
    and one another. All without religion lurking in the background. Religion is not something we talk about
    as most of us share my opinion on the matter. It’s just not a part of our daily day thinking. We are good to one another
    because that’s what most sane people are. And if crimes are committed well,
    there’s the police and the judicial authorites to handle that. God is not an
    issue and I love the freedom this gives me as a human being and I am thankful that I am not brainwashed from the
    getgo and thus not able to make up my own mind like really most Americans are.
    If your parents and everyone around you tell you something is true then how can
    you begin to think otherwise ? To think for yourself requires that you break free of all you’ve ever learned. I’m glad my parents stepped back and let me figure it out for myself.

    2.
    Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    No. I really wanted to when I was a kid because it would be nice
    when I was sad or scared or someone died, but no.

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop
    believing?

    No.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    I never acutally believed.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    All
    living things create energy. Every movement creates energy. And energy is
    eternal. But energy is not a mind or a spirit, it’s just a force. To put it
    plainly, I leave some energy behind me, but me? I turn into dust and disappear.
    End of story.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we
    get our morals from?

    I
    think that us being intelligent beings want life to go on. That means that we
    don’t want to go around killing people or making their lives miserable. So
    basically it’s a survival instinct and good sense to do what’s right, as in don’t
    ruin other people’s lives.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    I don’t know.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    I have only heard about Darwin. Wise fellow for his time.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    A very strong atheist.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    I can’t prove a belief. The question makes no sense. But given
    what we know about history, the world’s many religions over millennia etc. it
    is quite clear to me how the idea of a god came up. See 1.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    No.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    Yes, my family and friends.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    No.

    14.
    Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    No. I live in Denmark and most of us share my views.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that
    your views are wrong?

    No, thankfully I live in Denmark where religion matters little.

    16.
    How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    Yes,
    of course.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    I have never heard of the woman.

  • solong

    Sorry, I misread the question about Dawkins, etc and thought it was about Darwin. I’ve never heard of any of them.

  • How does one go about providing the answers you wish to obtain?

  • Diagoras

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    Because I have not seen any convincing evidence that God/or Gods exist. However I don’t really like describing myself by something I don’t believe in, so I prefer to call myself a Secular Humanist as that more accurately covers my life stance.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    Yes, I was born into and raised in a traditional Protestant family and “believed” in the concept of God until my mid twenties.

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    Two things happened which caused me to begin examining my faith;

    1) I started a relationship with a person from a different faith background (which is very problematic where I live) which called into question lots of core values and beliefs if our relationship was to continue (which it did)
    2) My Dad died after a long and protracted illness which really raised more questions than answers about where he was after death etc and this started a long process of relentless questioning which ultimately led me to the conclusion that no God exists.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    n/a

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    When you die, you are dead. That’s it. Game over. All functioning ends and your body will decay (if you are buried) and you will be consumed by the earth. You were not in existence for billions of years prior to your conception and so you will be again. There is nothing to fear in that.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    The society you are brought up in and surrounded by for the most part. It’s probably not quite as simple as that but you will mostly be a product of your environment/upbringing. Morals are not fixed, they are slightly different the world over depending on societal norms. A “higher power” has nothing to do with morals.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    No idea. It’s a fascinating subject though and I’m glad there are smarter people than me trying to postulate an answer.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    Dawkins was instrumental in my journey to atheism as I read the God Delusion at just the right time which helped answer/illuminate some key points in the narrative.
    Harris I know little about (I’m in the UK)
    Hitchens was a wonderful debater, a real force for rational thinking. he is sadly missed.
    As with all things I wouldn’t agreed 100% with everything Dawkins/Hitchens said, but for the most part I consider them extremely important in my journey.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    Never really considered it relevant, I am what I am. I would certainly require a high degree of evidence to overthrow my position so probably closer to strong that weak.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    I can’t. If you believe he exists, then subjectively for you, he exists. Personally, my subjective position was the first thing I removed from the process. If he “did exist” he would exist whether I existed or not, so my thoughts on it would be irrelevant. I was only interested in whether he was likely to exist objectively, and to that end, I could find no evidence (other than millions of subjective viewpoints)

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    Miraculous things happen all over the world, every single day. I just watched a YouTube clip of a guy cycling across a junction and a car and van collide right in front of him and shoot straight past him on either side leaving him untouched in the middle. A truly miraculous escape by any measure.
    If you mean in that sense of the word, then yes, I’d say it was a miracle that he wasn’t killed.
    However, in the sense that the law of physics are suspended by a higher power for some unknown reason, then no, I’m afraid not.
    If you analysed that crash under test conditions you could see and track the impact forces that forced the vehicles apart just enough for him to remain untouched,
    There are no mysteries that can not be explained.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    No, not really, pretty much everybody I know believes in God to some degree or other. It is nice to meet like minded people and I do from time to time but in general terms it’s just me.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    When I first lost my faith I had the zeal of the convert, trying to debate people at every opportunity but over time you realise that you need to pick your battles more selectively so I only engage people once I have established some sort of common ground. I must confess I do enjoy forcing people into corners on their beliefs at times, especially when there are contradicting viewpoints within the one individual. Maybe that’s the devil in me 🙂

