Godless Mom is one of the most interesting people I follow on Twitter, and I’m a fan of her blog (http://godlessmom.com ). To respond to Godless Mom’s call for fellow atheists to answer a college student’s questionnaire, I’m posting my answers below. Note: I’ve copied and pasted the questions from Godless Mom’s blog post. (http://godlessmom.com/questions-for-atheists-from-a-college-student-answer-them-yourself/) Please read her answers as well. As Richard Dawkins so succinctly says, generalizing atheists is like herding cats due to the diversity among atheists. We come from various backgrounds, ages, and experiences.
Here we go:
1. Why are you an atheist? Because I’m a rational human being, ethically minded and formally educated.
2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power? Yes and no. I didn’t buy into the Catholic school lies, jargon, and dogma. However, I did pursue a spiritual life on my own through witchcraft. It was my way of dealing with the patriarchal abuses and nonsense I saw as a child and young adult.
3. If so, did something traumatic happen to make you stop believing? No. Trauma didn’t make me an atheist, it made me a witch.
4. If not, why did you stop believing? I did want to believe that there is a universal force that protects women, children, animals, and the disenfranchised. The reality is that we have to be that force. No “higher power” is needed to address your issues. There’s no goddess or god up in the sky that’s going to send you a miracle. This realization is freedom.
5. What do you think happens to us when we die? We rot. If you’re referring to some kind of consciousness/sentience continuing after death, I don’t know. I am not dead.
6. Without believing in a Higher Power, where do you think we get our morals from? Altruism and empathy are innate to humans, and essential in our evolution. Richard Dawkins discusses this in The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion. Often, religious dogma(s) and cultural traditions clash with ethics, social welfare, and secular morality. Both the Mormon Church and the Catholic Church still force “adoptions” to this day because their dogma and beliefs witch-hunt single mothers. These people believe their god permits them to rip babies from their mother’s arms. Because this institutional atrocity is happening within the confines of belief in a higher power, do YOU feel it is moral and righteous? To further add to the list of crimes against humanity committed and condoned due to belief in a higher power: female genital mutilation, abuse of flora and fauna, slavery (all kinds), domestic violence, genocide, war, etc.
7. Where do you think the universe came from? No idea. Don’t worry, physicists are working on it.
8. What’s your views on Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens? Dawkins: A charming sweetheart and grandfatherly figure. Even though I’m an English teacher and not a scientist, I enjoy his writings. He is accurate, unbelievably educated, and witty without being snarky. I admire his bluntness tempered by his English manners. Harris: Insanely insightful with a stellar vocabulary and astounding logic. I admire his wedding of philosophy and neuroscience. Both Harris and Dawkins are wrongly accused of being chauvinistic simply because they are male. Personally, I find them to be extraordinary feminists. They speak out adamantly and apologetically about the plight of women globally more than a lot of feminists. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali stated, some American feminists are concerned only with “trivial bullshit.” Hitchens: He had some great points. However, Hitchens could be a bit chauvinistic. In my opinion, he could be too sardonic and caustic. That being said, I do admire how he exposed Mother Teresa, her political endorsement of dictators, and her hospital death camps.
9. Do you consider yourself a weak atheist or a strong atheist? When it comes to theism and theistic dogma, I’m about as strong as one can be. However, there is a lot of unknown still in our human quest, and further scientific discoveries to make. I’m agnostic on the subject of alien life, what happens in death, and the questions being raised by neuroscience.
10. How can you prove that God doesn’t exist? No. And you can’t prove he does. What about Thor? Do you think Thor exists? Or one of my personal favorites, The Morrigan? The Judeo-Christian myth is simply en vogue. If Rome’s Constantine had picked Mithraism, which almost made the official state religion, folks would be all about some Mithras. Furthermore, I can’t prove that unicorns don’t exists. And if I had to pick, I’d rather believe in unicorns.
11. Do you believe in miracles? No.
12. Do you have a support group/system? Yes. My husband is a physicist, and our friends are all progressive. My mother is happy as long as I’m happy. And my sister is a biologist and an environmental engineer.
13. Do you try to get others not to believe? No. I’m a big fan of personal autonomy. I use social media to find kindred spirits, not debate.
14. Do others tend to view you differently when they discover you’re an atheist? Yes. Even thought I live in Alabama, I manage to avoid bigots. Plus, I don’t care how I am viewed. If potentially met with slander, I’d just throw our attorney at them. To quote Lana Del Rey: “People’s opinion of me is none of my business.”
15. Do people tend to try to convince you that your views are wrong? No. The few religious people I know are very aware that I don’t pull my punches. As far as online, I don’t engage in debate or validate trolls.
16. How does your family view your beliefs? Are they supportive? We don’t have a lot in common with extended family regardless of lack of religious belief or otherwise. It’s a non issue.
17. What are your views on Madalyn O’Hair? Ditto what Godless Mom said.
Dear questioning college student,
I wish you well and hope that your query is adequately answered with many responses. Best of wishes to you in your academic career and pursuits thereafter.