This page is intended to be an evolving list of questions and answers to help clear up a few misconceptions or points of interest that the casual obsever or interested preacher might have. If there’s a question missing from this list, which you feel should be answered, please send me an email and I’ll post up a reply.
Q: Atheist is a bit of a harsh word. Why aren’t you more open-minded and call yourself an agnostic?
Here are some definitions for you:
Theism: 1] Belief in the existence of God. 2] A morbid state resulting from too much tea-drinking.
Atheism: Disbelief in the existence of God. [Derivation: Greek atheos, from a- (privative) and theos god]
Agnosticism: Belief that we know nothing of things beyond material phenomena.
Reference: Chambers Dictionary
My contention is that you either believe in God or you don’t. You either voted for Tony Blair in the last election or you didn’t. You may have thought about voting, but then decided that your vote wouldn’t count. This doesn’t put you in a different category. You either made a positive choice for Tony or you didn’t.
You have to believe a set of specific and complicated assertions to be able to call yourself a Christian, Muslim, Hindu etc. If you don’t, then you are not a Christian, Muslim Hindu etc. You don’t have to be any of the above to believe in a god of some sort, but you have to be able to say, “I believe in god(s)”. If you don’t believe this, then you are without a belief in God. Theism is the belief in god(s).
The word Atheism is derived from the Greek word theos meaning ‘God’ and the prefix a- meaning ‘without’. All it means is that at this point, the atheist is without God. That’s all.
I don’t think that the ‘middle way’ of agnosticism is particularly useful. After all, if you’re an agnostic who doesn’t believe in God, then you’re just an agnostic atheist. What’s the point in the word? It seems pretty redundant to me.
As for having a closed mind, I’m sure that there are quite a few atheists who have closed their minds to god(s). I’m sure that there are also quite a few theists who have closed their mind to a life without god(s). Personally, I think life’s a bit of a journey. I have an open invitation to any god(s) out there to reveal themselves to me. No RSVPs as yet, though.
Q: Do you hate God?
You might as well ask me if I hate Darth Vader or if I hate goblins. I don’t believe in any of the above, so there’s nothing to hate.
Sometimes I despair at what is done in the name of god. September 11th, 2001 was a memorable recent occasion. I used to actually hate bible-bashers (especially when they came between me and someone I love). Now I just feel sorry for them.
Q: What do you believe in?
I believe in the love of people around me; the inherent goodness in people, even ones we shorthandedly label ‘Evil'; the difference a single person can make; that we all have a responsiblity to one another; that honesty is the best policy; that the Germans make the finest beers; that if we don’t learn from history we are doomed to repeat it; that you can’t judge a book by its cover; that we must use reasonableness and common sense to solve our problems; that morality is defined by reason, not by fiat; that as you sow, so shall you reap….
What specifically do you want me to answer?
Q: So you think that my Great-Grandparents and Hitler ended up in the same place?
Not at all. What’s left of Hitler is supposed to be in some secret Russian vault somewhere. Your Greate-Grandparents are probably not in the same vault.
Silly! I meant to say that you think my Great-Grandparents and Hitler suffered the same fate after death?
Absolutely. All of them died. The lights went out. That was it. The Great-Grandparents aren’t in Paradise, Hitler isn’t in Hell.They’ve just been ‘switched off’.
Maybe it isn’t the answer you want to believe in, but life isn’t easy.
Q: You don’t believe in God. God is the source of Morality. How can you have morals?
If you believe in a God that defines morality, you will fall on the horns of this dilemma, taken from Plato’s Euthyphro:
1] What is good is defined by the fact that it is god’s will
You must therefore accept that anything, no matter how repugnant it might seem, must be considered good if it is god’s will
2] God recognises what is good and then wills what is good.
You must accept that there is a standard of goodness that is independent of god. God is not the source of morality or of ethics.
If you don’t, then you must accept that I can have morals without god.
Just to turn things around a little, the Christian Bible contains unethical advice:
1] Don’t resist evil (Matt. 5:39)
2] Support of slavery: Ex. 21:20, Lev. 25:44, Eph. 6:5, Col 3:22, Titus 2:9, 1 Cor 7:21-24 etc.
3] Racism: Matt 15:21-28, Mark 7:25-30, Matt 10:5, Matt 15:24
4] Genocide: Gen. 7, Deut. 20:16, Josh. 11:20, 1 Sam 15:3,
5] Kidnap and Rape: Numbers 31:7-15, Deut. 21:10-14
The above acts are immoral in my opinion. You don’t have to be an atheist to reject them.
Please feel free to comment in the blog or mail me with questions.