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    Yes, I have had some huge arguments over the years although mostly in my early days when I was pumped up and ready for a debate at a moments notice. Less so these days as I’m a lot more relaxed about it now.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    Yes, particularly the very religious although once we’ve crossed swords we tend to just drop it.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    My Mum is still a church goer although I suspect mostly from habit as she has gone her whole life.
    She knows my position and has confessed to having similar thoughts over the years but she just likes to believe there is something more to life, which I’m cool with.
    Wife doesn’t go to church regularly any more but still likes the idea of a higher spiritual “thing” and is comforted by the thought of dead loved ones “being OK”.
    She knows my position, it works in a strange “let’s not talk about it too deeply” kinda way.
    Kids aren’t baptised and don’t go to church as it was an absolute deal breaker for me.
    They get some degree of religion pushed unto them at school but I’m teaching them how to think critically so I’m hoping they’ll be able to work out their life path for themselves.
    If they ultimately choose any form of religion, that’s their business.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    I have no idea who that is.

  • Diagoras

    Has there been any feedback from the question master?
    Are there any points she wishes people to elaborate on etc?

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  • RoTho42

    I am not a native English speaker, but I will do my best to answer your questions 😉

    1. Why are you an atheist?
    When I grew up, I realized that I don’t believe in any god.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?
    Yes, when I was a child.

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?
    No.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?
    When I developed a better understanding of the world around me, the idea of a higher power became more and more unreasonable.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?
    We are dead and we stay that way. We do no longer exist as a person at this point, our bodies decompose and our particles are recycled to new life.
    I do consider the option of donating my remains to science or education. This way I can contribute to society a last time.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?
    Morals are developed by humans, of course. Where else would they come from?

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?
    Per definition the universe is all that is. The universe doesn’t come from anything, everything comes from the universe.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?
    Dawkins is obviously a very smart guy.
    I don’t know much about Harries and Hitchens.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?
    A strong atheist.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?
    To prove that something doesn’t exist, you need to start from a definition.
    What attributes does your god have? What is he doing? What effect does he have on the universe?
    Once you have a clear picture about what your god is, you can investigate its existence.

    Every time an expected effect isn’t there or caused by a different mechanism this particular god is disproved.

    Of course you can say: “Well, so God doesn’t have attribute XXX” or “God doesn’t do YYY”.
    But this means you are changing the definition of God. You are actually inventing a new, slightly different god.

    Let’s take YHWH for example to illustrate that approach.
    For me personally, there are 2 fundamental attributes of the abrahamic god which are worth investigating.

    1) He uses his unlimited power to intervene in human affairs.
    If this is the case there must be some credible evidence of such interventions. If I can’t record any effect caused by such interventions, I don’t have any reason to assume such interventions happen.

    I don’t count ancient writings and some poorly examined personal stories as credible evidence. If I would do that, I would call out for Thor and Odin and ramble the woods in search of the Habergeiß.
    I don’t do that, because those things don’t exist. Neither does YHWH.

    2) He created the world.
    We know how the world was created by the collisions of celestial bodies and not by a higher power.
    If we assume that “creation of the world” actually refers to creation of the universe the than we can investigate if the universe was designed.
    Some people contribute the observed structure in the universe to an intelligent designer, but this structure clearly shows emergent properties.
    Emergent patterns don’t require a designer. In fact it’s more likely to get such patterns by accident than by design.
    There is really no indication for a designer at all. Sorry.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?
    No.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    I use social media to connect with other atheists over the web.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    I try to get others to assess what they take for granted.
    Not believing can be a result.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?
    Some do.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?
    Yes!

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    I love them and they love me. Our religious views differ.
    My girlfriend is also an atheist.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    Who is Madalyn O’Hair?

  • 1. Why are you an atheist?

    As far as memory serves (which becomes reliable by age 7 in my case) I did not have a belief in god(s). And there is no convincing evidence to dismiss the null hypothesis (there is no god).

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    Nope.

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?
    Nope.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?
    Never a believer.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?
    We decompose.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?
    The same place people who believe get theirs. We are social creatures who had to form communities in order to survive in a harsh world. So we had to cooperate – so proscriptions against killing, stealing etc…likely encoded to some extent – subject to evolutionary pressure.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?
    Don’t know.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?
    Enjoy(ed) reading and watching them. Don’t agree with everything they say or philosophies they hold. I find (found?) Hitchens and Harris to be eloquent speakers.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    I consider myself a strong atheist in the sense that I am a strong aunicornist or adragonist…I see no reason to consider those claims as they are without evidence.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    I am not making the claim that God doesn’t exist. The believer makes the claim that god exists. That claim automatically sets up the null hypothesis that god doesn’t exist. To reject the null hypothesis the person making the claim must provide evidence. For me, the evidence is lacking and so I cannot reject the null ergo god doesn’t exist. Now, that is subject to change should evidence be provided…I am not holding my breath.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?
    Nope – see answer to question 10 (ie. no evidence).

