Updated: Aug 23
Wrestling with insomnia, I fluttered around Reddit last night. Tented by the quilt my husband’s aunt handmade for us, the dim glow of the app’s night mode lit up my face while I skimmed through r/debateandatheist. This is the subreddit where faith goes to die, where it gets cold clocked by the hammer of reason. Believer after believer strolls in thinking they’ve got the one question that will illuminate the path to god, and believer after believer soon flees without a word, with the realization they’ve waded in far over their heads.
It’s entertaining to say the very least.
Last night, I found a post from an atheist, though. A freshly-atheist, ex-theist, to be precise. He or she asked a series of questions that I thought were interesting enough to answer here, for you guys. I’d love to know your take on them, too:
As someone who has recently come to atheism, I am having trouble with answering the following four questions, so I thought I’d call upon this sub for help. I tried to rephrase the same question several times to make it clearer. Also, I am nót a deist. 1) Why is there something rather than nothing? (or) Why does the universe bother to exist? (or) Why is it necessary for our universe to exist, and to continue to exist?
The only way to answer this question with any honesty is that we don’t know. We don’t know why the universe is here. Theists don’t know. Atheists don’t know. Maybe dogs know but are keeping it from us. We just don’t know. The thing is theists like to replace the “I don’t know”s with “god”.
Imagine this conversation, if you will, between two friends:
“The ghost of Blackbeard lives in my garage.”
“How do you know?”
“Every night I hear him tapping on my walls.”
“But that could be anything.”
“I don’t know. Maybe the wind rattling something. Perhaps your hot water tank heating up. We’d have to investigate to find out.”
“See? You have no answer, so it has to be Blackbeard’s ghost.”
It’s called the god of the gaps. Just because no one knows, doesn’t mean the answers made up by ancient, uneducated storytellers are true. It means we don’t know. We may never know, just like plenty of other things. Either you’re okay with not knowing, or you desperately need to behave as though you know everything and would rather fill this gap in our knowledge with a tale to keep up that charade.
2) Why/How are the natural laws sustained/enforced? (or) Why/How does a chair keep the “Form” of a chair? (or) How does an atheist explain the apparent order in the world?
We don’t explain it. What is order? Is order how we perceive it? If someone looked in on us from a different universe that operated in a whole other way, would they see order? For example, if the Crystalline Entity from Star Trek took a look at our planet, would it see anything it could define as “order”? Our subjective order is a result of our world and everything in it, it’s not the other way around. Other worlds and other universes would have a very different definition of order. We have adapted to our world. Our species has moulded itself to fit into the space it’s found itself in. Not the other way around.
3) Why does deism not satisfy you/why is it fallible?
Because there is no evidence for a god.
4) Does atheism have an alternative explanation for why our world keeps existing? Why did the Big Bang happen?
Atheism has no explanation for anything. Atheism is, say it with me kids, just one answer to one question: “Do you believe in god?”. That answer, of course, is no. Atheists can have all kinds of opinions on the origins of the universe – we don’t all agree on one, because atheism says nothing about the origin of the universe. This is a question for scientists, not atheists. In fact, your entire list of questions is better suited for scientists than atheists.
I realize that coming from a big, confusing, complicated dogma, you expect the same on the other side. The thing is, that doesn’t exist for atheists. There is no dogma, no set of beliefs we all share. There is no common understanding of the world and its origins. Atheism, unlike all religions, offers no origin story, no explanation for what, where, who, or why. Atheists have only one thing in common: they lack belief in god. Each of us may answer these questions differently because none of them have anything at all to do with atheism.