One thing about being an outspoken atheist is that religious believers often present the same old points and long-refuted arguments to me as if I had never heard them before. It's not their fault though; many religious believers don't even know an outspoken atheist let alone have conversations about religion with us. The thought to Google this stuff ahead of time often hasn't even occurred to them. On the other hand, most outspoken atheists have conversations with the religious all the time in large part because most countries are dominated by religion and also because most religious believers are "called" by their religion to push their beliefs.
Thursday April 16 was National Ask An Atheist Day. It is a day where many atheist organizations encourage atheists to encourage religious believers to ask us questions so that we can help dispel the many misconceptions many religious believers have about atheists and atheism. For example, it may surprise a few religious believers to know that atheists don't believe in Satan any more than we believe in God and that aside from possibly atheist blogger Hemant Mehta, atheists doesn't actually eat babies.
Here are a few questions that religious believers often ask me and my responses to those questions:
Have you heard the "Good News?"
I live in the United States of America where there are churches on nearly every other street corner and every politician is quick to profess his or her religious devotion and piety. It really would be a miracle if you could find any adult in the country who hasn't heard about Jesus and Christianity. So yes, I have heard the pitch and I find it less than convincing.
Aren't you afraid of going to Hell?
No, not actually. That's the real good news: Hell is imaginary too. As an atheist, the threat of eternal torture in the fiery pits of Hell elicits no more fear in me than getting Force choked by Darth Vader or receiving the Dementor's Kiss from the Harry Potter series.
But what if you are wrong?
Sure, that is possible I suppose. It's extremely unlikely though. What if we are both wrong about Scientology and there really is an evil galactic overlord poised to enslave us all? Still, for the sake of argument, let's say that I am wrong and the God of the Bible is real and when I die God will judge me based solely on whether or not I believe that the seemingly ridiculous stories in an ancient series of books full of contradictions and obvious mythological elements is true on insufficient evidence and not on my good works in life. Well, if that does turn out to be the case, then I guess I'll be tortured for all eternity. But I will still have my conscience. To paraphrase what the great philosopher Socrates told his friend Crito, it is always better to receive an injustice than to do an injustice.
Where do atheists get their morals from?
When I start talking about justice and right and wrong, this question always comes up. In fact, this was the central theme of Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson's recent anti-atheist rant. Atheists tend to get our morals from the same place religious believers get their morals from -- through our evolved biological empathy and compassion for others.
For someone who doesn't believe in God, why do you care so much about religion?
As I said before, in America there is pretty much a church on every other street corner and all of our politicians are quick to profess their religious devotion. Many often try to go out of their way to attempt to prove their piety by passing hateful laws they claim are based on their holy book. Plus, part of the reason so many Americans reject the science of global climate change is because of religious "reasoning." Sadly, religion has become a threat to human happiness, human progress, and even human survival on this planet. The best way to make the world a better place is to educate religious believers about critical thinking and argue against faith-based beliefs in ancient superstitions.
There is of course a lot of other questions that atheists like me get on a regular basis. I tried to answer many of them in a special Atheism 101 Series. I encourage religious believers to check it out. Also, if you have a question that hasn't been addressed, please ask it in the comments section. You also might consider Googling it too. Usually, there is an atheist or twenty somewhere on the interwebs who has already addressed the issue.
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