    12. Do you have a support group/system?
    Yes, a wife and 2 lovely daughters, rest of family, and friends.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    Not usually. But I do like a good discussion with believers.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    I’ve been out forever to family and friends…but I’ve started a new business serving the public and I self-imposed a barrier between my atheism and my public profile (and I live in Canada).

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    Sometimes, but it is mostly friendly and in the context of discussions over beer.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    I was born into a Catholic family but they didn’t really go to church that often…Xmas, Easter to that extent…i guess since i was open to my family since the age of seven they have gotten use to me and don’t give me much grief.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    I don’t much about here other than she started American Atheist and she was murdered. From the accounts I have read she didn’t seem to be a pleasant person, so she and I probably wouldn’t get along

  • doug carroll

    1. I don’t believe in Gods, miracles, magic, astrology, fortune tellers, or snake oil.
    2. I’ve never believed in a higher power.
    3. n.a.
    4. I’ve never believed
    5. When we die we go to a place called The Big Nothing. This life is all you get.
    6. We are born with our morals. Empathy is a driving force and helps our species survive. A person without morals is not going to learn them from a religion. I have a strong, unshakeable sense of right and wrong.
    7. I have no idea where the universe came from. I enjoy the knowledge being slowly accumulated by physicists. But lack of knowledge is not proof of God.
    8. Dawkins and others are intelligent men with courage. I enjoy their thoughts on religion. But they are just men.
    9. I’m a strong atheist in that my view will never change unless God appears on earth. But I’m weak in that I’ve only come out to a handful of people.
    10. I can’t prove God doesn’t exist. You can’t prove a negative. But the evidence is not convincing.
    11. I do not believe in miracles. I believe in science.
    12. No i don’t have a support group. It’s lonely here in Kentucky. I guess you could say Godless Mom is my only support group.
    13. I don’t try to get others not to believe in God. I do poke fun at “literal interpretation” christians for the harm they do.
    14. Yes others view me differently when they learn. It discourages disclosure.
    15. People don’t try to convince me, but not many know the truth.
    16. My wife is disappointed and minimizes my feelings. My kids may not know. That’s all my family.
    17. She was a pioneer. Other than that I have no views on Madeline Ohara.

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  • Tammy McArdle

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    No evidence for any of the gods.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    Yes, I was a Christian for 30 years, so the “higher power” I believed in was “God” ( A.k.a. Yahweh, a.k.a. Jesus, a.k.a. Christ). For many years after that I went through a New Age/Pagan stage, but even during that phase, I never believed any of the pagan gods or goddesses literally existed. I became one of those “God is love… God is a nature… God is energy” people. Now I am just content saying that energy is energy, nature is nature, and love is love. I’ve stopped needing to call anything “God.”

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    No.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    I finally read the entire Bible, which left me realizing it can’t possibly be true. I then began studying all religions — their doctrine, their histories, etc — and came to the conclusion all the defined gods in all the holy books (The Vedas, Avesta, Torah, Bible, Quran) are man-made. They are all mythology as much as the Iliad or the Odyssey.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    I don’t know. Being as I have already ruled out any of the holy books as being true, I don’t believe in any of the heavens or hells described in them. If there is any level of consciousness or soul that experiences an afterlife, I fail to see how that would be contingent upon the existence of a god.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    The holy book of my upbringing (as well as many other holy books) contains multiple passages condoning or even commanding slavery, genocide, theft, plunder and misogyny; and yet most people I know that are still Christian don’t accept any of those actions as acceptable. Ditto for the Torah and the Quran. So my response to this question is usually to turn the question back on the inquisitor: If you believe slavery, genocide, land theft, plunder and misogyny are immoral, then where are you getting your morality? This was also the first question I asked myself after I read the Bible. I have never been in favor of slavery, genocide, land that, plunder or misogyny, so after reading the Bible I realized it had never been the source of my morality.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    Not sure, but I do not have the need to fill in my gap in knowledge with “God.”

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    All three are/were brilliant, often misquoted, deliberately misunderstood and – considering the constant death threats and security concerns — very courageous.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    I’m not sure I understand the question, but if you’re asking where I am on the Dawkins scale, it would be a 6 (de-facto atheist) in regard to “a” god (an undefined, unknowable god) and a 7 (strong atheist) in regard to all of the gods described in any of the holy books.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    I can’t prove that “a” god doesn’t exist any more than you can prove leprechauns don’t, but I can easily disprove the gods in any of the holy books by applying simple logic.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    Not anymore.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    Yes.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    I have a Twitter account dedicated to dispelling god belief because I feel very strongly that religion does much more harm than good. Offline, I don’t usually talk about religion unless somebody else brings it up first.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    You’d have to ask them.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    Yes. Every day online and weekly on my doorstep, and I welcome it. I love a good debate.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    Those in my family I’m closest to are also atheists. The others in my family are not “supportive” per se. They disapprove on varying levels. Some of us get along fine as long as we don’t talk about “God” or religion. Some I see and hear from less than before I left Christianity. Some have stopped associating with me completely. Of course, most of the latter stopped associating with me before I even left Christianity, because I wasn’t a “true” Christian (and that can mean ANYTHING since everyone has a different idea of who qualifies as a “true” Christian).

