There is so much stigma today associated with atheists and who they are. One can hardly wonder why so few of us choose to "come out" when there are realities of intolerance, discrimination, even threats against us. It is natural though, to fear what we do not understand. So when I see hostile or uncomfortable reactions towards atheism, I see reactionary fear, and thus misunderstanding.
I can't speak for all who think like me, but hopefully I can clear up any doubts or misconceptions you might have. And indeed I feel that I can justify my conclusions, so feel free to challenge them. I'll make an attempt to answer every question personally. In the case that there are too many though, just vote for your favorite ones that you'd like to see answered. Just for fun, I've put up a poll to gauge the relative views of readers of this column.
Looking forward to our mutual enrichment,
Rees D. Sloan
Question 1 - "Do you believe that when people have faith in a deity that they are crazy?"
(Not yet answered for sake of agreement over definition)
Question 2 - "What could possibly harden someone's heart so much that they don't believe in God?" (post #5)
This particular question, and the premises supporting it's rhetorical conclusion in post #5, strikes a particular chord with me. The basic argument that I hear is that "God loves you, therefore you should have faith in him." Needless to say, I am not convinced. I have traveled to opposite ends of the earth, and spoken with many people who believe in many faiths. Each one of them, whether muslim, jew, catholic, christian, hindu, etc. tells me that their god loves them in a special way that they can't describe, they simply know that he/she loves them back, and it represents a great personal comfort to their daily life. If I ever got all of them in a room at once, I can't imagine the kind of disagreements we would have. The argument you present is meant to appeal to emotion, but I'm not swayed simply because I've heard it so many times from so many other "suitors." Am I really "hard of heart" because I received a message from someone else telling me that someone I've never met loves me? I've seen the extent to which people can fall in love with things or ideas they've never had proof of.
Question 3 - "How do you deal with the possibility of finding out, after you die, that you were wrong all along?" (Post #6)
If after the course of death, I was transported to some mystical afterlife where a god demanded of me, 'why did you not believe?' That would be a deal breaker, but I have thought of it. Isn't it a bit interesting though, that out of all the other humans, I was one that actually did good simply for the sake of it, not just because I believed he was looking over my shoulder? Or going to punish me if I didn't? Or reward me because I did? If I were God, I would think it's a bit much to demand the recognition, respect, attention, and sacrifices of a person who I was never actually going to show myself to. Especially confusing, is the fact that so many other people will be claiming the same things, with the exact same probability of being right. It reminds me a bit of Pascal's wager. Pascal proposed that we couldn't trust our reason when it came to religion (oddly enough, he used reason to do this) and that it merely came down to chance to decide whether or not God existed. I think everyone can agree...he either does, or he doesn't. There's no such thing as partial existence. But if we take away all reason for the sake of argument, (I really must stress, just for the sake of argument) it really comes down to chance doesn't it? Without reason you have no way of knowing one or the other, it's either God, or no god. But the idea of "no god" is a justly definite conclusion. While "god" is an infinite array of possibilities, not just imaginable concepts but perhaps those even beyond the human mind. It could be Yaweh, Allah, Zues, Quetzacotl, Shiva, Ra, Thor, Jesus, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc. etc. We have just as much of a chance about being right or wrong about all of those... hmm. Or maybe perhaps God is all of those things, we just come to know him in different ways? How cruel it could be that he would make us kill each other. I find that any god who advocates his own creations to kill each other is just lazy and should have done the job himself. Pascal's whole purpose of the wager of chance, was the fact that if you chose the side of "no god" you were offered no supernatural reward for doing so. Ah, how beautiful. The thought that all of my actions are wholly from my own self choice. There is no giant security camera in the sky...there will be no final thumbs up or down approval, there is only me and my fellow humans. It makes all of my good deeds shine brighter, my faults seem darker, my life seem infinitely more vivid and valuable, and not some grandiose play for some diety that feels the need to create me, confuse me, torment me, watch over me, and judge me for failing to see that he was there.