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    I’ve heard of her but know very little about her, so I don’t have any views on her, to be honest.

  • Joe Justice

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    I used to be a Christian minister, I have a Master’s degree in Theology and I used to lecture apologetics. Apologetics comes with certain rules, especially rules regarding interpretation of scripture. When I turned those rules against Christianity, it fell flat, and proved that apologetics is, in effect, simply a method for making excuses for a specific faith, and those excuses are mostly based on blind faith and do not stand up under objective scrutiny.

    I realized that there is nothing out there that points to the likelihood of Gods existing, if you do not apply faith or do not make fallacious logical jumps.

    The problem with faith, of course, is that can be (and is) applied to anything you want to believe, when there is no other reason, logic, or evidence to lead you to see it as a valid thing to believe to be true.

    Faith is the very same thing people use when they try to convince you that they were abducted by aliens. Furthermore, faith is dangerous, as 9/11 shows us.

    And in the end, through my years of ministry, I saw nothing to truthfully demonstrate that gods exist, are real or even necessary for an amazing life. As a friend of mine says: “It is the greatest waste of human time and treasure ever invented.”

    I believe that religion is the one and only thing that has the power to end this species prematurely. It allows people to act out their desires when there is no justification for them. It influences who people vote for, what they support and how they treat other people. I think religion is a bad thing for civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights and just about every right we have. We very rarely see opposition to a woman’s right over her own body, from anywhere but religion. We rarely see raw bigotry without a religious motivation.

    I think it does nothing real for human beings, and is something this species should mature beyond before we will ever be what we can be.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    Yes. Until I realized that a belief in a higher power is not indicated, and that gods, in and of themselves, are a logical contradiction. And that most people would not believe anyway, if there wasn’t a promise of heaven or a threat of hell. There simply would be no honest reason to. Now I know that the main reasons for religious beliefs are:

    a) A fear of just ending – and religion promises an alternative to that.
    b) A misunderstanding of cosmology – that everything MUST be caused.
    c) A way to justify beliefs or actions that cannot be otherwise justified by reason, logic or evidence.
    d) A large scale method to control human society by making them believe they are inferior, sinful beings that need to be controlled in order to behave.

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    No.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    The “mistake” I made was to educate myself further in philosophy, logic and psychology.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    We do exactly the same thing that a lettuce does when it dies. And that is OK.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    A combination of nature (genetics) and nurture (society, community, family.) I see the idea of imparted or enforced morality as puerile. A person who cannot act morally without a carrot (heaven) or a stick (hell) or in normal life, without the threat of going to prison, is what I define as a sociopath.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    I don’t think it came from anywhere. I think it simply is. We, as humans, have never seen anything come into existence from nothing. Scientifically, logically and mathematically, there is nothing that indicates that the universe came from nothing. There is also nothing to indicate that it “came into” existence. An eternal universe, albeit counter-intuitive to our temporal minds – is entirely feasible. The law of parsimony states that, between competing hypothesis, we should select the one that makes the fewest assumptions. An eternal universe requires no assumptions. There is no example that any human has ever observed, of something “coming into” existence. We don’t even know that “coming into” existence is a thing. Google “Cyclic model” to see what I am talking about.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    I think they do thankless work, that is very, very important to provide a counter to thinking that is not going to help this species survive for another billion years.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    I am an Ignostic Atheist. Not Agnostic, ignostic, which basically means that I see the word “god” as meaningless, because we cannot verify thy attributes that we assign to the word.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    I can’t. In the same way I can’t prove that we aren’t all in a computer simulation. The god hypothesis and the “we are a computer simulation” are of equal value to me. Both provide no new knowledge, answers no questions, and leads us as a species no further.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    No. I see no verifiable evidence for them. People often claim that there are verified miracles, but every time you inspect those claims, they fall flat or depend on blind faith.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    Yes.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    Not directly. I don’t think you can really do that. All I can do is provide an alternative to popular thinking, and demonstrate why it is logically fallacious. I am not talking to the person, I am talking to the kids in the bleachers, and it is working. Fewer and fewer young people are automatically religious and of the religion that their parents are.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    Yes. The fastest way to lose friends is to tell people you don’t believe what they do. It is just ahead of Genocide in reasons why people will think you are the devil.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    Yes, and after I have shown them the logical fallacies and the fact that they don’t even have any evidence they can reasonably convince themselves with, they will usually end with threatening you with hell. Some try other easily refuted logical arguments, and then end with the hell threats.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    Yes and no. My immediate family are atheist, simply because I have never exposed my children to religion or atheism. I feel it is wrong to indoctrinate a child either way. My wife used to be religious, investigated it for herself, and came away a non-believer.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    I don’t know who that is.

  • I Hate Everything

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    I suppose that I am an atheist because it makes sense. I have never heard or read anything that has made the idea of there being some sort of intelligent creator deity seem plausible. Throughout the history of human civilisation there have been countless religious mythologies developed as a means to explain the almost infinite gaps in our knowledge of the universe in which we live. But as our civilisations have advanced, the information that has begun to fill those gaps inevitably contradicts the mythologies which had been previously used to fill them. As relates to contemporary societies, the advancement of demonstrable scientific knowledge has been chipping away at the foundations of religion for centuries and every advancement made in physics and biology has come at the expense of those religions. As a result, those religions have had to adapt in order to survive (there’s irony). But a rigid system of very fallible beliefs and customs can only adapt so much before it becomes obsolete.

    If there were a one true God or group of gods that had created everything and which was in the habit of revealing itself to humanity, there would never have been more than one religion. And that religion would have made more sense with each new discovery.

     

    2. Have you ever believed in a higher power?

    No.

    3. NA

    4. NA

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    We die. Everything that we are – that makes us a thinking, feeling person – ceases to be when the neurons stop lighting up. No problem. There was no life before birth so I see no reason to expect life after death.

    6. Without believing in a higher power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    From our own personal sense of decency and empathy. I have met some amoral fuckheads (both religious and atheist) and I have met some thoroughly moral charmingheads (both religious and atheist) and see absolutely no connection between morality and religion (or lack thereof).

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    I really have no idea. I’m more than comfortable not having the answer to that question. There are infinite things which I will never know. If there is an answer, it’s far beyond our reach at present and that’s fine by me.

    8. What are your views on Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens?

    That always depends very much on the subject at hand. I love listening to the ideas of people like Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss (the Origins Project is a YouTube hole that is well worth falling in to), Neil Degrasse Tyson – people who can make my brain dance. Hitchens… It’s complicated.

    9. Do you consider yourself a wesk atheist or a strong atheist?

    I’m not entirely sure that I understand this question. I don’t think that atheism has a scale. I know that I don’t believe in anything.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    While you could never definitively prove that there is no form of higher life whatsoever, the very nature of existence is more than sufficient to at least disprove the gods of contemporary religion.

    If there were a god of this world which wielded the sort of power attributed to it by religion, it would have to be a cruel, petty minded meglomaniacal being which delighted in torturing and confusing it’s creations. The Gods of Islam, Christianity, Judaism etc (infallible, omniscient, kind, loving, just) would simply not watch half the world starving to death and do nothing. The existence of the phrase, ‘Paediatric Burns Unit’ is enough.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    No.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    I would say my family. Not everybody gets a great family so I’m very grateful for my parents and sister. We all live pretty far apart, but we’re never out of touch and it’s awesome having a family who are fun to hang out and talk shit with.

     

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    Rarely, but when somebody asks me about belief I don’t hold back very much. For example, somebody recently asked me whether I believed in either the Big Bang or Adam and Eve (because those are the only two possibilities). I started with the talking snake and god planting a fruit tree for the express purpose of having two people not eat the fruit because he said so and moved on from there to the possibility of establishing an entire species with one woman, her husband and their murderous son and ended with the hideously deformed children of generations of incest whose mental capabilities extended no further than blowing spit-bubbles and occassionally walking off cliffs. In my defense, it had been a crappy day and it wasn’t a very good question.

    14. Do people tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    Sometimes. Britain is fairly secular and most British believers are usually at least a little bit agnostic but going full atheist still gets you some side-eye.

     

    15. Do people try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    Yes. Usually by telling me about how charitable their church is. I’m charitable. I have no church.

     

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    My dad’s an atheist (Catholic until the age of seventeen). My mum and sister are a little harder to pin down. They both have their toes dipped in a splashy little puddle of various beliefs but are essentially agnostic. While our individual beliefs (or lack of) undoubtedly come out during our conversations, they are not often the centre of the discussion.

     

    What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    I’ve never heard of her until now. A quick skim of her Wikipedia page certainly makes me think I’d like to learn more about who she was and what she did.

  • Catherine Beverstock

    This is an old blog but it was posted on Twitter recently. I’m doing this because I have never really delved into this:
    1. Why are you an atheist?
    I was raised by a strong militant atheist father who was also an amateur astronomer and left me with a sense of awe about the stars, the universe and humanity’s place in it.
    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?
    Not really. I had gone to church to make friends and family happy in my childhood; and I’ve read the Bible to make acquaintances happy. Outside of these occasions, not really.
    3. If so, did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?
    Nothing traumatic made me atheist because I never believed.
    4. If not, why did you stop believing?
    I never really began.
    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?
    We die. Hopefully, leave good memories because we have made the world a better place.
    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?
    My own values and experiences; history, humanities, literature, society, philosophy, sometimes even science. Reduced to the Girl Scouts laws, motto and slogan (without the god promise)
    7. Where do you think the universe came from?
    The universe is all there is. Even if we can identify what is known, as separate from something else, that something else would be included under the realm of “the universe.” The universe just is the universe and only the universe. The Big Bang explains the universe as it is known now from the singularity to the last almost 14 billion years. The singularity will need an origin as well, eventually someone will be interested.
    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?
    I respect them greatly and have learned a lot from them, but I do not necessarily agree with them on everything. Thus of the greatness of atheism and the freethought movement.
    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?
    A strong atheist, I don’t like to pander to any god/supernatural delusions.
    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?
    My personal thoughts about disproving a god is like this: You could open every box in the universe and even if you found evidence of a god, you would have to further prove that this god that exists (if it is a singular god) is your god. It could be evidence for everyone’s god, someone else’s god, or worse but more likely, no one’s god. The Christian bible and church have been proven to be fraudulent by those who care to look into it. Honestly, I think an atheist perspective is the most honest and kind.
    11. Do you believe in miracles?
    ??? Which ones are you referring to??? How far back do you go? Like the plague of locusts? Or the sodomites turned into pillars of salt, or the dividing of the Red Sea? How about the miracles of Apsu, Laozi, Mithra, Buddha, Muhammed, Krishna, Quetzacoatl? Or that someone who should be dead lives, or bends a spoon, or someone turns water into wine. No I don’t believe in miracles.
    12. Do you have a support group/system?
    Not really, I have been independent all my life.
    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?
    Only those who solicit for my soul. I have tried to make proselytizers consider my point of view. It has worked a few times! Generally, I believe that people have to go on this journey on their own terms.
    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?
    Yes, because I look like a good Christian girl.
    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?
    Not really, unfortunately or fortunately, most people don’t take women seriously nor with full compassion.
    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?
    My dad has softened, my mom is nostalgic and my extended family is bat-“trump” crazy. I believe they are all scared of an opinionated atheist woman.
    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?
    I like what I have read, unfortunately nobody cares.

  • Shaun Walls

    These are my answers:

    1. Why are you an atheist?
    I was brought up in the Church of England as a choir boy with church every Sunday. I listened to it all and by 13 felt that it was manipulation on a grand scale. I read about other religions and started to think that all seemed a bit far fetched. My mother believed and my father didn’t. I am a practical person and found it more realistic to reconcile evolution and there being no god than that one of the seemingly magic beings that were the alternative.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    I don’t think I ever truly believed. I went along with it and still know all the words but, no, I didn’t believe in a higher power.

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    No, nothing traumatic but I did have laryngitis for 3 months which gave me the opportunity to take time away from the choir and I did not return.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    I never fully believed.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    Switch off. Neural connections close down and we stop functioning in any way. We live on in the memories of those we leave behind but that is all so we should live good lives and leave good memories. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Evolution.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    I believe that we have a responsibility to our fellow humans to tread carefully whilst we are here and leave a better world when we are finished. Leave a place cleaner than you find it, help as many people as you can and spread some happiness. I will not be used or abused by anyone and treat people as I would want to be treated. I find that my atheist friends have a more natural set of moral values than many who identify with religion.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    I think that our perception of time and space may still need some work and there are more qualified people than me who are working to understand this. I am interested in science solidly backed by peer reviews .

    8. What are your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    All human beings who have picked up the baton to publicly represent atheism against a majority view. Today this is still a capital offence in some parts of the world and it’s not so long ago that this was the case in the UK. This resulted in a culture where many atheists kept their thoughts to themeselves and Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris opened up the debate in a very public way. With internet access their content remains available to many more people than they might have reached through meetings or print and I think that the simple accessibility of their work and of those other high profile members of our community will accelerate the acceptance of fact based theories of our evolution.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    I don’t understand the question. I am an atheist which means that I do not believe in a deity. If I am provided with incontrovertible evidence to the contrary I will review my position as I would on any thoughts that I have. I am a pragmatic realist.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    I don’t need to. I am not threatened or even remotely concerned by a god, there are so many of them and it is my belief that they are all man made as a mechanism to control. By defining myself as an atheist I contain my responsibility in challenging the evidence that theists produce for their specific deities. My experiences so far lead me to identify many similarities between the various gods and their disciples.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    No. I don’t believe in magic either. I believe that there is a rational explanation for every event even if we do not understand it.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    Yes, I have family, friends and access to an online community of like minded people.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?
    No. Prosthelitizing is something that seems to be the function of theists. That and collecting donations. This may be why atheism is still in its infancy 🙂

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    No I don’t think so. I am very much my own person and I make no effort to conceal my atheism or promote it.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?
    Yes. I debate with theists who tell me that I am heading for eternal damnation but that’s their belief and not mine.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    My second wife is atheist and so are both my kids (18 & 20), my brother also. My mother is a Christian. All supportive.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair

    I am not aware of Madalyn O’Hair. I will look her up.

  • De Ha

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    Ithought about it.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    Yes. I used to take it literally.

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    No.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    Thought about it.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    You smell bad.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    Concience.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    Where else is there?

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    Have not read Harris. I like Dawkins. I disagree with Hitchens on some things, but both of us started using the word “islamofaschists” after freinds of cours got exiled by Muslims.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    I’m all over the upper half of the Dawkind scale depending which god you’re talking about and how much i know about the religion in question. The more i know about the religion, the more convinced I am it’s bullshit.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    See 9

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    No.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    What do you mean?

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    I debate on the internet.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    Maybe. My nephue’s mum once called me “a good boy who wants to be a bad boy”.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    All the time. Can’t throw stones though, see 13.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    I don’t think they give a crap anymore.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    Who?

  • 1. Why are you an atheist?

    I see no evidence for the existence of a supernatural entity of any sort. I respond to arguments about “but the universe exists so it must have had a creator of some sort” by noting that the universe hardly couldn’t exist since by definition the universe is everything that exists.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    No. When I was young I claimed to, in order to please my parents and grandparents, some of whom were very devout members of the Roman Catholic Church. But from the age of about twelve, the whole thing felt fake to me and by about sixteen I stopped trying to convince myself that any of the supernatural stuff was real.

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    No; I never really believed in the first place. I stopped professing even insincere belief in my high school religion class during a lesson about the so-called miracle of transubstantiation that purportedly happens during the Catholic ritual of the Eucharist. It was obviously false; if the host were to transform into the flesh of Jesus Christ, it would resemble meat, not a tasteless piece of stale bread.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    Not applicable. I never really believed.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    Our bodies cease working and must be disposed of by the living for health and sanitation reasons. Consciousness comes to an end, as you might experience on a temporary basis should you undergo general anesthesia. (Bad hobby. Don’t do this unless you have to.) Alternatively phrased, the experience of being dead will be a lot like what happened to you before you were born — it’ll be no experience at all.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    At a rudimentary level, from being taught by parents or other people who raise us when we are children what right and wrong are on a practical level. What do they punish you for doing, what do they praise you for doing? What kinds of examples do they set with their own behavior?

    At a more sophisticated level, which people come to understand later in life by learning about philosophy, we find that notions of morality derive from a blend of utilitarianism (think Jeremy Bentham) in the sense that we should strive for beneficial outcomes for our actions; deontology (think Immanuel Kant) in the sense that we should act from motives that honor and respect other people as we honor and respect ourselves; and virtues (think Aristotle) in the sense that we should strive to cultivate those habits and decisions which allow ourselves and our communities to thrive.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    The Big Bang is the uniform consensus of cosmologists and other subject matter experts. Maybe one day a better explanation will be proffered and accepted, which is how science works. Should that happen, it won’t mean that today’s cosmologists were *wrong*, it’ll mean that a *better* explanation has been identified.

    As for what came “before” the Big Bang, it’s quite likely that the question actually doesn’t make any sense because time began in the Big Bang too. To talk of a “time” before this even makes as much sense as traveling north until you reach the North Pole and then asking what happens when you go further north. There is no further north to go to.

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    I’ve enjoyed reading them all. Each of them has adopted various political or social stances with which I disagree. But as to their thoughts about atheism and the role of religion in the world, I like much of what they say. Atheists have no reason at all to be ashamed of their atheism. Reading them helped me find confidence to not conceal who I am. Atheists have as much standing to point out when religion and religious people do morally bad things or when religion is used as an impediment to progress rather than an aid. We should be proud of what we’ve accomplished as a species through the use of science and reason. Rationality and skepticism are far better mental tools for navigating the world than faith or reliance upon ancient texts.

    My principal criticism of each of the authors you’ve named are that they are too quick to condemn sincere and moral religious people. I’ve generally had good experiences with religious people and I admire those who take the positive moral teachings of generosity, reciprocity, reconciliation, and forgiveness to heart in their daily actions. Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens are too eager to argue that religion is a force for moral bad, so they force the issue. I think religion is a human institution and it can be used for moral good or moral bad and most often for a blend of both.

    My real intellectual hero is Carl Sagan, and I think his book “The Demon-Haunted World” remains the best available expression of the intellectual mindset of the rationalist. Dr. Sagan’s prose contains a beauty and a sense of wonder approaching the best poetry ever written, and anyone who thinks that a rationalist abandons emotion or the ability to experience awe, sorrow, or hope will find that notion dispelled powerfully if they give this book an honest reading. Some of the irrational beliefs he addresses in “Demon-Haunted World” will seem dated now (e.g., the Aurora aircraft), but that is hardly relevant because the ways he intellectually addresses them transcend the particulars of any particular belief. Some of his predictions for what might happen if irrational views are afforded substantial social and political power have proven to be chillingly spot-on.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    I don’t typically attempt to logically disprove that the supernatural exists. I don’t think it’s possible. In that sense I’m a “weak atheist” or, if you prefer, a “strong agnostic.”

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    First of all, the concept of God is so unlikely to be true that I don’t believe I have the burden of proof here. The burden of proof rests with the theist to prove that something supernatural can possibly exist. Until such proof is offered to a satisfactory degree, I presume that the holy texts of the Abrahamic religions are simply compendiums of ancient legends, folklore, poetry, laws, and oral history.

    Now, as for disproving **any** God? I don’t try, I don’t think that’s possible. I think assessing the probability of a God’s existence as very very low is a trivially easy exercise.

    As for the God depicted in the texts of the three major Abrahamic religions, He is not logically possible, because the Problem of Evil cannot be resolved if God is a unitary consciousness that is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. I find the claim of “but humans have free will” to be a very weak attempt to mitigate this.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    No. I hear claims of supposed supernatural intervention in dire medical situations from time to time. While I respect that people are under great emotional stress in such times, the idea that God or some other supernatural creature was involved is almost always trivially easy to dismiss by a subject matter expert.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    Yes. I have an extensive network of friends, family, and colleagues. I belong to a local freethinker’s club.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    No. No point in it. Someone else either believes, or not. I only ask that someone who does believe treat me with the same respect that they afford their co-religionists and that I show them. Mostly, that happens.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    Mostly, no. I’ve experienced some rejection on online dating sites by women who say they categorically will not date or even associate with an atheist. That stings a little bit, but not that much – why would I want to date someone who was bigoted against me? Why would I want to date someone who’s so scared of a word or a different belief system that she won’t even meet me?

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    Sometimes. Mainly on the Internet. Not often in real life; I habitually shut down such discussions by offering to agree to disagree. I find actual evangelism to be tedious in proportion to the degree to which the evangelism is overt or pushy.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    My family accepts me and loves me, both those who are religious and those who aren’t.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    I’m sure you have a good reason for asking it, but to me this seems an odd question. My general view of Ms. O’Hair is that she is not relevant to the spectrum of contemporary issues for which atheism, or one’s status as an atheist, would be potentially important.

    I know she was either a founder or an influential leader of a group called American Atheists, that she lived in Texas, and that she was murdered. She had a reputation as having been rather hard to get along with, which I have a vague notion was a contributing factor to her murder. Because I know so little about her, I can’t call her a “hero” or a “villain,” but it’s quite likely that, like just about everyone else who has ever lived, she was somewhere in between those two.

    I suppose one ought to acknowledge her historical role in the gradual and as-yet-incomplete movement for atheists to be accepted as such in general American culture. Beyond that, I don’t see how she’s all that important to today’s issues.

    These are the opinions of just one atheist. I don’t purport to speak for all atheists. About the only thing that you can count on any two atheists having in common (intellectually) is that by definition, they both eschew the affirmative belief in the supernatural. After that, they’re human beings with the whole spectrum of opinions, attitudes, and experiences that you’ve seen within theistic communities.

  • De Ha

    1. Why are you an atheist?

    I thought about it.

    2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

    Yes. I once took it all literally.

    3. If so, Did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing?

    No.

    4. If not, why did you stop believing?

    I thought about it.

    5. What do you think happens to us when we die?

    You smell bad.

    6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from?

    Richard Dawkin’s theories on the evolution of altruism.

    7. Where do you think the universe came from?

    Where else is there?

    8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?

    Like Dawkins. Disagree politically with Hitchens but we both have freinds who were harassed and by Muslims. Have not read harris.

    9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist?

    I’m all over the upper half of the Dawkins scale depending which god you’r talking about. The more I know about a religion, the more certain I am it’s bullshit.

    10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist?

    Can’t.

    11. Do you believe in miracles?

    No.

    12. Do you have a support group/system?

    Uh, sort of.

    13. Do you try to get others not to believe?

    I argue on the internet and try to AT LEAST get theists to thibk.

    14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist?

    Sometimes.

    15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong?

    Constantly.

    16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive?

    I don’t think they really care anymore.

    17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair?

    Who?

  • Jordan Culver

    1) I saw contradictions between science and what the Bible says. I also realized that I believed simply because I was told to, which isn’t good enough for me.

    2) I was raised Christian, but I was never really into it. I always felt like an outsider at church.

    3) No.

    4) See number 1

    5) Our bodies decompose. If we were cremated, some of the atoms that m 57
    ake up our bodies will spread throughout the atmosphere. The rest become a pile of ashes.

    6) I think that most of would agree that we don’t want to be murdered, have our property stolen, etc.. In addition, I think that we should work to minimize the level of suffering in the world.

    7) Although we may never know for certain, there is significant evidence for the big bang theory. If we come up with a better theory later, I’ll go with that. My beliefs aren’t necessarily stagnant.

    8) Dawkins is a respectable man. I think that he has done some great work. Harris and I disagree on a few points, but he’s not bad. Hitchens was cool up until right before he died, when he became really conservative and militaristic.

    9) I’d consider myself to be a pretty strong atheist, though I admit that we may never know with 100% certainty.

    10) Most god concepts that I’ve heard of are unfalsifiable.

    11) I believe that there is a naturalistic explanation for everything that is true.

    12) It’s nice to meet up with other atheists every once in a while, but I like the feeling of being independent.

    13) I like to debate online, but I would never activity proselytize. I try not to be pushy.

    14) People see me as mostly the same, as I make sure that people already like me before I tell them.

    15) All. The. Time.

    16) My family tends to avoid the topic. My father doesn’t seem to like it, though.

    17) I’ve never heard of them.